The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
11/15/2008 – Michigan 14, Northwestern 21 – 3-7, 2-6 Big Ten
At halftime I momentarily thought I had found a forgotten pair of hand warmers in the recesses of my jacket, only to pull out an empty packet of trail mix and other assorted detritus. This was worse than having no hope of hand warmers at all.
I then examined the various and diverse pockets of my jacket, coming across nothing useful. I did strike upon my ticket from last April's Frozen Four, which now commemorates the gut-punch loss suffered because of Nickelback and Creed. Thanks for leaving it there, Brian Of Christmas Past. I hope your football team goes 3-9, douchebag.
I spent halftime with my hands on the glass of the pretzel oven. Contraption. Vendor thing. Thing with flames and heat that contains pretzels. Whatever the hell it is. It didn't help much.
This is how weird it's been of late: as I huddled near a pretzel contraption at halftime of a game between 3-7 Michigan and Northwestern, soaked, frozen, pondering the grim futility of all things, I discovered that I was sort of enjoying this. Yeah, sure, you had to peel back layer upon layer of misery to get to the morbidly sunny core. But it was there.
If you were there, and stayed there, and did not move from your seat until Nick Sheridan's final pass sailed out of bounds, you have completed the final challenge. This is the worst it can ever be: an awful team that does things specifically intended to hurt you playing a meaningless game against Northwestern in weather not fit for man nor beast. With multiple infuriating million-year-long media timeouts in the fourth quarter. That they lose.
If you put up with it (and far, far fewer than the announced 107,000 did), you are hardcore. You have a black belt in fandom. You get the Fandom Endurance III merit badge. If anyone ever questions your Michigan allegiance, you can just say "I was at the 2008 Northwestern game" and they will have to step off. If they fail to do so with sufficient obsequiousness I'm pretty sure you can cave their skull in with your finger.*
Hell, if you've even watched all these games and maintained enough emotional attachment to swear profusely during them, you're at least a purple belt or a yellow belt or whatever is pretty high up on the belt list.
You probably didn't do this by choice. Anyone with a choice either didn't show up or left or checked out emotionally. You stayed because it was inevitable.
This, of course, is abject stupidity. I, and everyone else there, knew that the four-plus hours spent going to, attending, and returning from the game would be four of the least pleasant hours of our lives. At one point my rain-soaked uncle exclaimed to us all "we do this for fun!"
So, okay, established. Fandom is stupid LOL etc.
But why, hand on the pretzel machine, did I find perverse satisfaction in what I was doing? Why was that horrible game a sort of uniquely rewarding experience in a way last year's Ohio State game, equally dismal on-field and off, was not?
The Ohio State game last year had stakes. Win, and go to the Rose Bowl. And it was Lloyd Carr and Chad Henne and Mike Hart and Jake Long leaving. And it was against Ohio State. There were reasons to go, the chance of seeing something spectacular. Even if that chance was low.
No such chance existed on Saturday. It was pointless and horrible. Anyone with any common sense stayed away. But our stupidity is unbreakable, and that's now 100% proven. There's at least a little something in that.
*(Don't try this at home, kids! Unless you live in Ohio!)
- Hey, chalk up another running performance somewhere between respectable and pretty good. Carlos Brown, back from the dead, was outstanding with his cuts and there were open lanes time and again. And this was against a pretty good run defense in conditions that made throwing an extremely unlikely occurrence.
- Hopefully the Martavious Odoms fumble festival was more due to his inexperience in conditions like those he experienced on Saturday. Remember, this guy is a freshman from a swamp, basically.
- We'll see how he looks in UFR, but Mouton looked dynamite, at least against the run.
- Michigan got jacked by the referees, who 1) took away a Michigan touchdown by ruling Donovan Warren out of bounds, 2) gave Northwestern a touchdown by ignoring an incredibly blatant hold on Tim Jamison, and 3) killed any hope of a comeback by ignoring two obvious PI calls. I mean, whatever, we're 3-8, but Christ the standards in this league are horrifically low.
- That was one high-variance punting strategy employed by Northwestern.
- I hate third and more than 15.
A thousand apologies: I accidentally published this as the Minnesota preview, so no one saw this.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Northwestern|
|WHERE||Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, November 15th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Michigan by 3.5|
|WEATHER||Mid 40s, windy, 100% chance of rain. Fun!|
Run Offense vs. Northwestern
Michigan's run offense has emerged from slumber with a series of slashing 40-yarders the past couple weeks. Yesterday's UFR has the details:
Over the last two weeks, Michigan has 76 carries for 430 yards. Though they haven't been taking on the 1970s Steelers, that's 5.7 YPC against a vast array of eight- and sometimes even nine-man fronts with a rag-tag offensive line, a banged up set of running backs, and quarterbacks close to the platonic opposite of Pat White.
Caution is still advisable, as Purdue is the country's #90 rush defense and Minnesota is #65. Northwestern, remarkably, will be a step up. They come in with the #45 rush defense and I'm sure most of you remember the specter of Northwestern DT John Gill slashing into Mike Hart over and over again last year in Evanston.
Add in an impressive performance against Penn State and that's three of four weeks the ground game has performed admirably, with Michigan State's snap-jumping ways the exception.
FWIW, Half of Purdue's total was one 76 yard Kory Sheets touchdown, so that game is:
- 76 yard touchdown
- 24 carries for 3.4 YPC.
This, unfortunately, looks like Great Success against finesse spread teams and crunching death against the straight-ahead pounders of the world. Michigan has been pretty good with the straight ahead pounding, actually, but that's almost entirely due to MINOR RAGE, which is doubtful with shoulder and rib injuries this week. The backups are slight freshmen better suited to bouncing past opponents than powering through them.
I think this will be an issue. Last year the Northwestern game caused my head to explode. Michigan ran no play action and one misdirection play the whole game, allowing this to happen:
Holy crap, Kraus(-2) just gets his ass kicked by John Gill. He's driven yards into the backfield, directly into Hart's path, and Gill makes the TFL. … Gill crashes into Boren, preventing him from doubling the other DT. So no zone block and thus an unblocked linebacker. Hart stuffed for nothing. … Kraus(-2) lets Gill right by him and Mallett is sacked … Boren(-2) owned by Gill again. WTF is going on? … Gill again in the backfield, this time working on Kraus(-1).
John Gill is a badass. John Gill is basically J Leman. John Gill is starting for Northwestern this weekend in a windy, rainy game in the 40s. Last year John Gill slanted so hard to the playside on every snap that it was impossible to prevent him from punching Mike Hart's mom in the backfield.
Raise your hand if you're surprised the UFR was one long diatribe against Mike Debord. No one, I see.
So. WTF? Well, the Gill Event was extremely similar to the Penn State event Michigan experienced last year: saddled with Mallett, Michigan ran zone stretches again and again and again and basically told their opponent that if you slant hard you're going to kill the play in the backfield half time time. Michigan averaged 3.2 YPC. The week before, Michigan scraped out a win against Penn State averaging 3.0 YPC.
This year, Michigan tore Penn State up in the first half before running out of stuff to do, shooting Brandon Minor into Penn State's secondary with some unexpected plays. The gambling, slanting Penn State defense was cowed by consecutive long runs that caught PSU DTs on the wrong side of Michigan OLs; if Michigan can get Gill and other Wildcats guessing wrong there will be creases. Significant creases.
Key Matchup: I think it might be John Gill and Slanty McDefensiveCoordinator versus David Molk and Michigan's playcalling.
Pass Offense vs. Minnesota
Suicidal kitten? It's cute, small, you want to care for it and hope it does the best but you're probably going to end up with DEATH at some point.
Yeah, so Nick Sheridan put up 18 for 30 for 203 yards and a touchdown last week. He hit a variety of bubble screens. He rolled out and threw looping fifteen yard passes that looked like sure disaster but invariably found their way into the receiver's hands for a first down. He was accurate-ish on a number of deep balls but floated two of them such that easy touchdowns were turned into an incompletion and a 30-yard wheel. He should have thrown two ugly interceptions.
He'll start tomorrow; Threet is supposedly healthy (he has gone through the last couple practices and is available). Justin Feagin will probably reprise his Incredibly Surprising Quarterback role. In the script this is the week he pulls up and chucks one to a wide open tight end.
Northwestern, meanwhile, has given up a ton of yards through the air (they're 89th) but has been good-ish in efficiency terms (49th), though the quality of competition hasn't exactly been great. Northwestern got Indiana's backup, a melting-down Curtis Painter, a n00b-y Ricky Stanzi, and Brian Hoyer, and didn't exactly blow the doors off. They're 20th in sacks, though.
I pretty skeptical we'll see a repeat performance from Sheridan, especially given the nasty combination of his arm strength and the weather conditions. He might be the more effective quarterback anyway, because he's the more accurate guy on screens and short stuff
Key Matchup: Sheridan versus not throwing the killer interception. Even in his magnum opus last week he should have chucked two interceptions. I think Michigan wins if he avoids the killer INT.
Run Defense vs. Northwestern
Michigan's run defense has been spotty at best this year but if the 3-3-5 has been relegated to history's trash pile I'm fairly optimistic here. You may remember last year's game, when Michigan used… well… an inexplicable 3-3-5 on a lot of potential run downs and got gashed a thousand times, including yielding a 50-yard touchdown run to Northwestern backup tailback Omar Conteh. When Michigan was in a more conventional front their runs were limited to the occasional Shawn Crable screwup on the edge.
Michigan doesn't have to worry about Conteh this year, and it's not because starter Tyrell Sutton has returned to health: both players are out for the year with injuries. Left standing is true freshman Stephen Simmons, who has 18 carries for 53 yards to his name. Information is limited, but what we know:
- He's 5'8".
- Rivals gave him two stars.
- His other offer was from Indiana.
Okay, not incredibly impressive but you dismiss the Northwestern running game at your peril—I mean, it's basically what we run and we've managed to cobble something together of late.
Simmons isn't going to get all the carries, though. Between them, Mike Kafka and CJ Bacher have 31% of Northwestern's attempts on the ground this year. The quarterback keeper is much more of a threat for Northwestern than it is Michigan. Kafka won the Minnesota game by putting up 217 rushing yards and actually had an eminently respectable 126 rushing yards against Ohio State; 43 yards of sacks masked his day on the ground.
Key Matchup: Jamison or Graham or Harrison or whoever's got QB contain versus irresponsibility. I know this might bite me in the ass, but I can't see this Simmons guy doing much against Michigan's defense. A few runs here and there will get into the secondary, but unless they managed to unearth another Sutton (and remember that Sutton had much more hype coming into college after an impressive HS All Star game performance) he's not going to make yards that aren't there. Contain the QBs, contain the NW running game.
Pass Defense vs. Northwestern
Word on the street is that starting quarterback CJ Bacher will return this weekend after suffering through a hamstring injury the past couple weeks. Lake The Posts remains skeptical about Bacher's health:
The semantic interpretations over Fitz' positioning of the QB situation continue to fill up columns, but I think every Cats fan expects both CJ and Mike to play.
We might see something like a Sheridan/Feagin split in the game, with Mike "Franz" Kafka in the Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Role. Kafka can throw at least a little bit, so he might be only Mildly Surprising.
Northwestern quarterbacks are collectively 89th in passing efficiency; Bacher has 10 touchdowns against 11 interceptions so far this year and is averaging an ugly 5.6 YPA. Kafka's managed 3 interceptions in just 46 throws, though he is averaging 7.2 YPA. Some of that is probably Ohio State taking the foot off the gas after getting up huge,, though.
There is no main receiving threat: Eric Peterman, Ross Land, and Rasheed Ward have near-identical statistics and there's a trio of guys with about 15 catches behind hem; Running backs have caught 40 passes, too, so Michigan will have to watch for screens and the like. All of these guys are typical Northwestern receivers: large, not particularly athletic, decent hands, etc.
Michigan turned in a terrific performance against Minnesota one week after getting obliterated by Purdue's third-string quarterback, so you tell me what the hell is going on. The change away from the 3-3-5 stack allowed Michigan to keep two deep safeties and that, in turn, gave the cornerbacks freer reign to play aggressively.
One thing to look for: the bubble screen minigame. Michigan's scheme against the bubble is to have the cornerback to that side freak out and explode the guy in the backfield, which has worked wonders but seems vulnerable to a counter-punch of some sort. Minnesota tried it once, found no one immediately open, and then was swallowed by Brandon Graham. Northwestern loves screens of all sorts and will have to find a way to make the bubble effective or will have a hard time moving the ball.
Key Matchup: Screen minigame.
Should be a Michigan advantage overall. Michigan got a couple good kickoff returns for the third consecutive week and now threatens to reach average in returns. They're 66th in KO returns and 62nd in punt returns. Given the vast disaster this area was early in the year, that's cause for a (small, reserved) celebration. Northwestern, meanwhile, idles in the 90s.
Michigan remains #1 in net punting; Zoltan is a hero and will continue providing long, virtually unreturnable kicks that are well-covered. One thing to watch for: if it's windy Michigan might go with the rugby liners more often: several of Zoltan's punts this year have had intentionally flat trajectories. These punts hit after about 30 yards, but are never fielded and because of the trajectory invariably bounce 10 or even 20 yards downfield. Northwestern's net punting is 44th; if there are regular punt exchanges Michigan should come out ahead.
Kicking is a slight advantage to Northwestern. Spectacularly-named Armando Villareal is 17 of 21 this year; KC Lopata is 10 of 13.
Key Matchup: Kickers versus the weather. And punt returners.
- John Gill slices into the backfield and you're like "doesn't this look familiar? And stupid?"
- Our running game just can't operate well without MINOR RAGE.
- Northwestern's third string running back starts slashing us.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- The diversity of the Michigan ground game gets NW guys on the wrong side of blockers.
- The nickel package looks like a good solution.
- They throw a lot of bubble screens.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for Maybe Not DEATH But Suicidal Kitten, +1 for The Weather Is Ugly, Isn't It, –1 for Hey We're A Vegas Favorite!, +1 for And We're Like 2-8 Against The Spread, –1 for Their Running Backs Are Dead And So Is Their Quarterback, Sort Of, +1 for Uh… So Are Ours, –1 for In A Battle Of Punts, We Have Space.)
Desperate need to win level: 2 out of 10. (Baseline 5; –1 for We're Still 3-7, +1 for But A Win Plus Something Respectable Against OSU Looks Like Progress, –1 for .)
Loss will cause me to... sigh audibly and return to my "Is Michigan 2008 Worse Than Notre Dame 2007?" post.
Win will cause me to... allow myself the tiniest little flicker of hope about beating Ohio State, which I will forcibly obliterate by Monday.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
This looks like an ugly punt-fest to me. I assume Northwestern won't replicate Minnesota's mistakes and let the bubble screen become a regular part of Michigan's arsenal, especially in the gross weather expected. They'll crowd the line, take away that, and dare Michigan to chuck it deep, which they will not be able to do.
Michigan will get behind the chains on first down plenty due to that and gambling from Northwestern's pretty good front seven, which will make it very tough to sustain drives. There should be a couple opportunities for Michigan to slash into the Northwestern secondary, at which point someone will pick up 30 or so yards; much hinges on whether these plays hit the endzone (either because the running back makes a safety miss or good field position) or end up resulting in dodgy field goal attempts.
As for Northwestern's offense… well, I see virtually the same thing with less chance of a long run due to the shakiness of their tailback situation. These teams are near mirror images on offense: same scheme, same dinged up nominal starter, same pass-wonky backup, same depleted RB corps. I worry about a bubble-screen counterpunch and Northwestern's consistently effective regular screen game, and figure they'll sustain at least a couple drives and get one big play.
In the end, though, there will be many punts and that favors Michigan, which has found someone to return them and someone to boot them very far in such a way as to make them nigh unreturnable.
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Sheridan takes a major step back.
- Zoltan is the difference.
- Michigan, 17-13.
One: Michigan is holding an open scrimmage after the Northwestern game, which might be appealing to those of weak constitution facing down what looks like some legendarily awful weather:
Admission to the “Garden Party” will be free of charge and fans can begin entering Crisler Arena through gates B and C from inside Michigan Stadium at the start of the fourth quarter. Fans will be able to observe the Wolverines practice with the football game broadcast without sound on the Crisler Arena JumboTron.
If, midway through the fourth quarter you are drowning and cold and want to go somewhere but also want to watch the game… eh… there you go.
Two: Michigan opened its season with two victories and will take on UCLA at Madison Square Garden Thursday. Impressions abound. UMHoops:
Manny Harris seems to get better every night. After posting a career high 30 points last night Manny came 2 assists short of a triple double tonight. Yesterday the only thing you could criticize about Manny’s game was that he didn’t have many assists. Well he posted 8 tonight and seemed to be looking for the open man most of the night (while still managing to score 26 points). Manny shot it efficiently (6-9), got to the stripe (13-14), and rebounded (10) — I don’t know what else you can ask from him.
Manny Harris is WAY too good to play for Michigan. Thanks Tommy! Corperryale with a near-triple-double in his second game? Very LeBron James-esque. And how sweet would those back-to-back dunks have been? I'd love to say "Wait 'til next year" with this guy, but I'm not sure there will be one. Our only hope is that Harris realizes he'll get pounded in the NBA with his current frame and comes back for Michigan's first trip to The Dance since '98.
Rebounding was the major concern, as Michigan allowed a whopping 20 offensive rebounds and only retrieved 55% of opposition misses (of which there were many). UMHoops points out that getting your ass kicked on the boards is a sure sign you're being coached by John Beilein, and with Michigan down to two potential post guys (Ben Cronin exists, I guess, but most people expect little from him this year), neither of whom is exactly Ben Wallace, that tendency is going to be there all year. Michigan is going to be a zone team, period, and will get murdered on the boards. They'll try to make it up with turnovers.
The Big Ten Geeks say "don't get carried away," then note some unusual, very un-John stats:
The Wolverines were not as perimeter focused this game, devoting less than a third of their field goal attempts to 3 pointers. Partly as a result, they shot 26 free throws on just 43 FGAs, and they made all but one of them. Of course, the Wolverines did turn it over 14 times in a 59 possession game, which isn't so good. Michigan lit the nets on fire everywhere, shooting 35.7% on 3s and 62.1% from 2, and you won't lose many games doing that.
This was due at least in part to Northeastern's intermittent pressing, which Michigan beat for several easy buckets and Northeastern used to pick up several turnovers.
Hockey does not have a G you can drop. Michigan takes on Western Michigan in a home-and-home this weekend. Western, as usual, is freakin' dire. Yost Built has your Ten Things to Know. Anything other than a sweep is disappointing.
In other news, Mark Mitera opted for surgery, and the prognosis is actually encouraging. The stated timeline is three(!) to six months of rehab, which means there's at least some chance we see Mitera on the ice at Yost again. Yost Built does the math:
last Thursday was November 6. Three months would put him at February 6. Four months and he's back for the CCHA Tournament. Five months and it's just the Frozen Four if we make it. It might be unlikely, but apparently there's still a chance that Mitera's Michigan career isn't over. You know he'd like to make it back in four months and play at Yost one more time...
I am also in the club of "would like to see Mark Mitera one more time, or preferably ten." There are also rumblings that Kampfer might not be done for the year.
One recruiting downer: uber-prospect Colin Jacobs, who Michigan had a couple ins with, will not be joining the sick 2010 recruiting class. He's signed with a WHL team.
Draftin'. The draft prospects of Michigan seniors are not super high according to Pro Football Weekly whispers:
Scouts increasingly have been disappointed with Michigan senior CB Morgan Trent, whose lack of toughness and tackling deficiencies too often have been exposed. He is tight in the hips and too straight-linish and has not warranted better than fourth-round grades from evaluators.
Michigan senior DE Tim Jamison plays hard and gives good effort, but he is not a threat as a pass rusher and all of his production comes because he continues working to the ball and chasing, not because he is able to create plays.
I imagine Terrance Taylor is a second or third round pick and you'd think Will Johnson will end up getting drafted somewhere late.
Etc.: Yrs truly quoted by the Daily Northwestern; they picked out the zingers.
Reviving a tradition I did not execute last year: haikus for the graduating scholarship seniors, and other notables. Those with remaining eligibility are omitted.
You'll probably be
a fancy suit stock broker
so it's not all bad
Centers never knew
they could be so afraid of
a balding tackle
In your younger days
I thought you would be a ninja
or maybe a bear
Suggest you cover
deep routes in life, so, like
get health insurance
Bet it's annoying
that everyone says you have
a smoking hot mom
You committed to
Tyrone Willingham, which, like
makes you a rare bird
No one blames you, man
we all know Crable messed up
if that helps any. No?
That Kentucky raid
you played the most from it
it didn't work out
There are worse things than
having an awesome nickname
like "The Machete"
Did you know your name,
su, doesn't fit here?
You'll be a footnote
"First M JUCO in ten years"
So congrats I guess
What do you get when
you cross a bear, a hydrant,
and a six foot smile?
is underrated these days
but I recall Brabbs
Small, nimble slot guy
You showed at Michigan
four years too early
The bubble screen is a staple of the spread 'n' shred. It's tough to defend without committing a player that would otherwise be in the box to the slot receiver, and if you've got the right zippy dwarf running it it can break big.
Theoretically, it should be an easy throw, but it requires precise timing and location. If you're off by a couple feet on a longer ball you might take the receiver off his feet but you've still picked up eight, ten, fifteen yards. If you're errant on the bubble screen you'll slow the receiver and wreck the play. Or you could, like, throw it backwards and provide a free turnover to an opponent.
Since that last horrible example has actually occurred this year, this will be no surprise: Michigan's quarterbacks have been pretty iffy on them all year. However, Nick Sheridan had a couple beauties against Minnesota. Here's the purtiest:
Minnesota lines up in a 3-4 with a linebacker or safety sort lined up over Clemons. The outside coverage is offering eight-yard cushions; this is a pre-snap setup that looks perfect for the bubble. (It's markedly different than Illinois' approach.) Especially when…
…the guy covering the slot blitzes. Michigan gives the dive fake, then Sheridan pulls up for the bubble. Note the position of Clemons at the moment. He's four yards behind the line of scrimmage. He will give another yards as he searches for depth, then run forward to a designated spot.
Here Clemons has acquired the ball. You can see the setup downfield, with the outside receivers blocking the two defenders and a safety attempting to close it down from the outside. The key here is the timing of the pass and its location: Clemons catches this in stride, facing downfield. There is no delay between the catch and run. This has not frequently been the case this year.
Excellent blocks from the two receivers and a not-quite-quick-enough reaction from the safety provide…
…a first down. Clemons will use his momentum to get ten more.
Here's the video:
Here's a similar play against a defense that's basically the same except the opposition defensive backs are offering less cushion:
In UFR I said this one "isn't as upfield as it should be," and you see Odoms has to turn his body upfield a bit to catch a ball slightly behind him. I think I overstated my criticism a little bit on review (review-review, actually); this one also sees Odoms catch the ball basically in stride.
A couple notes:
- I can't find where I read this, but IIRC when you see Michigan give a handoff fake before the bubble screen, that's a read. When it's a presnap call they just throw it.
- I'm not sure if different defensive alignments call for different sorts of throws and may be partly responsible for the QBs not throwing these "right" much of the year. But I kind of doubt it; even this well-timed bubble is caught four yards behind the LOS.
- This is the kind of thing I thought we would be surprised we missed without Henne. (We all knew we'd miss, say, laser post passes to Adrian Arrington.)
Rivals is reporting that Michigan has picked up a commitment from this guy:
Who is that? Let's check the filename:
Sleuthing complete. Michigan has replaced decommit Anthony Fera with FL K Brendan Gibbons. Informative update coming, but only slightly informative since he's a kicker.
|3*, #11 K||2*, #7 K||77, #18 K|
Guru ratings for specialist are near meaningless, but they all say "this is a D-I kicker who will probably get a scholarship offer." FWIW. ESPN doesn't have much to say, as you might expect, but eh:
Gibbons is a very consistent place kicker. He gets into his field goals quickly and has smooth tempo. Powerful leg and has kicked several field goals over 40 yards including a 52 yarder. Kickoffs average about 5 yards deep with good hang of about 4.0 seconds.
His coach is naturally enthusiastic:
One of the Crusaders' top weapons in the game was senior kicker Brendan Gibbons, who put three of four kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and kicked a 40-yard field goal that essentially put the game out of reach late in the third quarter.
Just four of Forest Hill's nine drives began with better field position than its own 20-yard line.
"He's the best in the state of Florida. I'll put him up against anybody," Dicus said of Gibbons. "Special teams are a third of the game. We spend a significant amount of time on special teams because that's a huge part of what we do in field position and offense, and we've got to take advantage of our (kicker) because he's outstanding."
Gibbons was rated the #4 kicker of 2009 by Chris Sailer sometime last year, FWIW; Michigan alum kicking coach guy Brandon Kornblue rated him the top guy at Michigan's summer kicking camp (Fera couldn't attend and came in earlier).
Kickers don't really get offers except for the one offer they do get and then they commit.
Helmholdt had a Free Press article on Gibbons with some encouraging numbers:
Michigan now can look at several options to address the kicker position. Gibbons is 8-for-8 on field goals this fall, with a long of 51.
Keep in mind that high school uprights are really wide. Kornblue's site also lists an impressive touchback percentage on kickoffs: 84%.
FAKE 40 TIME
Kickers, being kickers, are not provided fake 40 times.
Ha, video on a kicker, not likely—
What, seriously? Well, I'll be damned.
PREDICTION BASED ON FLIMSY EVIDENCE
He'll obviously be the placekicker for the next few years unless something drastic goes wrong. Predicting the success of kickers is a rubes' game.
UPSHOT FOR THE REST OF THE CLASS
Michigan is obviously done handing out scholarship offers to specialists, but they may pursue a walk-on or two just in case Gibbons doesn't work out. (Where would Michigan be without Kicking Competency Lopata?) Troy's Kevin Muma is the name most commonly provided as a candidate.
Brian,While the season has not been a "success", so to speak, I guess I'm a bit surprised at the pessimism about our future seasons. The bowl streak is over and the 2005 season sounds like a dream at this point, however, I think that there may be some hope for the future.Other than the Notre Dame fumble fest, we've held a lead in every game thus far this season. Also, other than the Utah and Toledo games, we've held substantial leads in the rest of the games (substantial = Lloyd's insurmountable 10 point margin). It seems like after we get out to a quick start, teams adjust and we lose steam. Ignoring any future gains in personnel and the growth of young players, it seems as if, given more time to install a few more wrinkles in the offense, this team, as it is, could be significantly improved next year. As in, the biggest thing we lack is an ability to adjust to the other team's adjustment.Am I blinded by optimism? Is this all crazy talk? I just find it hard to believe that we've put a scare into two top ten teams this year (Utah and PSU) and are realistically that far away from being "back". While we're losing more games than I thought we would, I do see some reason for optimism ... in other words, while our final records may be the same, this is a better season than ND had in 2007.Thanks,Sam
I actually plan to tackle the "which season was worse, M 2008 or ND 2007?" question in shocking, horrific detail once Michigan's season clatters to a halt on November 22nd. I don't think you're totally off base with your optimism, but you are somewhat.
Let's definite "optimism," first. It's totally reasonable to expect significant improvement. Michigan returns 11 starters on offense and 5 on defense. The new coaching staff will have a year of experience with the players and the players will have a year of experience with the systems. There will be three reasonable quarterback options on campus instead of half of one. Michigan won't accidentally schedule a top ten team like Utah in the nonconference. A repeat of 3-9 or 4-8 would be a disaster. Even a pessimist has to expect 6-6. Optimism in this case is 9-3.
Is that reasonable? Maybe it is, for all the reasons mentioned above, and one more: the number 104. That's Michigan's ranking in turnover margin this season. TO margin is not entirely random but there is very little year-to-year correlation; Michigan is likely to improve radically next year. This argues for 7-5, 8-4, maybe even 9-3. Flukes have conspired to make Michigan look worse than it really is this year.
However, this is another number that is no fluke: –71. That's Michigan's deficit in total yards this year (ie, Michigan is averaging 71 fewer yards on offense than they give up on defense). That's a much harder statistic to improve, especially when Michigan probably won't have the luxury of playing a quarterback with a year's worth of hard knocks behind him. It's not like Jimmah(!) is ripping the world a new orifice, but Notre Dame's passing efficiency has gone from 113th to 54th largely because he's not the worst quarterback in the universe anymore.
At this point I think 2009 is going to be a pretty bleah year that ends in some December bowl game.
As someone who’s in the tank for your perspective on the Rodriguez Administration, I’ve been trying not to get too worked up about this season; being out of state (NYC) that’s not too hard, since I don’t have any contact with local columnists and talk-radio, and the fellow fans I talk to here are relatively sane. The only nightmare I actually have about this season is that somehow Rodriguez will get forced out, and we’ll have to start over from scratch and hire someone named “Bowden.” I would consider that scenario incredibly far-fetched, except that you keep mentioning these anti-RR knuckleheads, which is making me paranoid that they actually are making some headway. Can you disabuse me of my paranoia? You’re not actually hearing rumblings from anyone who counts, right?
Also, I keep being frustrated by the feeling that RR and the athletic department are not getting to hear my/our side of the argument. Partly this is kind of a ludicrous fan daydreaming like, “I bet me and Mike Hart would be friends if we knew each other! Rich Rodriguez would shake my hand and thank me for my support if I ran into him in an airport and told him how I feel!” But there’s also a logical reason to worry about it, which is that it seems to me like the naysayers control the instruments of public-sentiment-conveyance that RR or Bill Martin would hear about. My sense is that younger fans and the students (based purely on my observation of the student section at the MSU game) are behind the new team—how can this be gotten across? Pro-Rodriguez chants at the last home game? Letter-writing campaigns? Sending “Hang in There” kitten posters to Bill Martin’s office?
For the very official record: no mention of discontent in the athletic department, credible or not, has reached my inbox. This is because the people in the athletic department are not complete idiots even if local sportswriters want them to be. I have heard that certain people high up fully understand how far behind the eight ball Rodriguez is because of the decision to pursue just Ryan Mallett over the course of two recruiting years. That led to a 2007 quarterback recruiting class of the Coner and drove Jason Forcier to Stanford. When Mallett transferred the instant Rodriguez was named head coach, it immediately subtracted three wins from this year's record and maybe a few more in 2009. That sequence of events more than any other is responsible for the dismal year we're enduring, and they know that inside the AD.
I'm torn between bemusement and white-hot rage at the way these things get constructed. Look at the amazing coverage of Rodriguez's buyout lawsuit, which was mentioned every week as an "embarrassment" and a "stain on the university" by columnists. Why was it "embarrassing"? Because columnists kept writing about it! They wrote columns citing some sort of furor over this meaningless lawsuit between one insanely rich party and another insanely rich party when that furor was entirely contained in stupid columns with lots of one-sentence paragraphs and West Virginia message boards.
You can see the Detroit columnists doing this again, by speaking darkly about the Impatient Michigan Fan and his horrible cruelty to Lloyd Carr, who voluntarily retired and could have kept his job and everyone still likes and respects even after losing to Ohio State six of seven years. Find another fanbase out there that would react like that. No doubt this vicious monster will turn on proven collegiate head coach because he had a terrible first year with 600 first year starters. But if they say it enough, it will seem true. See the "Rich Rodriguez is the devil" meme, which got started with one flatly dishonest "news" report about Rodriguez shredding WVU's Sacred Single Hard Copies and leaving the Mountaineers no idea who was even on the team. Columns started, then more columns got written because there were columns out there, and it turned into this enormous recursive circle jerk of stupidity.
All Rodriguez could say was a befuddled "I just changed jobs," because what else can you say to people who would abandon their current jobs in a nanosecond if you offered them a 60% pay raise and a spot at the New York Times but criticize you for doing the same thing? Other than "are you idiots serious about this?"
This is by way of warning you: yeah, I am probably going to write an angry fisk or three over the summer.
Anyway, as far as Action Items you can undertake: if you send an email to Bill Martin, someone will read it and it will probably be compiled into a report of general fan sentiment. This might be marginally helpful. Writing huge checks and promising more as long as Rodriguez is given a fair shake will probably do it, if you're Scrooge McDuck.
But these things are of marginal impact or expensive. I advise making the style of your fandom public. You know that PSA from a couple years ago where some businessmen are sitting at a table and Businessman A says something like "You know what about black people rabble rabble racist implication!" and Businessman B says something like "No, sir, I don't approve of your racist claptrap and give you this disappointed glare"?
Yeah, I think the way you change the culture of a place is by providing social disapproval of people who are acting poorly. Apparently I do this by chucking empty water bottles at booers and bitching them out; there are probably more elegant ways of doing this. Everyone has some group of fans they can influence. I advise telling people to chill out, and doing this as stridently as you have to when the person in question has lost his mind.
I've noticed that the internets are void of Bo's "The Team" speech. Are you aware of any video copies floating around? I know of audio copies via youtube, but the speech goes from great to legendary with Bo's expressions. Any help would be appreciated.
Does anyone out there have this? And can you put it on the tubes if you do?
A note on the defensive formations below: I'm just trying to generally describe what kind of front Minnesota is in. I don't have any idea who is who on Minnesota's team and on TV they never tell you about substitutions, so I have little idea if Minnesota actually had, say, four linebackers on the field when they aligned in a 4-4. I suspect they just had the same guys out there all the time and moved them around.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M34||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||4-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||6|
|Minnesota in a dedicated eight-man front with four DL and four LB. One or two of them are probably safeties but they're lined up as LBs. This means there's no one lined up directly over Odoms; Michigan goes to the bubble. Minnesota reacts quickly enough; Stonum gets a good block on one guy but there's another coming from the outside and Odoms is tackled after a decent gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|The usual QB sweep featured in Picture Pages lo so many weeks ago. Good scoop from Ferrara and Molk gets the playside DT sealed and Ferrara out on one of the LBs, but Ortmann(-1) has been driven back considerably, closing the hole and forcing Minor to bounce it out, where Minnesota linebackers and whatnot converge.|
|M41||3||5||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Fly||Mathews||28|
|Sheridan drops back and just chucks one downfield. Mathews gets no separation—unsurprising since this is a really obvious playcall—forcing Sheridan's throw to be perfect for Mathews to have any shot. It is; Mathews makes a spectacular one-handed diving grab. (DO, 1, protection 2/2) DO, 1 is something I don't think I've ever written before, FWIW.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||1|
|Molk(-1) lets Minnesota time the snap on this one and gets beaten by the NT lined up directly over him, which forces the usual cutback into unblocked guys. Minnesota was blitzing two OLB sorts and had four DL and two MLB, so, yeah, this probably wasn't going anywhere anyway.|
|Okay, the eighth guy in the box is a safety they're walking up to the line every play. They actually back him out this time but send six at the snap; the DEs time the snap. Michigan manages to hold off the first wave; a delayed blitz from the Minnesota LB gets him in untouched and Sheridan has to chuck it, hitting Stonum on a hideously looping out that Stonum drops. Actually, it appears the DB knocked it away. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|O32||3||9||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Koger||Inc (Pen+5)|
|A Minnesota LB doesn't even wait for Molk's head to come up to jump across the line of scrimmage. Sheridan ends up rolling out and throwing an errant one-yard hitch to a covered Koger which he can't bring in. (MA, 2, protection N/A)|
|O27||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Post||Stonum||Inc|
|The safety reads it, as Sheridan is staring this down the whole way, jumping the route and nearly picking the ball off. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(44), 3-0, 11 min 1st Q. This drive gave me the heebie-jeebies re: Sheridan.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M29||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||2|
|Sort of on the 4-3, anyway, with a guy lined up directly over Odoms and a safety rolled up; always many in the box. Michigan breaks out the play with Moundros diving backside to block the DE that worked well last week but the DE has crashed inside, forcing Minor outside, where the guy lined up over Odoms—not covering the bubble—tackles. I have this insane idea that Michigan could have a play like this where the QB hands off to the RB, then turns into a potential option pitchman(!).|
|M31||2||8||Shotgun empty 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||Slant||Savoy||Inc|
|A wobbler that's well behind Savoy and incomplete. May have been tipped at the line, hard to tell. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M31||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Sheridan||5|
|Sheridan provides a flare screen pump fake, then takes off upfield. It opens up for a few yards but Minnesota is close enough to the LOS that a couple guys get to Sheridan before the sticks.|
|Zoltan does his rugby roll, realizes there's no one to the side of the field he's rolling to, and outruns the one guy rushing him to that side for a first down. Space.|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-4x||Pass||Long handoff||Mathews||3|
|Three down linemen with a guy on the corner creeping up at the snap after Minnesota started off with a man look. Sheridan chucks a long handoff; Mathews gets a few. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M46||2||7||Shotgun trips||3-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||40|
|Same deal from Minnesota. They've got their two DTs pinched in real tight and the one DE they do have lined up in normal outside position; I've never seen anything like this before. On this they blitz a guy off a corner, send one LB on the bubble route, and then have the other two guys start stalking outside. Michigan, though, is going right up the middle. Schilling and Moosman have a miscommunication or something and let the backside DT split them, but he slips or gets grabbed or something and falls, sending Minor into the secondary for a major gain—no linebackers. On replay, it looks like Moosman inadvertently tripped the guy.|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-4x||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Minnesota's DL are shooting upfield, not stepping left to match the Michigan OL, and as such both Moosman and Schilling get their guys cut and out of the play as Molk heads to the second level, where he misses his block because the playside DE has caused Minor to cut up more abruptly than I think the usual intent is. Minor spins out of that guy's tackle; Gophers converge.|
|O12||2||8||Shotgun diamond||3-4x||Pass||Diamond screen||Odoms||-3|
|Man, Stonum(-2) really messes this up, getting off the snap late and letting his guy in on Odoms. If he gets a block, this looks like a touchdown. Instead Odoms gets tackled behind the LOS, fumbling and turning the ball over. (CA, 3, screen)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 6 min 1st Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 2-back trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||7|
|They run this to a very crowded short side of the field, FWIW. Molk gets a great reach block on the playside DT, creasing the line, and Shaw scoots through it with Moosman and Minor leading the way; unfortunately Ferrara's downfield block on the MLB is pretty meh and Shaw runs into the pair about three yards downfield. He continues plowing his way downfield, getting tackled from behind.|
|O42||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||9|
|A man free look, sort of, with three linebackers right in the box and one deep safety. This provides a numerical mismatch on the trips receivers side; Michigan throws the bubble. This one isn't as upfield as it should be, allowing the Minnesota defenders some time to fend off their blocks, but Odoms still has plenty of room to scoot for the first down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read keeper||Sheridan||8|
|Sheridan keeps it this time, getting outside of a crashing defensive end and cutting up smartly for good yards.|
|O25||2||2||Shotgun empty||4-4x||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||1|
|A tight formation with Moundros and Minor lined up as h-backs. I never understand the blocking on these where the lead back on the stretch or on this play doesn't attempt to slam up between the G and T or C and G but instead heads outside the T. That guy never blocks anyone. Anyway, there's a crease here as Moosman does get the playside DT sealed but it's Moosman, right, not Molk, so there's no one in the hole blocking the WLB/safety guy lined up over Odoms in the slot, and that guy hits Sheridan hard.|
|Minnesota's DTs get an excellent slant into the path of the play—lucky call—and take Michigan's guards into the backfield, falling; Minor has to cut back and meets the unblocked guys on the backside. Just short of the line.|
|O23||4||In||Ace||Goal line||Run||QB sneak||Sheridan||1|
|O22||1||10||Shotgun empty 2TE||3-4x||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||5 (Pen+5)|
|Minnesota DT jumps the snap again, drawing a flag—I bet Michigan sent in a bunch of tape from the MSU game and said “dude, WTF”—as Michigan runs the QB zone stretch thing again; Molk somehow manages to prevent his guy from closing down the hole despite the snap jump and Sheridan squeezes through; that DT does trip him up as he passes.|
|O17||1||5||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||Inc|
|Odoms drops this, possibly because he's trying to figure out how not to get killed by a charging safety who has this dead to rights. (CA, 3, screen) Even though you can hear the whistles going for a good four seconds, a Minnesota player rams into Odoms' knees and doesn't get called.|
|O17||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Rollout – FB flat||Moundros||Inc|
|The play action counter play that opponents seem to have figured out. Sheridan gets a guy in his face and ends up throwing short to Moundros, who should have 3-4 if he catches it. He doesn't. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|This is accurate-ish but I think Mathews is running to the near corner of the endzone and is open. Sheridan is throwing it further back; this allows a Minnesota defender to recover and make a nice play on the ball. (MA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: FG(34), 6-0, EO1Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun trips 2TE||4-4x||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||2|
|Molk gets the seal on the reach again, creasing the Minnesota line, but Ortmann's attempt to cut the backside DE—flowing down the line as Minnesota has a LB on contain—fails and that guy flows down the line to tackle. Well blocked otherwise.|
|A fly route that Stonum looks open by a step or two on, and the ball is right there, but it's either dropped or raked away by the defensive back or something and dropped. On replay: yeah, Stonum starts letting up on the gas as he tracks the ball, which allows a beaten DB to recover and defend on the catch. Still, this is a ball in Stonum's hands and one he could have come up with. Maybe he needs to be stronger. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|M22||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Odoms||Inc|
|Sheridan with a ton of time—max protect—and finds Odoms as he clears the second level in the zone. I think the linebacker Odoms is clearing actually might get a fingertip on this as it passes, as the ball seems to die just as it passes him, causing Odoms to slide to his knees and extend. He fails to bring it in. Again: not exactly a routine catch but a makeable one. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-0, 13 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||ISQD||Feagin||4|
|Since we only have the one Incredibly Surprising play at this moment, Minnesota is all over this, shooting a safety upfield and forcing a cutback. An attempted scoop by Ferrara and Ortmann doesn't go so well as Ortmann can't get down the line fast enough to seal the backside DT; he tackles on the Feagin cutback.|
|M25||2||6||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Wheel||McGuffie||39|
|Sheridan looks left at first at either Odoms or Mathews, finding nothing to his liking. Michigan is using a slide protection, which ends up with Minor attempting to take on a DE, which is not a long term solution, so Sheridan decides to roll out. He chucks it as he breaks the pocket, finding McGuffie wide open on a wheel route for major yards. It's again short, allowing Minnesota to recover, but still a great play. On replay, though, you can see that if this ball is ten yards further downfield it's a touchdown. McGuffie was gone, man. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O36||1||10||Shotgun trips||4-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Clemons||20|
|An excellent bubble screen, as Minnesota is blitzing the guy nominally lined up over the slot guy and there are again just two defenders downfield for M to deal with; Clemons splits them and does a good job of making more YAC. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Clemons||7|
|LB nominally lined up on Clemons bites on the dive fake, so Clemons is virtually guaranteed yardage with two defenders well back and a blocker on the closer one. Stonum does a decent job on the corner and Michigan nears another first down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O9||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||3-4x||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|This three man line is pinched in, making it tough for Ortmann and Ferrara to get the scoop on the playside DE; they end up failing to and that DE is sitting right in the hole. With Moosman beaten on the other side Minor has one option, to cut behind Ortmann. An unblocked linebacker is waiting.|
|O9||3||3||Shotgun empty 2TE||Base 4-3||Pass||Post||Clemons||Inc|
|Sheridan stares this down all the way and draws the defender right to it; defender jumps the route and nearly intercepts. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(28), 9-0, 8 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M23||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||3|
|This throw is a little too far upfield, which slightly delays Odoms. Rogers(-1) whiffs his block downfield, and a safety comes flying up quickly as we've been running this quite a bit. Odoms is hemmed in by the two defensive backs and corralled after a small gain. (MA, 3, screen)|
|M26||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Triple option dive||Minor||4|
|Michigan really should have an advantage here as the Minnesota DT jumped the snap, then got back just as M snapped the ball. He's not ready. But the other DT is slanting right into that hole and Minor ends up taking it right at the backside DE, who is crashing down all the way. Minor does well to power through his tackle for decent yardage.|
|It's not like Minnesota isn't expecting this all the way: they've got eight guys in the box and no deep safety, manning up on the receivers outside. But it doesn't matter as the backside DE and DT get cut just enough for Feagin to hit a crease between them and the doubled playside DT. David Molk is getting a great, sustained downfield block on the MLB, and Koger cuts another LB to provide a second-level crease; Feagin bursts into the secondary.|
|Same thing again; Michigan trying to catch Minnesota off guard by getting to the line and snapping it as soon as the play is blown ready. A DT shoots upfield; Ferrara manages to escort him up past Feagin but he does force a cutback. There's a crease where the vacated DT came from but Koger and Ortmann are both trying to block the DE and Minor is heading outside as per usual, so there's an unblocked linebacker in the hole where Feagin cuts up.|
|O35||2||9||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Triple option keeper||Sheridan||1|
|Minnesota all over this, with plenty of guys containing the ball after the fake dive. Sheridan cuts up and gets back to the line of scrimmage.|
|O34||3||8||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Rollout – hitch||Odoms||11|
|The “noooooo!” rollout throwback featured in the Monday column this week, a dart to Odoms on a hitch route in between four defenders. At this point Sheridan is downgraded to SEVERE ILLNESS. (DO, 3, protection NA)|
|O23||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||-4 (Pen+15)|
|I think this is supposed to be our bubble variant where Odoms comes to a stop and shoots into what should be open space after the tight corner has freaked out in an effort to get outside of his blocker. We saw that a couple times against Purdue. On this, eh, not so much, as a safety is charging Odoms at the snap and tackles as the ball arrives. Minnesota needs to be threatened with a deep ball here and there, methinks. (CA, 3, screen) Michigan lucks out, as Minnesota picks up a facemask personal foul.|
|O11||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-1|
|Molk and Ferrara try to scoop the NT and fail; Molk does slow the guy up and Ferrara attempts to cut him; the NT stays on his feet, flows down the line, and meets Minor at the LOS. Good play from him; Ferrara might need to work on his cut technique.|
|O12||2||11||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||ISQD||Feagin||4|
|Scoop on the NT again; this time Moosman gets enough of a cut to delay him. Ferrara stalemates the DE to the playside and ends up pancaking him, though I think he tripped. Feagin hurdles the prone duo and looks about ready to head for the first down when Moundros's LB manages to dive and make a shoestring tackle.|
|O8||3||7||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Slant||Mathews||8|
|Sheridan takes one or two steps as if he's going to roll right, which gets the robber safety moving that way; Minnesota's CB gives up inside position right away and this slant is an easy pitch and catch for at touchdown. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-0, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|Okay, I've been a major Molk proponent so far but on this one he(-2) gets smoked by the NT, who proceeds to blow up an otherwise promising play.|
|M47||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Seam||Odoms||Inc|
|Oh, man, this one is behind Odoms just as he broke past the Minnesota linebackers. If accurate, this is a major gainer. Reading Odoms body language after the play, it is plain as day he says something short and jovially expletive-y. "Damn," maybe. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M47||3||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||3|
|Give up and go to half.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 16-0, EO1H.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-4x||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||15|
|Another variant where the bubble isn't going as wide as you might expect; this time Stonum's guy tries to shoot inside of him and make a spectacular play in the backfield instead of doing his job and cutting off the outside; Stonum gets just enough of him to prevent Odoms from getting lit up; Odoms' quicks get him outside. There he jukes a linebacker and shoots for a first down. Slippery little bastard. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Improv||Stonum||10|
|I'm surprised Minnesota didn't fall for this: Michigan fakes the bubble and tries to go deep; it must be covered as Sheridan doesn't chuck it. This is after a bubble flood in the first half and a successful bubble to open the second half. I'm surprised Minnesota's safeties aren't having a campfire around Odoms. Anyway, Sheridan hesitates and then scrambles out of the pocket when his timer goes off, chucking a looping out to a wide open Stonum for a first down. So maybe they did fall for it a bit. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read counter||Minor||1|
|Well, Ferrara(-1) doesn't seal his guy on this and it's a pretty easy block to make with the DT lined up inside of him while the play is supposed to go behind him. Compounding the difficulty: Ortmann(-1) ran right by the Minnesota linebacker. Three Gophers crush minor at the line.|
|O38||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||ISQD||Feagin||0|
|Odoms comes on a fake reverse, which does cause a couple of guys on the backside to cease their pursuit, but Feagin's heading outside and all that does is remove a blocker from the area. Minor(-1), the lead blocker, whiffs on a safety coming up the LOS and Feagin gets swarmed.|
|O38||3||9||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Mathews||7|
|Minnesota protecting the sticks so this is open; immediate tackle from the DB prevents Mathews from reaching the first down. At this spot on the field you're either going or it or setting up a reasonable field goal attempt so I don't mind the short throw that sets up a fourth and short. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(48), 19-0, 12 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M9||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||0|
|Moosman(-1) beat badly by the Minnesota DT, driven back a yard or two and then discarded; the backside DE is crashing down on the run as well and there's a double on the other DT, allowing a linebacker in unblocked. Minor is gang-tackled by three guys, then bounces off it and tries to get outside; he's run down.|
|Eh, a little swing that's open for a few. I think if Shaw cuts back hard here the Minnesota players are overrunning it and he can break for a first down. Instead he just puts his head down and gets what he can. (CA, 3, protection NA)|
|M14||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Rollout – hitch||Mathews||10|
|Sheridan rolls out and finds Mathews wide open (which would infuriate me if I was a Minnesota fan) on a hitch just past the sticks. Mathews turns it up for a few more after the play. (CA, 3, protection 1/1). Good cut from Minor opens up the outside and gives Sheridan the time to make the throw.|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||-1|
|Minnesota blitzes a WLB right into this and he clocks Minor in the backfield. I'm not sure what Michigan could have done with this playcall against thiers.|
|M23||2||11||Shotgun trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Penalty||False Start||Moosman||-5|
|Nein, Moosman, nein.|
|M18||2||16||Shotgun empty||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Hitch||Mathews||23|
|Huge play on this drive as Sheridan completes a little five yard hitch, which would prepare M for third and long and a probable punt except that Mathews(+1) spins out of the tackle and lopes downfield for first down yardage. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M41||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||48|
|Minnesota lines up in a vulnerable position here with a DT over the backside guard and the NT shaded to the backside of the play, leaving just one DE—who's standing up—on the other side of the line. Scooping the NT is thus pretty easy and Moosman gets a free release into the second level; Molk cuts off one linebacker; Koger and Moosman get to double(!) a linebacker, blasting him back; Shaw zips into the secondary. He ends up cutting back at around the 35 when I think he might be able to just blaze upfield for a touchdown; tough to tell. +1 Odoms for trying to get a block downfield.|
|Man, if Michigan went play action here I have a hard time not seeing one of the TEs wide open in the endzone. Minnesota stuffs nine guys in the box. Michigan actually blocks this very well despite the overloaded box; Koger plows a LB backwards (his blocking is much improved this game) and Schilling gets a downfield block as a double ends up sealing the playside DE. It's Moundros(-1) who doesn't get his guy, allowing him to close down from the outside as Feagin nears the LOS, slowing stuff down.|
|O8||2||7||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||ISQD||Feagin||2|
|Big cutback lane opens up as the playside DT crashes to the playside and Moosman clocks the WLB; Feagin sees it and cuts up... into the arms of the backside DT, who Schilling(-1) couldn't cut effectively.|
|O6||3||5||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Rollout – out||Odoms||Inc|
|Rollout; Sheridan chucks it in the general direction of Odoms but the ball is well short. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(23), 22-3, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M31||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1|
|On this one Molk(-1) loses the playside DT behind him, allowing him through and right into the would-be crease. McGuffie gets buried.|
|M30||2||11||Shotgun trips||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||3|
|Much better from Molk; they get the DT sealed this time and McGuffie has a crease through the line; Schilling's attempt to cut the MLB is avoided, though, and he meets McGuffie a few yards downfield.|
|M33||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Throwaway||--||Inc|
|Some initial time, then Schilling(-1) gets beaten to the outside, forcing Sheridan to step up. He gets hit on the arm and decides chucking is the better part of valor. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 22-6, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M47||1||10||I-form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Pitch sweep||Shaw||3|
|Minnesota blitzes a corner into this; Moundros peels off to take him out. This forces Shaw upfield. Line is getting good push on the Gophers so there's no one in his face immediately but the backside defensive end is closing in; Shaw ends up cutting back behind everyone and taking on an unblocked WLB headfirst; small gain. Shaw looks like he's had “north-south” beaten into his head, FWIW.|
|50||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Bubble screen||Odoms||4|
|Weak blocking by Savoy on the perimeter. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O46||3||3||Shotgun diamond||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||QB draw||Sheridan||5|
|No idea why Minnesota is in a three-man line this late, especially on third and three, but they are. Crease opens up in the middle, as you might expect, and Sheridan uses McAvoy as a shield downfield, picking up the first.|
|O41||1||10||I-form twins||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||McGuffie||14|
|Moosman's quick step to the right gets the playside DE sealed away; Koger kicks out the OLB. Schilling releases downfield and basically misses the MLB, allowing him to shoot through; Moundros pops him and McGuffie squeezes through a little crease, bouncing off a defender and then popping outside for a good gain.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||5|
|Camera angle on this is pretty wide so it's hard to tell what's going on; looks like Molk and McAvoy execute a scoop on the NT, creasing the line and getting Shaw through to the linebackers. A charging safety chops him down after a moderate gain; Minnesota is obviously selling out on the run now.|
|O22||2||5||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Shaw||2|
|Minnesota turns this upfield; the backside DT has evaded McAvoy's attempted cut and closes Shaw down at the LOS.|
|O20||3||3||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||7|
|Sheridan actually ends up cutting behind Molk's block this time as Minnesota is selling out on the playside; the backside DT got pushed by Moosman and the sort of cut by Schilling and is delayed enough for Sheridan to skip by and pick up the first.|
|O13||1||10||Shotgun trips||Base 3-4||Run||Zone read dive||Shaw||3|
|Minnesota ends up forcing this back to the unblocked defensive end; he tackles.|
|O10||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||3|
|The playside DT has been slanting hard to the playside on these the last couple times, forcing Michigan to double him; this has lead to that guy getting blown down field a couple yards and the runner coming up behind it as unblocked linebackers come around to tackle.|
|O7||3||4||I-form twins||Base 3-4||Run||Iso||Shaw||4|
|Shaw finds a small crease between about four Gophers, picking up about two, then is fortunate to get tackled in such a way he picks up the extra couple yards for the first down.|
|O3||1||G||I-form twins||Goal line||Run||FB smash||Moundros||3|
|Hooray fullback touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 29-6, EOG. For any RUTS complainers, this drive is nine runs and a bubble screen: STFU.|
Five field goal attempts is sort of annoying, but we broke 400 yards!
Last week you said this:
I'd like to see the run game function for two consecutive games before I start raining praise on it.
What say you now?
What's the deal, weird bolded fictional question-asking alter ego? Now you're digging into old posts and bringing their contents back into the light? Et tu?
Are you going to answer or what?
Fine. The run game did indeed function for two consecutive games and, as a live blog commenter noted, I finally got something right in a game preview: Minnesota's defense was ridiculously aggressive and Michigan alternated negative or 0-yard runs with big heaps of yards gained when they cracked through the line and there were no linebackers in the vicinity.
This seems like real progress. Over the last two weeks, Michigan has 76 carries for 430 yards. Though they haven't been taking on the 1970s Steelers, that's 5.7 YPC against a vast array of eight- and sometimes even nine-man fronts with a rag-tag offensive line, a banged up set of running backs, and quarterbacks close to the platonic opposite of Pat White.
Caution is still advisable, as Purdue is the country's #90 rush defense and Minnesota is #65. Northwestern, remarkably, will be a step up. They come in with the #45 rush defense and I'm sure most of you remember the specter of Northwestern DT John Gill slashing into Mike Hart over and over again last year in Evanston. I expect a step back against the Wildcats and for Ohio State to completely crush the run; if Michigan can pump out something similar to the last couple weeks against the Wildcats and look sort of vaguely okay against Ohio State, I will be thrilled with the direction of the run offense going into 2009. If expectations bear (stupid) fruit I'll still be mildly encouraged.
Digging out Sheridan's old charts seems pointless since there's so little data in them because M never threw and he got pulled, but here's his Minnesota game in comparison:
Before we get too carried away: 11 CAs and one MA were screens, and both BRs were horrible decisions that should have been intercepted. Okay. Now: caveats aside we still have a downfield good/bad ratio of 11-6. That's beyond acceptable; that's downright good.
I don't think Sheridan has a prayer in hell of doing that against someone like Ohio State, and even Northwestern has a sort of respectable defense this year (58 in total yardage, 38 scoring, 49 pass efficiency D… but that is not DEATH.
As for the receivers:
(remember: 0 is uncatchable, 1 is a circus catch, 2 is a somewhat difficult one, and 3 is a routine one)
Receivers could have helped out Sheridan a few times on long balls that were in their hands but could not be reeled in: Odoms and Stonum both missed opportunities. Also note that Mathews is the only guy to have hauled in any "1s" so far this year (other than Butler, who no longer plays offense); he's the guy with the hands.
And I saved the best for last:
PROTECTION METRIC: 19/20, Schilling –1. Okay, you can see how heavily Michigan screwed with its gameplan to make Sheridan functional here: a "20" for the entire game is a record low. But 19/20 is a great ratio against anyone.
Pick an offensive lineman; that was the best performance they've had all year. And, yes, Nick Sheridan, take a bow.
There was a liveblog poll that asked "are you concerned about Darryl Stonum's hands" that was mostly answered in the affirmative (though "Coner!" ran a strong second) and, yeah… I am a little concerned about Stonum's hands.
Also: Angry Michigan Running Back Hating God, could you lighten up? So far this year:
- Carlos Brown explodes a finger during spring practice
- Kevin Grady has some sort of injury that holds him out of spring
- Grady gets a DUI for being so drunk he's dead
- Brown has nagging injuries in fall
- Minor has nagging injuries in fall, costing him practice time and the starting job early in the year
- Michael Shaw can't catch kickoffs
- Shaw pulls his groin
- Brown breaks something in his foot
- McGuffie is concussed
- Minor wrist issue against Purdue
- Minor has shoulder and rib issues and is doubtful for Northwestern
Holy hotpants. We get it, AMRBHG. WE GET IT.
What does it mean for 2009?
One thing it doesn't do is prolong Nick Sheridan's shelf life as a viable starter. Though his work in this game was shocking, efficient, and inspiring to any 5'10" kid in Model United Nations who wants to play Division I football, Sheridan's vast deficiency in arm strength was on display even as he completed three different deep passes. He's just too limited physically to be a long-term option.
As to things it does do: that was an excellent performance by the offensive line. If you've followed this blog over the past few months you know it's been a consistent proponent of undersized but nimble center David Molk, the one real OL prospect Michigan picked up after they decided to switch their blocking schemes to zone. Early in the year he was getting his butt kicked by various large mean men who would pick him up and escort him bodily into the ball carrier but you could see his agility serve him well whenever he wasn't going up against Samoans or Wisconsin's beef machine. He is just a redshirt freshman and should continue gaining strength under Barwis; he should also maintain his agility. I think you're looking at a four-year starter in the making, and a good one. Now if he can just switch up the snap counts more consistently…
As for the rest of the line: I still have reservations about the tackles in pass protection despite their showing Saturday, and it's clear Tim McAvoy is someone the coaching staff would like to replace (he did play at least some portion of the second half last week, FWIW). I think in an ideal world some magic redshirt freshman will emerge at tackle and Steve Schilling will take up residence at guard, giving you something like this: Ortmann/Dorrestein-Schilling-Molk-Moosman-Magic Freshman. I also think we're likely to go into next year without that magic freshman; if we do get one it's likely to be Ricky Barnum stepping in at left guard.
Minor is obviously the starter at RB as long as he can stay healthy; Mathews, Stonum, and Odoms are obviously the starters at receiver as long as they're healthy.
Rodriguez announced today that Nick Sheridan will start against Northwestern. Look, here's the header to a Rivals article($):
Redshirt sophomore Nick Sheridan will get another opportunity to add to his second chance, head coach Rich Rodriguez reported today. Sheridan led the Wolverines to a win over Minnesota and will start again Saturday against Northwestern.
Okay, so not death. Still, I'd rather have Threet out there, I think.