here's one vote for "John Beilein's head in a Futurama jar"
Tonight! HBO debuts The Rivalry tonight, and despite a reported lack of emphasis on the Michigan side of things recently it'll be worth taking in. HBO's promotional website has an interview with Bo, his last. For more history of the series, visit the MZone, which has posts up on the 1977 and 1971 games.
Illinois takeaway. Around the Oval sifts through the Illinois game for meaning and comes to a few conclusions. A quasi-fisk with opinion added.
We should panic because. . .
Illinois ran all over what had been the best run defense in the country. The Illini ran for 276 yards and 5.1 yards per carry. They had success running just about everywhere, and they repeatedly picked up third downs on the ground, running right at the defense. Mike Hart's better than any of Illinois' backs, and could therefore do even more damage.
You might have to shoot me for saying thins, but Rashard Mendenhall might be better than Hart. He has the numbers to back it up and a remarkable combination of power and size. The NFL will leap at the opportunity to take him in the first round. And if Hart doesn't go, or isn't healthy...
But. . .
The Michigan ground game isn't the Illinois ground game. Illinois had success because they ran the spread option, and ran it very well. The Buckeyes had to defend the entire field and account for the possibility that Juice Williams could, on any play, hand the ball off up the middle, run up the middle, run outside, pitch the ball outside, or throw the ball. This meant that the linebackers couldn't be as aggressive, and the defensive tackles had to shoulder more of the burden. As they are the weakness of this defense, that was a problem. That also won't be the case against Michigan.
Michigan is averaging 4.22 yards per carry, which isn't that impressive. While they're 35th in yards, they're 11th in attempts, and 50th in yards per carry. Illinois' ground attack was guerilla warfare, where the team never knew where the next attack was going to be, and was therefore spread thin. Michigan's attack is a battering ram at the front gates. That doesn't mean it's ineffective, or that they won't put up big numbers against the Buckeyes, but the Buckeyes will at least be facing a more straightforward rush offense this week. Wisconsin displays a similar determination to run the ball, regardless of success, and they were held to 96 yards and 2.59 yards per carry against the Buckeyes.
Also agree; submit, though, that Mike Hart is vastly better than any of the Wisconsin running backs and that if healthy OSU shouldn't -- I won't say "won't" -- come anywhere close to that level of dominance.
We should panic because. . .
Todd Boeckman. . . well, he kinda sucked. 13-23, 156 yards, 3 INTs, 2 sacks. Aside from doing a decent job running the ball and a nice pass on the first play of the game, Boeckman was pretty bad.
But. . .
No buts. This is a concern. All season long, Boeckman has thrown every type of pass: perfectly thrown deep balls, followed by hideously underthrown deep balls. Smart, safe throws underneath that keep the chains moving on one series, then a bad throw into triple coverage on the next play. Boeckman can't do that against Michigan. Hopefully it was just one bad game, and now it's out of his system.
Hey-o, that sounds good to me.
We should panic because. . .
The coaches appear to have started to outsmart themselves. First, it took two and a half quarters of struggling against Wisconsin for them to decide that maybe they should give the ball to Beanie Wells. This week, the Ozone's Jeff Amey was unimpressed with their gameplan for the Illinois game, and he makes a pretty convincing case.
But. . .
It's the Michigan game. Jim Tressel has regularly saved his finest coaching performances for this game. Lloyd Carr has beaten him before, and Tressel's reputation as a big game coach took a bit of a hit last season, but if there's one edge that I feel confident about this week, it's the coaching. I expect Tressel will have the team ready to play and will have a gameplan in place to give this team their best possible chance of winning the game.
Unfortunately, after last year I have to agree. I shrugged off the Johnny Sears-fest in the Ball State game on the premise that he wouldn't see the field against a real opponent; Tressel went balls-out spread and let Troy Smith carve up the weakest parts of the Michigan defense. To be fair, Michigan also unchained its offense and racked up impressive numbers -- Michigan also saves its very best game plans for Ohio State -- but there is a Tressel difference.
Part of that was the spread last year, but more worrying to me from a Oh God, This Is Never Going To Stop perspective was a particular second and one. Ohio State rushed to the line and got off a quick snap. As they ran what looked like a dive alarm bells started going off in my head.
Why would you rush to the line and get off a quick snap on second down? Oh God, RYAN MUNDY NOOOOOOOOO...
You know the story. Touchdown, as Mundy bites like a mofo on the dive and Leon Hall expects safety help that never comes. It's not the play call that's necessarily brilliant here. It's a standard gambit to bomb it deep on a waste down like second and one. What is brilliant is the lighting break-huddle-get-to-line-snap-now. Thing. Michigan was unprepared for the snap, saw a play going off, and panicked. That's the kind of thing that terrifies me about Tressel.
Get used to it. The Game highlights some hilarious passages from the Harvard Crimson's liveblog of Tommy Amaker's debut:
"9:14, first half: Amaker keeps yelling, "Three quick ones!" from the bench. Does he mean points or awkward passes?"
"1:05, first half: Demuyakor misses two free throws, Miller gets painfully rejected, and Pusar throws away an outlet pass. Pretty much everything that can go wrong has, and, hey, the Crimson is only down by 35. 63-28."
They were playing Stanford, so allowances should be made, but... yeah. Been there.
Why don't they wear blazers like that anymore? WolverineHistorian's put up an ancient dandy from 1978, complete with Dueling Banjos:
All about the Carr stuff and a fairly defensive post at that; I'm sorry this is not about evil, evil Ohio State and how they must be destroyed, but I have to respond to direct accusations about my credibility.
First, a clarification: I'm no longer completely sure on the timing of the Carr announcement. Other well-sourced people believe it will not come until sometime later, perhaps around the end of November. I heard otherwise, but not so strongly that I can dismiss a later date. What's probably going on is that there is no set plan and that different dates are coming to light because A was true at some point and B was true at some point and C may be true now, but attempting to determine which is which is impossible.
But the decision has been made, that I stand by.
So this is weird. How much value does this information have when it's been a foregone conclusion for three months? In my opinion, not that much. This is not the opinion of other people, some of whom are not pleased. I feel compelled to defend myself here from accusations leveled in email and on message boards.
A brief primer for context: last year Morgan Trent broke a bone in his hand during the Wisconsin game. Multiple tipsters relayed this information directly from Trent's parents, and I posted that he was likely to miss the Minnesota game and return for MSU. This internet "rumor" reached Rivals' boards and was addressed in "Inside The Fort," where they basically said "that's ridiculous, don't believe internet rumors because we've got the real scoop here." As this was the first piece of actual news I had ever relayed, I got spooked and posted a retraction, assuming that they were right. But when the tipsters returned and said that, no, Trent is going to miss the Minnesota game, I laid my cards on the table, specifically mentioning the source of the other rumors as ITF and posting every indicator I had that Trent was out. Later that day, a Rivals staffer called and demanded I remove the specific information from ITF, as it was "premium." I grudgingly complied.
Trent did not play against Minnesota and returned for MSU with a big damn cast on his hand. Rivals offered no correction or apology.
So I'm a little bemused and a lot angry that after a bunch of posters attempted to relay yesterday's post on Carr, they had the audacity to slap this up($):
Everyone wants to be the first to break the "news" of impending major change, especially those not constrained by traditional journalistic standards and accountability. That's fine - but we are not going to promote or sponsor them, and this site will never be used as a launching pad to other forums.
We've operated within the aforementioned standards at every turn, and gone beyond to give our informed opinions at times. We also allow considerable discussion, speculation, etc., among our posters.
We will continue to disallow links to other sites, be they firelloydcarr.com, lloydcarr'sretiringpartVIII.com, etc. Lloyd Carr will retire at some point. We've consistently indicated it's not a long ways down the road, and others here have been at liberty to go farther than that. We could have put forth innumerable unnamed source reports on this issue over the past several months, but realize that doing so would be irresponsible while the season is ongoing.
That's where we need to leave it. Thanks for your understanding and restraint with regard to posting links. As always, if you have any questions, you can email any of the monitors.
This is technically "premium" content, but since the only information in it is "we are stunning hypocrites" I think it's fine to post in the open air, and since it directly impugns this site it deserves a response.
First: MGoBlog is not "constrained by conventional journalistic standards and accountability." This is right. Large sites run by many people under the aegis of a major corporation that has media credentials do have different standards than this independent site. Since Rivals is in tight with various assistant coaches, they have to toe the party line on this stuff lest their access get revoked. And if they get something wrong they just say "whoops, sorry" and move on without major consequence.
At MGoBlog, things are different. It is a blog. I am a guy. I float on the internet. So for it to be credible at all it has to be right all the time. And I have to do this largely without ever meeting or talking to the people who provide information. So there are some requirements. Everything I post has to be multiply sourced if the tipster hasn't established a track record. I try to lay out the situation in as much detail as I can, giving a timeline of events and stating what I think and why. (Unfortunately, in this situation all sources have requested no details be relayed.) I am very serious about getting things right. I have to be. It is my sole source of credibility.
Also, I can't lose what I don't have and am thus able to say things they aren't. They style it "responsibility," but it's really pure CYA.
Two: Rivals would like to have its cake and eat it too. There exist insiders on their boards that post inside information all the time; their posts are not deleted no matter how "irresponsible" they might be. Rivals simultaneously wants to paint this site with a scarlet letter while reassuring their subscribers that all the too-hot-to-print internet rumors can be found right here for just ten bucks a month. Hypocrites.
For the record, none of the "sources" here is one of the Rivals insiders. Again, they have more leeway than I do: the entire pre-MSU panic originated with them. Three major Rivals insiders posted that both Hart and Henne would not play; this site was the only one reporting they would go before the game. But they're still insiders.
Three: Rivals is welcome to search my archives for any time in which something I've reported as news has been wrong. Trent out, Forcier transfers, Manningham pulled over in Monroe County, Mundy transfers (and Andy Moeller might go to Stanford*), Beilein is hired, Grady tears ACL (and Brown almost transfers*), Hart out for Illinois, Hart and Henne in for MSU... all not wrong. This: not wrong either.
*(A pre-emptive and paranoid defense: please note that both of these things that did not come to fruition were phrased as possibilities; I had no solid Moeller source and said as such and the Brown stuff -- he was not practicing and was likely to transfer -- was true; he changed his mind.)
Meanwhile, a bunch of people have picked up the story, including the Ann Arbor News:
One Web site dev
oted to Michigan sports cited anonymous sources in a post that said the coach would retire after the Ohio State game, adding that athletic department personnel were already being told of the decision.
Surely if it's worth referencing, it's worth referencing where you got it from, no? How about some attribution?
Fin. Maybe more about this later, but now: Ohio State. Which must be destroyed.
I'm actually fairly happy with this effort. I'll keep hammering this point: the Pac-10 looks less impressive than it really is because they play an extra conference game. Oregon is still #1 in my book, though the margin is slim. The only thing that rankles is shoving USF down four after a win, but Illinois and Cinci both deserved to move up, as did Clemson for nuking a decent Wake squad. Florida... eh.
Kansas. ... still hasn't played anyone. I do think a comparison between KU and WVU is in order, but WVU has Maryland (5-5) and Mississippi State (6-4) in the nonconference schedule, orders of magnitude better than KU's slate. I might be convinced to slide KU up a couple spots, but they aren't passing Georgia.
Untangling the Big Ten mess. Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan all have identical records and none of the three has a clear round-robin victory over any of the others. But...
|Wins Amongst Group||Wisconsin||Michigan||Penn State, Wisconsin||Penn State, Illinois|
|Nonconference difficulty||Kansas-esque||Almost Kansas-esque||Legit (@ Missouri, 'Cuse)||Good (Oregon)|
|Win over Sweatervest?||Nope||Nope||Yep||N/A|
Illinois is your winner, Michigan comes in second, and Wisconsin is third because they have yet to play Minnesota and had a nonconference opponent (WSU) that isn't completely wretched.
Complaints go in the comments; I'll modify my ballot by tomorrow.
Three separate sources indicate that Carr has made his decision to retire official and people around the athletic department are being told. The formal announcement will come after the Ohio State game, possibly at the Monday press conference, possibly a day or two later.
11/10/2007 - Michigan 21, Wisconsin 37 - 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten
There was a lot of contention around these parts after the Illinois game. This was confusing to me given the content of the post that caused the contention until a commenter pointed out that the title of said post, taken from a Ben Folds Five song, was extremely inflammatory without context. Ben Folds Five being a regrettably brief and obscure prequel to Ben Folds' regrettably lengthy and prominent solo career (which, let's be clear, starts with "Reinhold Messner" and sucks), a lot of people had no idea what I was talking about and came to the conclusion I was being a dick.
Maybe I was, but the offense was not intentional. I just thought Michigan was a pretty average team bailed out by an Illinois team hell-bent on giving the game away. Surely this no longer seems controversial. Since then, Michigan struggled with the worst team on the planet for a half, required a miraculous clutch performance from Chad Henne to beat bleah Michigan State, and got manhandled by a Wisconsin team still searching for a quality win. This team deserves its record, Appalachian State loss and all.
The real tragedy in all this, of course, is that I didn't wait a few weeks for Michigan to hold out a debatably healthy Mike Hart and Chad Henne, then bitch and sleepwalk its way through a dolorous loss to Wisconsin. Because what a title for this week, eh?
Could either have played? Absolutely. If Wisconsin was Ohio State they both would have, but it was not and they did not. You can debate the wisdom of this move, but not the result: the Wisconsin game was a glorified exhibition to Michigan. Both lines took their cues from the stars on the sidelines and took the game off. So did Ryan Mallett's brain. The kick coverage team, way ahead of the curve, continued its season-long vacation. In ways literal and metaphorical, Michigan did not show up.
So, fine. Whatever. On the road against a good team, saddled with a deranged freshman quarterback and a running scheme that almost requires Mike Hart's presence to function, Michigan lost thoroughly. Fine. The absence of Henne and Hart has nothing to do with the ability of the line to block or the defense to penetrate, but whatever. It's Ohio State week and Michigan can win the Big Ten outright by beating the Buckeyes. All of the pain and frustration and anger that's built up in the Michigan program over the past six years will evaporate if Michigan can pull it out.
If Carr wins, he goes out 7-6 against Ohio State. He goes out with four Rose Bowls in five years. If he loses, he directed Mike Hart and Chad Henne to 0-4 records against Ohio State and will spend his final bowl season in central Florida trying to finish in the top 25 at season's end. For Carr's legacy, this is the rubber match.
- The complete and total failure of Michigan's ground game in the absence of Mike Hart is the worst thing that can be leveled at Debord and, by extension, Carr. This was a defense that had even approached stopping anyone except Iowa's terrible offense and it held Michigan to 47 yards on 25 carries. The zone game is a failure. One cannot run 80% stretch plays and have a good ground game; when your scheme regularly depends on lumbering backside guards making tough reach blocks against DTs who are slanting away from them it is destined to suck. Only Mike Hart's brilliance has kept the run game afloat.
The blame falls on four people. First: Debord, for seizing upon the idea that a stretch is such a tricky play that it is in and of itself deceptive and failing to diversify the offense. Second: Andy Moeller, who has not put together an offensive line without enormous holes for three straight years. Third: Mike Gittleson, whose outdated strength and conditioning program -- most prominently seen hanging over Tim Jamison's belt -- has been left behind by every school except Penn State. Fourth: Lloyd Carr, for hiring (or, in Gittleson's case, retaining) all three mostly because they were well known to him.
Hey, Wisconsin: your cheese is overrated.
Radford demolition highlights while we wait for the game:
EAST LANSING - An unknown assailant spray-painted a block M, similar to the logo of the University of Michigan, on the brick base of Sparty early this morning.
The vandalism occurred between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., MSU Police Sgt. Randy Holton said. The paint was to be removed the campus grounds crew.
I love "unknown assailant," like Sparty is going to need counseling about this or something.
Oh, and, yes, the picture above is a fake. Look at the tree. For some reason an RCMB denizen put it together; maybe he's getting his bow on.
A snake! Awesome work by MATW:
(What the dickens is this? Surely you've seen Badger Badger Badger, no?)
An oldie. WolverineHistorian has put up Michigan-Michigan State 1979:
Audio by Ufer.
Beilein items. More quotes about practice:
"After the fifth or sixth practice, when I knew this is what it's going to be, I had to get over thinking so much and just play ball and just do what he says," said Sims, a sophomore forward. "It's a learning process. Anytime (a coach) transfers from another school and you have young guys who did not have much experience, they've never seen an offense like this before and were never taught the fundamentals leading up to the offense, it's going to be a tough thing."
Manny Harris says "he doesn't give you a chance to slack off," something that would prompt another useless anti-Amaker tirade if it came from a non-freshman.
People are calling:
Since being hired in April to replace Amaker, though, Beilein has learned that coaching at Michigan is not like being at West Virginia or the five smaller schools he has led.
"I've been sitting at home and have had some of the best juniors in the country call me," Beilein said earlier this week in his office. "We haven't had too many of those situations in the past."
Jim Calhoun is effusive:
"There's nothing I can compare to trying to prepare for his offense. It was the hardest thing we ever had to defend because they truly took advantage of you," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, who faced Beilein annually in the Big East. "As much as you think that you're just going to be able to play, John does something in a very quiet, unassuming way. He creates confidence in his players, and they run their system impeccably. They can adjust in the midst of games, and they play enough different defenses [to keep you honest]."
Run Offense vs. Wisconsin
As noted in VEQ, the Wisconsin run defense is probably the most disappointing phase in the conference. The Badgers, so good a year ago, are an ugly 58th nationally and eighth in the Big Ten. Relevant opponents:
Every back in the Big Ten not playing for Iowa has done somewhere between 4.3 and 14.5 YPC, and a large number of them have gone over 6 YPC. This is a really, really bad run defense, and now they're missing starting defensive tackle Jason Chapman.
A quick glance at the above table and Michigan's shiny-ish #25 run offense seem to imply this would be a field day for the Wolverines, but it probably won't. Mike DeBord's run-heavy playcalling -- 59% of Michigan plays are runs -- obscures a rushing offense that's actually fairly mediocre. Sheer quantity makes up for 4.3 YPC, a number far closer to average than the per-game totals suggest. Injuries to Mike Hart and various right guards have something to do with that, but Hart is still gimpy and whoever the right guard is will remain subpar; the issues that have stalled Michigan's offense in the past will be present against the Badgers.
Those issues were certainly in play against Michigan State, a to-date horrible run defense that virtually stonewalled Michigan. Mike Hart had two long runs, one of which sprung from a sick Hart juke on an unblocked linebacker in the backfield; other than that Michigan had virtually no ground game. 19 of Hart's 110 yards were credited to him on a Mallett fumble recovery; remove that and Michigan's other rushes averaged 1.3 yards per carry. Add the long runs back in and Michigan hit... yes, 4.3 YPC. This against a defense about as good as Wisconsin's against the run, which is to say "not at all."
If Bruce's diagnosis of Wisconsin's problems is correct -- and there's no reason to doubt that it is -- then misdirection has been a major cause of Wisconsin's troubles. Michigan's offense features little misdirection and is basically using the exact same scheme these exact same players held to Mike Hart's worst rushing output of last year.
Chapman's absence and the unreliability of the safeties should provide Michigan an advantage they didn't have last year, but this is going to be a slog.
Key Matchup: Mike Hart versus his ankle. Hart can make losses into game-breakers, as we saw last week in the first half. The efficacy of the Michigan run game increases dramatically when he's in the game.
Pass Offense vs. Wisconsin
The Michigan pass offense looks great on paper but languishes at #70 in the nation due to a combination of injuries and the aforementioned run-heavy playcalling. The receivers have been outstanding, near flawless except when Mario Manningham is called on to block or lay out for a ball. Everything else... not so much. Chad Henne and his separated shoulder swung wildly from good to awful to outstanding against Michigan State. The line's pass blocking has frequently been dubious.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin pass defense Bruce Ciskie slaughtered in VEQ sits at a decently respectable 46th (in efficiency terms). They're 18th in yardage largely because the run defense has allowed opponents to end games with 20-something attempts. However, starting cornerback Allen Langford is out for the year, leaving a true freshman in the starting lineup and pushing a little-used backup into the nickel package. Other than Jack Ikegwuonu, this is suddenly a secondary adrift.
Given the dodginess of the UW safeties and the lack of depth at corner, there will be plenty of opportunities here for Michigan. Manningham will have Ikegwuonu dogging him all game, leaving Adrian Arrington alone on a freshman who, though he may be good, is unlikely to lock him down.
Key Matchup: Schilling and Carson Butler versus Shaugnessy, Casillas, and assorted other blitzers. Schilling had another week of trouble against a high quality pass rusher; Butler's blocks were frequently comical in their ineptness against Michigan State. If Henne is provided time Michigan should find Manningham downfield a couple times.
Run Defense vs. Wisconsin
Last week's opening paragraph can be re-applied:
Unfortunately, you could take the damning text in the "Run Offense" section above and reapply it to Michigan's run defense, albeit with a significant reduction in ferocity if you wish to retain credibility. Like MSU, a bunch of sacks has obscured the true quality of the run defense. In Michigan State's case the quality is "atrocious"; in Michigan's it's merely mediocre.
After throttling the Spartans in the first half, Michigan got pounded by Caulcrick and Michigan State in the second half. The stats were acceptable -- 3.8 YPC for him and not much better for Ringer if you consider his reverse-field 70-yarder fluky -- but only just.
Sources close to the Wisconsin program indicate that PJ Hill is not likely to go, leaving the tailback job in the hands of sophomore Lance Smith and freshman Zach Brown. Smith's the better of the two backs and figures to see a significant majority of the carries. He's no pounder like Hill -- welcome news for Michigan linebackers -- but is more of a slasher reminiscent of Antonio Pittman or Carlos Brown. He's averaging 6.4 YPC, which would be a cause for concern if the vast majority of his carries weren't against the likes of the Citadel, Indiana, and Northern Illinois. Smith missed Wisconsin's games (he's suspended for road games after a preseason shoe tiff) against Penn State, Illinois, and Ohio State; Michigan is the first serious defense he's gone up against since the Iowa game. He did well against the Hawkeyes, albeit in limited time: 5 rushes, 37 yards. There's not enough data here to be sure of anything.
On the year, Wisconsin's rush offense is much like Michigan's: strained by overuse and potentially overrated on per-game statistics. Wisconsin is averaging just under 4.2 YPC despite playing a hideous nonconference schedule. The run game was adequate against Iowa and Illinois, but crushed by Penn State and Ohio State. It's an average run offense, especially with Hill out; it meets an average run defense. The results should be about average.
Key Matchup: Brandon Graham, Terrance Tay
lor, and Will Johnson versus the interior UW OL at the point of attack. Taylor, IMO, did a good job last game of holding up versus frequent double teams. Johnson and Graham not so much. With a similar offense on tap this week, Graham's improvement against the run will be important.
Pass Defense vs. Wisconsin
Injuries have struck the Badgers here as well. Not Particularly Inexplicable Pretty Good White Wide Receiver Luke Swan is out for the year, and the loss of Vanden Heuvel will hurt more in pass protection than run blocking according to Ciskie.
Tyler Donovan has been just okay in his single year as Wisconsin's starting quarterback. He's slightly mobile, slightly inaccurate, and has decent arm strength, slightly reminiscent of a Brooks Bollinger. In their way, Wisconsin QBs are as predictable as Michigan's: mini-me versions of the Lurch statues Michigan runs out. Donovan won't be a surprise to anyone who's seen Wisconsin play before.
Tight end Travis Beckum remains Wisconsin's favorite receiving target; his 62 catches are almost triple those of the next active receiver on the roster. He will be an issue. With Swan out, true freshman Kyle Jefferson is Wisconsin's #1 receiver; Paul Hubbard has also just returned from injury. Both are tall, long-striding possession sorts; deep balls will likely be of the jump-ball variety.
Miscommunication got Devin Thomas behind the Michigan secondary a couple times against Michigan State, marking the first time since the post-apocalyptic Oregon game the Michigan secondary looked anything but solid. Of late they have gone up against erratic quarterbacks and generally won the day. Michigan's pass efficiency D is now a shocking 20th.
One concern for Michigan: when Michigan State ran play action Hoyer often had days to throw as the line tried desperately to shut down the guy without the ball. This might be less of a threat against a line that's been a revolving door against opposing pass rushers: Wisconsin is 100th in sacks allowed despite passing just 38% of the time. And their starting right tackle is out.
Wisconsin is without a true outside threat and has serious pass-blocking issues; Michigan is likely to do well against Tyler Donovan and company.
Key Matchup: Chris Graham covering Travis Beckum. Graham's alternated between totally blowing zone coverages and providing good-to-excellent man coverage of tight ends this year; he's the guy who will be tasked with following Wisconsin's favorite target around.
Kicker Taylor Melhaff is reliable, perhaps the Big Ten's best this year, but Wisconsin's punting and return games are mediocre at best.
Key Matchup: Kick coverage, argh!
- For whatever reason the ground game remains mediocre even against a terrible run defense.
- Oh, no! It's Evil Henne!
- Beckum gets loose.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- The first-down playcalling is remotely balanced.
- The Wisconsin line is as sieve-like as their stats suggest.
- Hart is ungimpy.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 7 out of 10. (Baseline 5; -1 for They're Battered Everywhere, +1 for Yeah But Hart...?, +1 for I Have A Bad Feeling We Will Not Be Able To Exploit Their Weaknesses, +1 for They're Probably Better Than MSU And Look How That Turned Out).
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Bielema Is Kind Of Annoying Even When He Loses, +1 for Yes, There's A Big Difference Between 9-3 and 8-4 (Or 10-2 and 9-3), -1 for But Really This Season Is The OSU Game)
Loss will cause me to... accept that we're going down to OSU again.
Win will cause me to... PREPARE FOR THE HURRICANE, BUCKEYES!
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
A totally healthy Wisconsin would be a serious threat, but a Badger team missing five starters and replacing them all with underclassmen is a significantly less imposing opponent.
Wisconsin's run game should be decently effective. There are enough problems on the Michigan side of things for the Badger to bash out first downs here and there. But the Wisconsin offensive line can't pass block. There's no other way to read the stats. Donovan's only thrown 279 passes this year and opponents have 29 sacks. Almost 10% of the time Donovan drops back to pass he ends up on the turf, to say nothing of hurries and forced scrambles. It's somewhat miraculous that the Wisconsin pass offense is as efficient as it is. Meanwhile, Michigan consistently terrorized opposing quarterbacks until it started worrying about Michigan State's run game. Donovan is unlikely to have much time.
Offensively, Wisconsin's run defense will probably have a brief, frustrating renaissance in which they will reach mediocrity. The eye-popping 6 and 8 YPC days for most backs around the Big Ten are not likely to recur, but 4.3 to 5 should be doable. This would still allow Hart to have a 100 yard day assuming he plays the whole game. Even if that's not likely to be a good assumption the problems with the Wisconsin run defense are so extensive that the Michigan backups will be fine. Henne, if given time, will find open receivers, and Michigan will have a typical offensive day.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Michigan racks up five sacks.
- Hart gets 15 carries.
- Michigan, 28-20.
Hill sounds like a gametime decision...again. [Status is now "not likely to play." -ed] I can't imagine that they're being truthful about his injury when it's going on three weeks for a "bruised foot". I hope it's nothing terribly serious, but I am starting to fear that it's worse than they're letting on. Vanden Heuvel sounds like he will be able to play. Jake Bscherer probably starts at RT, and if Saturday is any indication, Tyler Donovan will need another couple hot tub trips before the Minnesota game if Bscherer plays.
Lance Smith will run the ball if Hill can't go, being as this is a home game and all. Hill's loss is the worst. He's fat, yes, but he can break tackles, and with how this line has been playing, it's good to have a running back who can do that. Holes are not plentiful for backs to run in right now.
Sounds like Michigan's line, actually, minus Jake Long, etc. Who replaces Langford and Chapman? Are the backups tested at all?
Aaron Henry starts at corner. He's a true frosh, meaning he's bound to screw up a few times. I like him, though. He'll challenge receivers, something Langford didn't seem too keen on doing. On the line, Chapman is a huge loss because they weren't deep. Losing Ostrowski and Cooper might not have done much on paper, but it robbed the line of any real depth. I expect Mike Newkirk to start with Nick Hayden at tackle, and freshman Kirk DeCremer is in for more playing time at end. Newkirk had been playing at end and spotting inside until Chapman was hurt. If there's a plus, it's that these guys have all played. If there's a minus, it's that you have to believe they were reserves for a reason.
That leads us to one of the great underrated mysteries of the season: the Wisconsin front seven. They returned five starters -- maybe six depending on how you regard the booted Jamal Cooper -- from an outstanding run defense. Hayden looked a bonafide star; Casillas was poised to break out. But the results have been awful. Wisconsin's gotten bludgeoned. What happened?
Hayden's actually been okay, especially lately. The problem is that the front four was never all that good. Their job was simply to take up blockers. Last year, Zalewski, Casillas, and Levy made most of the big plays, especially against the run. Losing Zalewski was apparently a bigger deal than any of us realized, because the middle of that defense has gone completely soft without him. I don't know if it was the mohawk or what, because I never thought Zalewski was all that good. Steady and a good leader, yes, but not a superb player. He hasn't been replaced, and neither have safeties Joe Stellmacher and Roderick Rogers, both of whom helped against the run at times.
Casillas and Levy have both regressed, it seems. That's due in large part to the fact that they haven't been free to do as much. Offenses are getting hats on them. But I don't think either of them have been anything remotely close to adequate when it comes to getting off blocks and helping to fill against the run. The ends have been dreadful. Cooper wasn't even on the team last year, so we can't blame it on him not being there. Maybe Joe Monty did more than it looked like he did last year.
It's also a coaching issue. I'm not a fan of what Mike Hankwitz has done schematically. Guys are out of position way too much, and the blown assignments that plagued the Green Bay Packers last year have made their way down the freeway to Madison.
[18:29] bruceciskie: (See: Pass play to Hartline at the end of the first half Saturday. I'll never understand how he was allowed to get that wide open.)
Even Shaugnessey? He was like OMG sophomore(!) last year.
Shaughnessy has been injured this year. It isn't true, but I keep telling myself that. Takes the sting off a bit. (He's been freaking terrible. If I knew why, I'd elaborate. I don't get it.)
How have the safeties been? Mario Manningham is making an NFL push and has been lights out lately when not asked to block or stick out the ball to get a first down. Last year he was most of the Michigan offense. This year?
Can we not talk about the safeties? My mom once told me not to say anything if I can't say anything nice. OK, I'll talk about them.
Remember when you asked me before the season about what worried me about Wisconsin? And I told you it was the safeties. And you thought I was nuts?
I think I thought that was fairly reasonable. Aubrey Pleasant was an MSU commit at one point. Bad judgement, as Teddy KGB might say. Not a good trait in a safety.
Yeah, that. They've been as awful as I feared. Carter is a really good athlete, and you can see it, but he doesn't have ball skills, and his coverage skills are lacking. He's a better tackler than Pleasant, but I'm pretty sure Orson is a better tackler than Aubrey Pleasant. More on that in a second. Carter has some upside, and I keep telling myself that he's only a sophomore and is bound to get better. What bothers me is that I don't see him getting remarkably better. Now, for Pleasant. He has nice hair, and that's about it for nice things. Like Carter, Pleasant's ball skills are lacking. Unlike Carter, Pleasant probably would struggle to tackle Chad Henne in the open field. He doesn't take good angles and I don't think he's physical enough in one-on-one situations.
I've not been enamored with Jack Ikegwuonu, but he's been, by far, the best and most consistent defensive player on this team. That says a lot, and most of it is not good.
Yikes. I don't know how much you've seen of Michigan lately but the OL's been a bit of a mess. RT Steve Schilling gets beat for a sack or two a game, the RG is a carousel of different players, none of whom have been particularly good, and Carson Butler just got done nearly blowing the MSU game five times. So... this is not a slam dunk by any means. Henne seems fine -- when I reviewed the game for UFR he looked much better -- and the WRs have been excellent, but if there are guys who can get to Henne Michigan will stall. How's the pass rush?
OK, actually. The problem is that they've not been really consistent, and they haven't finished plays that well. But the press
ure has been there much of the season. They'll blitz just about anyone except Ikegwuonu, and I'm guessing that the plan against Michigan will be to pressure Henne because he's been banged up. The Iowa game saw Henry, who was nickel back at the time, blitz like 200 times against Christensen and cause a bunch of problems. If they're going to have a shot in this game, they're going to have to disguise and blitz. If they rush four and let Henne pick them apart, he will.
It was one of the few things that I liked about last week's game against tOSU.
Meanwhile, Michigan's once-deadly screen game has totally atrophied. Corso says slow 'em down with screens and draws, Debord! Listen to Corso!
"Listen to Corso"? I'm pretty sure that's never been put in a blog before.
Anyway, on the other side of the ball... how has the Donovan era gone?
Donovan is a great leader. Tough as freaking nails (sorry, but I'm frazzled because of upcoming travel and can't think of anything better than a dumb cliche). He took hit after hit against tOSU and kept getting up. He can make all the throws Paul Chryst (OC) needs him to. He's mobile when he can complete his dropback without getting swarmed. He's not as accurate as Stocco, and he did start getting a bit wild with his throws Saturday once the Buckeyes hit him a few times in the second half. But I am not going to complain. He hasn't cost us a game, and he did a lot of really good things.
Allan Evridge will have some shoes to fill next year, to be sure.
I can't help but notice a 2 interception, 0 touchdown performance against Penn State. What happened there?
PJ Hill fumbled on the first play of the game. The defense was almost completely non-competitive. They were out of the game long before Donovan did anything wrong.
Worst game I've seen Wisconsin play in a long time.
Imagine how you'd feel if Michigan's defense spent two quarters making Anthony Morelli look like Colt Brennan.
I would feel very sad. And then I would want to punch a baby.
Okay. UW is 32nd in passer efficiency despite that. But also 100th in sacks allowed. Fluke? Or a likely indicator of serious turf-eating to come?
The sacks aren't Donovan's fault. The line hasn't done a great job, especially in the tOSU game, when Donovan was often swarmed with no chance to survey the field. Admittedly, there have been times that he didn't run when he should have, but I'm not going to fault him for all of that. This line has been a disappointment when it comes to pass-blocking and blitz pickup. My favorite play on Saturday was in the first quarter, when the LT blocked down the line and let Gholston rush into the backfield, where he only had to beat the block of true freshman RB Zach Brown to get the sack.
I mean, Gholston against a smallish freshman back? Who drew that crap up?
Opponents have done that against Crable, too. Weird. I think it's just a protection slide to make the n00b's blocking assignment clear. Sometimes it's Roidy McRoiderson. Sorry, kid.
Dumb. So if we keep doing that, Crable is guaranteed two sacks...in the first quarter.
Maybe Smith's pass pro is more advanced. Michigan did the same with Carlos Brown in the backfield. Not so much with Hart.
Smith is bigger. Frankly, I can't imagine he's a worse blocker than Brown. [Note that he's talking about UW freshman Zach Brown, not Carlos. -ed]
He's just a better player at this point. Too bad he couldn't handle a little cab fare tiff with his woman.
Meanwhile, Michigan's run defense has gotten gashed up the middle pretty consistently this year. After a half of stoning Michigan State they buckled against a fat back. How has the Wisconsin run game gone?
Good with Hill and Smith, bad without. Smith and Brown might have a shot against Michigan, but I'd rather Hill played, no matter what happened last year. The middle of Michigan's defense is vulnerable, and Brown isn't suited for attacking that. Smith's better on the perimeter, too, but is at least passable going up the gut. Hill is the best fit for what Wisconsin needs in this game. Generally, I think Wisconsin's run the ball pretty well, even if the stats don't show it every week.
Any particular strengths or weaknesses on special teams?
The return game is still not that good, though freshman David Gilreath has improved as the season has gone on. I'm just not impressed. Mehlhaff has been solid kicking, and DeBauche is a good punter. The coverage teams have played pretty well, which is nice, and a lot of that credit goes to the respective kickers. But that return game still isn't impressive. I'd like to see them make a big play at some point, and doing it against Minnesota doesn't count.
There should be opportunities in the kick return game. Michigan's been terrible at it this year. I hate the kickoff from the 30 for entirely selfish reasons.
I have no serious basis for this, but I'm going to do it anyway. I think Michigan's offense is too banged-up to consistently exploit Wisconsin's defensive issues. Wisconsin is also helped by the fact that Michigan doesn't run the spread (sound familiar?). Henne gets hit enough to keep him from owning the Badgers, and Wisconsin finds a way to score points. It's Senior Day, and Donovan will play well. So will Travis Beckum, who is a junior but could very well be playing at Camp Randall for the last time. I say Hill plays, and he's much better than last year in Ann Arbor. Wisconsin 24-20. Please.
It would make my trip to Colorado Springs so much nicer.
I don't know how banged up the offense will be, actually. Henne and Hart will play and everyone except TE Mike Massey is (relatively) healthy. Hart will still be gimpy-ish, probably.
Henne didn't look like he could run a 40 last week. And he's not exactly Vince Young to begin with.
You could cut most Michigan quarterbacks' legs off and put them on a cardboard box without any noticeable drop in performance.
So, yeah, I fly out [to Colorado Springs] in the morning. Sunny and temps in the 70s while we're there. It's in the 30s in Duluth, and it snowed this week.
[Holy cognitive dissonance, Batman! Ciskie goes through and viciously mauls UW's entire defense, the offensive line, and the running backs, then says... eh... victory. I followed it up with a query about the sturdiness of his prediction in the wake of the Hill news. The response:
I'm sticking with it. I may have thought Hill would play when I made that prediction, but we all knew something was amiss because he wasn't practicing. If I was stupid enough to pick Wisconsin under those circumstances, then I'm certainly dumb enough to stick with it.
Allll riiiiight! -ed]
Video trouble? Try VLC.
|M29||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Kraus appears to be the permanent center, BTW. This is all Hart: there's a crease as Moundros and Kraus take out the playside DT â€“ barely â€“ and Long(+1) does his thing as Boren picks off a LB. A safety run blitzes at the snap and should have this at the LOS; Hart jukes him and heads for eight.|
|M37||2||2||I-Form Twins||Run||5 (pen)||Hart||Zone left|
|Butler starts out wide; we motion him in. A commenter informed me that this "handoff" block I was searching for nomenclature on was actually a scoop block, so that's what we'll call it. Anyway, a scoop on the DT between Kraus and Ciulla doesn't go so well; the DT runs down the line and tackles. Rest of the play well done. Doesn't matter, as MSU is offsides.|
|M42||1||10||Ace Twins||Pass||5 (pen)||Arrington||Waggle|
|Arrington starts out on the other side, motioning to Manningham as the play starts; we have a TE off the line on the side of the waggle tasked with blocking the DE who often shoots into the backfield. Arrington gets open on a circle route; Henne hits him but takes him off his feet doing so. A short gain is negated for another offsides penalty. (CA-, 2, protection 1/1)|
|M47||1||5||Ace Twins||Pass||15 (pen)||Manningham||Fly|
|Inverted TEs here, with the guy lined up off the line inside the one on it. Michigan drops back and bombs it for the first time; live I thought this was inadvisable but results-based and all that. (CA, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Minor in. This is the stupid playcall I mentioned Monday where Arrington is covered up; Butler comes in motion and they run right. Schilling(-2) is owned by The Sackmaster; the DE is right through and tackles for loss. Might Hart break this tackle?|
|Henne misses Butler busting wide open on a seam route, instead settling for a little dumpoff to Manningham that's covered. MSU blitzed; M picked it up. This should not be a one-yard completion. (BR, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Oh, this Henderson guy got owned by a double move and fell down; Henne whiffs badly on a potential touchdown. Announcers claim this could be a penalty, but it looked to me like Henderson was trying to commit one but couldn't manage it. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 8 min 1st Q.|
|Inverted TEs; Arrington motions out of the twins. Henne looks at Manningham, then comes off him and has his pick of three wide open guys on little stop routes on the other side of the field. Maybe a decoy read? He picks Butler out; he rumbles for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Motion Butler to the right side of the line and run left; both safeties fly up. By the time Hart gets the ball both are committed to the run. I always hate seeing this; where is our play action? Anyway, Hart should be thinking cutback and eventually does; Ciulla(-1) failed to cut the backside DT, who meets him at the LOS. Butler(-1) also completely whiffed on The Sackmaster. Not relevant to the play, but a really poor job of blocking.|
|O49||2||7||I-Form Twins||Run||38||Hart||Inside zone?|
|I'm not sure what this is, but I'm sure that this wasn't supposed to happen. It looks like Hart's supposed to pick a hole on the right side of the line; Boren is defeated by the weakside DE; Hart decides that the intended hole is not for him. On the backside, oddly, Long is blocking the DE as Butler just sort of wanders off downfield. Moundros ran up and plugged the MLB; the WLB, however, is unblocked and shooting through the hole. Hart hops around him as both safeties come up way too hard. Hart runs for a long while. Like the first play of the game this required Hart to make an awesome play to avoid a TFL. I have my doubts about the long-term viability of such a strategy.|
|Reach block for Ciulla on the backside DT just doesn't work; he flows down the line. No minus, as these are hard when the DT slants right away. Kraus gets no push on a Spartan linebacker on the second level; neither does Moundros.|
|Manningham takes a couple of stutter steps off the line, then bursts outside Henderson. Henne lays it in perfectly. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 4 min 1st Q. Hart's long run here reminiscent of one of the long ones the last time M played at Spartan stadium: some poor blocking that Hart makes do with and safeties who get way too aggressive.|
|M46||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|MSU again swarming this at the snap. Ciulla and Kraus end up doubling a DT, but no one gets out on the LB, and since he's really selling out on the run he's at the LOS almost at the handoff. Long can't make a reach on the backside DE; Schilling doesn't get any push but doesn't get beat, either.|
|you are so SMRT|
|A token draw fake as MSU blitzes; Michigan picks it up. Henne finds an open Arrington for 15 yards; he drops it. DB made a hit but this is a drop. (CA+, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Wide open; Henne has a 2005 flashback. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) Butler(-2) gets an MSU-level personal foul afterwards.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, EO 1Q. A really crappy punt combines with the personal foul to change the field position..|
|O42||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||32||Hart||Zone left|
|Again, this teeters on the edge of a TFL. MSU has shifted its defense to the left side of the line; the weakside DT is shaded well inside Mitchell (new to the game), so when Michigan shows zone left he shoots into the backfield. Mitchell has no realistic chance to block him; Hart runs through his tackle. On the frontside, Moundros, Kraus, and Long have all gotten crushing second-level blocks and Boren has sealed away the DT. Long's block also picks off a DE tracking back, Hart runs up into Moundros' back for a moment before popping outside and motoring downfield. +1s for all mentioned, +2 for Moundros, whose driving, extended block sprung Hart into the secondary.|
|O10||1||G||I-Form||Run||-1 + 5||Hart||Zone right|
|MSU swarms this; Mitchell(-1) blown back and Boren(-1) fails to do anything useful with the backside DT Moundros trips on fallen bodies as he gets to the hole; virtually no one is blocked and Hart is snowed under. A personal foul on MSU follows the play. Sparty, no!|
|O5||1||G||Ace Twins||Pen||-5||Mitchell||False start|
|We motion Butler away from the offset TE; perhaps as a result of this the backside DT does not flow down the line on the snap of the ball, instead taking his first step upfield and immediately putting himself behind Mitchell. A big hole results, as Long and Boren kick their guys out. Kraus takes out one LB, Moundros the other; Hart is taken down from behind by The Sackmaster, who got chopped but got up and made a good play; without it high probability of a cutback behind Butler and a TD.|
|MSU blitzes a corner right into this; Hart has no option to cut it up as an MSU LB dashed inside of Long(-1). Maybe the -1 is harsh here, since Long has to expect the guy to attempt to keep contain. Without the corner blitz here this would be suicide on his part. Hart spectacularly leaps the CB, avoiding a loss, but the delay means he's swarmed under.|
|Yeah, MSU blitzes seven(!!!) guys. Michigan has Manningham on one side and runs three guys on different levels to the other side of the field. Henne lofts it to an open Butler. (CA+, 3, protection 3/3). Say goodbye to Good Chad. It's Evil Chad for the next two quarters plus.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 12 min 2nd Q. If I can digress for a moment: I think the five-yard run on our second first-and-goal on this drive is an example of how Michigan's playcalling hurts them. To wit: we almost never see this sort of error out of a DL. The first step upfield was deadly and opened up an immediate, huge hole for Hart. This never happens: it's all slant slant slant as Michigan hardly ever runs misdirection. 80% of our run plays are zone stretches; how easy to defend is that? Quite.
Also, put on your ugly hats, folks.
|Butler spread out wide to start; he motions in. The MSU DT times the snap perfectly â€“ tipped by the Butler motion? -- and drives Mitchell back instantly; Hart has to cut up, powering through arm tackles for a couple yards. No minus; excellent play from MSU.|
|M8||2||8||I-Form Twins||Run||5||Hart||Lead draw|
|MSU gets split immediately as the defensive tackles slant, anticipating a stretch. On the second level, Moundros(+1) effectively cuts the MLB; Butler(-1) whiffs on an OLB, forcing Hart to leap over the FB detritus and turning a potential first down into five yards.|
|Hart(-1) left to take on a DE; he cuts him but not that well and he gets up; Henne decides to scramble out. The ball's punched loose and there's a scramble for it; a Michigan OL falls on it. (PR, 0, protection 1/2, Hart)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 10 min 2nd Q.|
|M7||1||10||I-Form Big||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Butler(-1) blown back and controlled by the DE, causing Hart to cut back up into a mess of bodies when otherwise it looked like he could shoot into a gap between Butler and Long and maybe beat a safety for a nice gain. As it is, he's tracked down by the backside DT, who Mitchell(-1) could not do much with.|
|M8||2||9||I-Form Big||Run||6||Hart||Zone left|
|Frontisde completely jammed by Spartan jumping the play, but the extra TE in this formation allows Michigan to block the backside DE and there's a cutback lane Hart takes for a decent gain. Hart limps off.|
|Schilling owned by the Sackmaster and shoved aside as he comes up inside, forcing Henne to get rid of it early. He does find an open Minor leaking out of the backfield, but throws off his back foot and sends it wide. (IN, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Mitchell(-1) and Boren(-1) both get beaten by DTs, and when that happens your play dies.|
|M20||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Arrington||Skinny post|
|Butler(-2) gone right around by Saint-Dic, forcing Henne to get off a hurried throw on a skinny post to Arrington. This is actually excellent given the situation, a tough catch for Arrington with great coverage from the DB, who knocks it loose. (CA+, 1, protection 0/2, Butler -2) If Henne had more time he could have come down to Manningham on a wide open stop for the first.|
|M20||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Manningham||Stop and go|
|Saint Dic goes right around Butler again, who should probably be flagged for holding; as it is Henne's forced into a quick throw to Manningham on an stop and go. There's room to make this completion, though not much, and a MSU DB leaps up and just gets a hand on it. Maybe a little bit harsh, but (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Butler -2) On review, no... this is just way short and the IN is not harsh.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 3 min 2nd Q. Mesko launches one.|
|Mathews comes in motion, revealing zone as no one follows him; Arrington driv
es off the CB with a deep route and Michigan hits Mathews on a short out with decent room in front of him. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
|O35||2||4||Ace 3-wide||Pass||-2||Arrington||Long handoff|
|I mean, seriously, can we block the frickin' DT on a WR screen? This has to be the only WR screen in history to be broken up because of pressure. Kraus(-2) just ignores the man lined up directly over him, causing the throw to be low and forcing Arrington to his knee to make the catch. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Kraus -2)|
|This is open for the first down but Henne's throw is upfield, forcing Manningham to come back and allowing the Spartan DB to close him down before the sticks. (IN, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Excellent play by the DB to chuck Arrington, then start watching Manningham; when he moves to the slant he jumps it and finds the ball, intercepting. Poor decision. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 14-3, 1 min 2nd Q. IMO, two clock errors on the 4th down play. 1) why wouldn't Michigan run the clock down all the way? 2) why would MSU, which will have a minute and field position at the 35 if they stop Michigan, waste a TO?|
|A stunt gets a DE in unblocked and Minor has to cut it outside. He does so â€“ Long(+1) has stoned his guy and driven him back â€“ and gets a decent gain out of it.|
|Henne throws it wide; a potential completion, otherwise. Butler was holding anyway. (IN, 0, 1/2 Butler -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|A 65 yard touchdown waiting to happen; Henne overthrows it but only just. Manningham needs to lay out for this ball. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Ah, the incredibly surprising second and ten draw. MSU blitzes right into it. Also, Boren(-1) lets his guy inside of him.|
|Protection is fine, but Henne can't find anyone. Saint Dic eventually gets loose and sacks. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|MSU, as you might expect, jumps all over this. There are just too many to block; Boren(-1) didn't do a good job on a Spartan DT.|
|Arrgh, stay on your feet! Uh... yeah, other than that a perfect pitch and catch. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Manningham wide open again; Henne overthrows him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Mitchell(-1) blown back into the backfield on what might be a designed cutback... we again motion the TE to the backside of the play and block the DE out there; Minor hops out there but the penetration slows him up enough to make this a short gain.|
|Saint Dic stunts around two other defenders, getting in clean. He hits Henne as he throws, the resulting pass is to no one. Don't know how you pick this up, but someone busted. (BA, 0, protection 0/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-10, 1 min 3rd Q.|
|M27||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-1||Brown||Zone left|
|Long passes Saint Dic off to Butler(-1); Saint Dic just splits the pair and forces Brown up into bodies.|
|State in a four deep coverage with cornerbacks bailing at the snap; Henne bombs away despite the DB having yards on Manningham and it falls incomplete. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Boren(-1) gets fooled on a stunt between a DT and a linebacker, picking up the DT and allowing the LB in unfettered; Minor(-1) attempts to chop the guy and does a crappy job of it; Henne sees the pressure and sets up to throw but is sacked by the LB; corner coming unblocked meant he had to get rid of it right away anyway. (PR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-17, 13 min 4th Q. Another bad punt from Mesko.|
|Arrington wide open on the sidelines, catching it nine yards downfield and running up for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Henne limps off.|
|Wooo Hart! Can't really blame Mallett for this, as the corner is totally unblocked as there's a protection screwup and he's looking at the other side of the field. Hart scoops the ball up and motors. (PR (not charted), N/A, protection 0/2, team)|
|Manningham this time; same play to the other side of the field. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Pass||4 + 15||Mathews||Quick out|
|Henne throws this little out late, so Mathews can't turn it upfield. The play's over by like ten seconds when MSU pops him. Sparty, no! (CA-, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Virtual replay of the first catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Our second time out. Debord, you only have two plays, please get one of them in. Henne misses Arrington largely because Arrington was shoved with the ball in the air 15 yards downfield. No call. I'm not charting this one. (N/A, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|Henne loops it over the DB's head; a perfect throw that needed to be. A stunt got a DE in unblocked again. (DO, 3, protection 1/2, team)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-24, 6 min 4th Q. Good Henne.|
|And it's wide open again. Henne throws it upfield, forcing a tough diving catch from Arrington. (CA-, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M44||2||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||1||Minor||Zone left|
|MSU's trying to stunt here; Boren(-1) can't seal the DT and no-one bothers blocking the stunting DE; all Butler(-1) had to do was step inside and he was auto-sealed; the DE is free to track Minor down. Minor manages to reach out near the first-down marker and gets it.|
|Way long; Henne complains for a flag afterwards; ABC shows a replay of Mathews, so his complaint goes unevaluated. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Jesus Christ, Mario, get the first down! Aaaaigh! (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O46||3||1||Ace 3-wide||Run||-10 (pen)||Minor||Zone right|
|Butler(-1) driven back and holds as Mitchell and Schilling double the DT, driving him back; Minor manages to squeeze through the MSU tackle.|
|And it's a long, long drag as MSU rushes three and gets no pressure. Henne puts it just past the outstretched arms of the LB to Arrington, who has room up the sideline for the first. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|MSU sends the house; Manningham's drag route is wide open. Henne hits him. Good pickup from the OL. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)|
|Kraus(-2) driven way back by Baldwin, lined up as an NT; Minor has to bounce it out. Manningham(-1) doesn't even bother blocking the CB opposite him.|
|Manningham falls down. (N/A, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Well... goddamn, son. (DO, 2, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-24, 2 min 4th Q.|
I can't decide if I should be mad or thrilled. I hate Henne! I love Henne! I hate Manningham! I love Manningham!
Yes. God willing, any ESPN Classic replays of this game will excise the vast majority of the second quarter. I've never seen such a schizophrenic performance. We should just head right to the--
That's a tough day. Making it weirder is the breakdown (Good Henne == up until the second touchdown; Robot Henne == final two drives; Evil Henne == everything in-between):
There is some mitigation here: there were a lot of bombs into a swirling wind, Henne was playing hurt, and it's no coincidence that the three PRs came when Henne was in Evil Henne mode. During the middle of the game, Henne got pounded time and again.
In fact, to fully appreciate Henne's day we should check...
PROTECTION: 58/74, Hart -1, Schilling -1, Butler -5, Kraus -2, Minor -1, Boren -1, Team -5.
Minuses assigned to "team" were generally stunts that got MSU players through.
Ugly, ugly, ugly, especially on the part of Butler, not only complete fail in pass protection but also the culprit on several run plays that went nowhere and the recipient of two critical penalties, one a stupid personal foul and the other a comically inept holding call on Michigan's final drive.
We can break this down further, as well. The final two drives were 26/29, and one of the minuses was on Henne's touchdown throw to Mathews. The rest of the day was 32/45. That's a failure rate of 29%, well into the completely unacceptable range.
A glimpse at the Hart Chart tells a similar story in the run game. For the first time all year the totals are negative, and that's only charting Hart's 15 carries. The numbers would undoubtedly be uglier if Minor and Brown's collective eight carries for -4 yards were included. Our line got straight up owned.
What happened in the shotgun offense?
Part of it was the exceptional generosity of the MSU corners. Time and again they got driven off and receivers were wide open. I don't think Henne had to find a second read on either drive; if I was, god forbid, an MSU blogger the D UFR on the the last drives would be something like:
AAAAARGH they're running the same out for the FIFTH STRAIGHT TIME and no one is even in the same ZIP CODE as these guys. (Cover -2) Someone give me a kitten to strangle.
#*$#!!!!! What are you thinking, Kendall Davis-Moron? I hate you! I hate you so much! I hate you so much I am giving up on saying anything clever about you and just calling you Davis-Moron! Where is my whiskey? I drank it during the Northwestern game? AAAARGGGHHHH
When kids are that open it's hard to get to the QB. Also, MSU started dropping eight guys into coverage, which was something they actually did to good effect earlier in the game, as the faked blitzes often would end up getting The Sackmaster one-on-one on Butler anyway, resulting in pressure against an eight-man zone. Michigan managed to fix that protection somehow and the same three-man rushes were just invitations to give up yards. It was an outstanding performance that pushed the final protection numbers up to mediocrity. Football is so weird sometimes.
Oh, yeah. Ye receive:
Nothing of particular note except the "8" in Manningham's uncatchable column, which was 50% of his season total before this game.
Yes... yes. I do hate to be That Guy, and plead guilty to some That Guy pessimism earlier in the year, but one of my bedrock beliefs about football is that it's stupid to be as predictable as Michigan is and this game was a good exemplar of that.
Simply-titled Michigan blog Blue, run by oft-cantankerous commenter Meechigan Dan, helpfully points out Michigan's first down playcalling, which was... not particularly creative. Here's the first half:
1-10-MI29 (11:14) Mike Hart rushed for 8 yards.
1-10-MIST38 (9:00) Brandon Minor lost 4 yards.
1-10-MI28 (5:45) Chad Henne passed to Carson Butler for 10 yards.
1-10-MI48 (5:27) Mike Hart rushed for 3 yards.
1-10-MIST11 (4:35) Mike Hart rushed for no gain.
1-10-MI44 (1:31) Mike Hart lost 1 yard.
1-10-MIST42 (14:40) Mike Hart rushed for 32 yards.
1-10-MIST10 (14:04) Mike Hart rushed for 5 yards.
1-10-MI6 (11:15) Mike Hart rushed for 2 yards.
1-10-MI8 (6:50) Mike Hart rushed for 1 yard.
1-10-MI20 (4:17) Mike Hart rushed for no gain.
1-10-MIST41 (1:57) Mike Hart rushed for 6 yards.
1-10-MI18 (0:16) Chad Henne lost 1 yard.
The last one is a kneeldown and doesn't count, but that's 11 runs out of twelve opportunities. Things got slightly better in the second half; before the dual de
speration drives started Michigan had three runs and two passes. Total: 14 runs, 3 passes. I don't care how much confidence Michigan has in its ground game, that ain't right.
Exemplar: I had an odd moment whilst reviewing the game for UFR. Michigan was on its final touchdown drive and had just gotten down to the MSU 29. They went under center and ran Brandon Minor on a zone left. MSU's defensive end bizarrely cut inside the DT and I couldn't understand what in the hell he was doing; for a moment it looked like he had lost his mind. Then it occurred to me: they were stunting. Why was it so hard to identify this? I mean, look at the above. Many of the mentions of pressure on Henne involve a stunt. MSU stunted all the time when Michigan found itself in obvious passing downs. But not once did they ever stunt when Michigan was running the ball until they were in, yes, an obvious passing down.
If Carson Butler had just decided to block the DE Minor would have had a nice gain, but he did not and it was a TFL. So... didn't work out so well, but MSU put itself in a bad position. By my estimation they did this all of once the rest of the day, that on Hart's run from the MSU 10 to the 5 on Michigan's second touchdown drive. Michigan opponents make very few mental errors because Michigan hardly ever puts them in a position where they can make a mental error. Scant misdirection; limited play action; low variety in the run game. This thinking belongs to another era of football.
Caveats can be extended for this game: the pass blocking was bad -- though no worse than the run blocking -- Henne seemed dinged, and the wind was nasty. But this is no one-game trend.
I'm sorry, I know: beating a dead horse. Or dying horse. Or retiring. Whatever. Beating a very tired and old but not quite dead horse over and over again. I'm obviously never going to stop or I would have by now, but please accept my profuse apologies.
Robot Henne, Mike Hart's one good leg, and Mario. And Long, always Long.
Evil Henne, Mike Hart's one bad leg, and Mario. And OH MY GOD CARSON BUTLER BLOCK SOMEBODY. Seriously, I would not be surprised to see a lot of Criswell coming up. We don't really need a dynamic receiver at TE. We do need someone who can block.
What does it mean for Wisconsin?
There's a VEQ coming up; in it Bruce Ciskie says the UW safeties have been atrocious and Ikegwuonu pretty average; second starting corner Allen Langford is also out. Ciskie also says the run defense has been atrocious; starting DT Jason Chapman is also out. So all right we run them the hell over yay!
Uh... probably not. Wisconsin is likely to note Michigan's difficulties on the right side of the line, which only get worse when Carson Butler is put over there, as the expectation of nonexistent help is worse than the cold knowledge of your infinite loneliness versus The Sackmaster, and blitz like hell. The return of Alex Mitchell probably says more about the situation at right guard than Mitchell's health and motivation -- dude looks way out of shape -- and Debord... well... if he ever sat down at a poker table I was at I'd get tingly. It'll probably be MOTS: ugliness interspersed with good and 20-something points.