TO THE HOT TAKE CANNON
- Replay again blows a huge call by ruling that Antonio Bass had fumbled when it was clear that his elbow hit the ground and then the ball came out. When your elbow hits, you're down, and everyone knows that except for the Big Ten replay official. It balanced out an earlier blown fumble call when Martin clearly coughed the ball up but the play was ruled down and not reviewed. I'm in favor of replay but I'm also in favor of finding replay officials that have watched football before.
- Jake Long returned, praise Jesus. The guy off the bench when Henige was injured was actually redshirt freshman Alex Mitchell.
- Henne... what can you say? Iowa decided at some point to rush three and sit back on passing downs because he would panic after about two seconds in the pocket and check down or throw the ball away. Michigan's confidence in him is seemingly very low. His numbers look fine thanks in large part to the 52 yard screen touchdown and some completions that were meaninglessly short of the sticks on third down, but Lloyd is going to have to call me an idiot again.
- Still not sure if the pass to Avant in overtime was brilliant or retarded, since he was covered well and Henne was throwing across his body. He did put it in the only place he could and let Avant make an incredible (OMG INCREDIBLE) catch.
- I hate the fact that whenever Mike Hart gets injured they show shots of him on the sideline after every other play; each one breaks my heart.
- Jerome Jackson? WTF... okay! Jerome Jackson!
- John Thompson played the entire second half in place of Chris Graham and did very well. We have a new WLB and the difference was immediately apparent, like going from McClintock to Harris. Now about the strong side...
- A ton of frustrating soft zone coverage the whole day. Tate was very accurate but it helped that he only had to thread it into coverage infrequently. I'm getting tired of seeing our cornerbacks 10 yards off the line of scrimmage like they're Jaren Hayes.
- Woodley went out early in the game and Tirico kept referring to an Alan Branch leg injury. Pierre Woods and Tim Jamison filled in for Woodley very well, getting pressure on Tate regularly.
- After a couple of long early touchdown drives Michigan held Iowa to one last second field goal over the course of the second half, though they were aided by a gift interception.
- I was too hard on Jamar Adams. Over the past two games he's played very well in the absence of the starters (Engelmon missed one tackle on Iowa's first drive and then disappeared).
- Shawn Crable only appears on my radar when he's doing something really dumb, like the holding call in overtime.
Not much to speak of in this game. Iowa's punter consistently dropped in 20-30 yard punts, giving Breaston no chance to return. Rivas hit his one field goal. David Harris blocked an Iowa field goal. Ross Ryan's punts were all short-ish and had good hang time. He'll consistently kick it about 40 yards and only very few of them will be returned.
The call on the Breaston muff was correct, I think, as he was clearly affected by the gunner. Perhaps not the letter of the law but definitely the spirit of it.
It took Carr all of one game to forget the lessons he professed to have learned against Penn State. When Michigan got the ball back late Michigan looked at nine man fronts on first down and decided to run into them. The final series before overtime: run for two yards, run for three yards, run for two yards. Punt with three minutes left, almost lose the game.
As per usual, stuff all (hopefully coherent) rants about the game into this particular box.
Update: A reader sent along a link to Stuff On My Cat and accompanied it with a note saying in part "when I saw this I instantly thought of you," which I'm not really sure how to take. In any case, it's awesome and the source for this week's celebratory image:
Oh yeah. Hot, hot, hot!
Run Offense vs. Iowa
The running game was surprisingly good last week against the one of the better run defenses in the country. The left side of the offensive line, including center Adam Kraus, was great all day and Lentz and Riley, though they had significant problems in pass protection, also contributed to an effective (though not explosive) day for Mike Hart and Kevin Grady. Michigan's draw-based running game worked consistently, gashing the Nittany Lions for most of a critical second half-opening touchdown drive.
Iowa's defense is hard to get a read on. Games against Northern Iowa (I-AA), Ball State (83rd in rushing), and Iowa State (93rd) offer little insight into how the Hawkeyes stack up against Michigan. Ohio State completely throttled Iowa, rushing for over 300 yards against them. For comparison's sake, they got 91 against PSU and 137 against MSU, they aren't that good. While they've stood up decently outside of that one game, it's mostly because they jumped out to big leads against bad teams who then were forced to pass. Illinois' Pierre Thomas went for 100 yards on 15 carries. Kory Sheets of Purdue went for 78 on just 16. Iowa did do a good job against a lot of Indiana carries (44 for 86)... but, uh, that's Indiana. Statistics and common sense indicate that even Michigan's slightly wonky offensive line should be able to line up and smash the Iowa front four.
Michigan's Jekyll and Hyde act may spring up and bite them in the ass, but they should have a successful day running against the Hawkeyes. Mike Hart hasn't been held under 100 yards this year; last year against a much more fearsome version of this exact defense he went for 99. He is real and he is spectacular. Combine that with the hopelessly outweighed and inexperienced defensive line and Iowa has two choices: expose their gimpy secondary against Michigan's inconsistent pass game or hope their players can beat the one on one matchups presented and then tackle Hart. Hobson's choice, that.
Key Matchup: TE Tyler Ecker and C Adam Kraus versus LBs Abdul Hodge and Chad Greenway. Michigan was able to get out on Penn State's two outstanding linebackers and the result was a series of big gains that led to Michigan's first touchdown of the Penn State game. Facing a similarly intimidating pair, they'll have to do the trick again.
Pass Offense vs. Iowa
Chad Henne's numbers against Penn State--21 of 32 for 212 yards and two axiom-altering touchdowns to Mario Manningham--seem like a drastic improvement from past games when he struggled to complete half his passes, but a closer examination shows that his performance was no better or worse than any of his others this year, if you adjust for opposing defense quality. Henne was often incapable of finding open receivers (11 instances against PSU) and was only somewhat accurate when he did. His PSU numbers were greatly propped by a profusion of screens and long handoffs (12 in total for 10 completions)--take those away and you get MOTS: 11 for 20 with a number of sacks or two yard scrambles due more to Henne's errors than Penn State's defense. To boot, immediately after Mario Manningham etched himself into Michigan lore last week rumors of injury started swirling around him. I have a bad feeling about his availability for Iowa.
Iowa's secondary is not healthy and it showed last week against Indiana. Blake Powers found open receivers all day both deep and short in Terry Hoeppner's spread offense. With two Iowa secondary starters--safety Charles Godfrey and corner Antwaan Allen--limping around on sprained ankles and the intimidating pass rush provided by Matt Roth and Jonathan Babineaux gone, Michigan should find similarly open receivers, but the inconsistency from the entire passing game has been persistent enough to declare it chronic. Michigan will find some success here but as per usual will underperform expectations.
Key Matchup: Michigan WRs versus Iowa CBs after the catch. Iowa lays back in a passive zone a lot and will keep Avant, Manningham, and Breaston, et al., in front of them. Michigan's going to screw up at some point on most long drives and be forced to settle for field goal attempts. Turning five yards into ten or twenty is going to make the difference on a few drives and probably in in the game.
Run Defense Vs Iowa
Iowa's running game is no longer the humorously melanin-free Sam Brownlee and a bunch of broken body parts. Albert Young has emerged from the sack of cats as a real threat... maybe. It depends on whether you're looking at games against Illinois (13 for 102) and Indiana (26 for 125) or Ohio State(10 for 25). Unfortunately, our run defense--currently 74th--is looking closer to the former than the latter... somehow. It seems like it should be much better, but it isn't. Plagued by repeated, maddening containment issues and Pat Massey's tendency to end plays looking up at the sky, Michigan has ceded gobs of rushing yards to all opponents with a pulse.
It's yet to be determined whether or not Iowa actually has a pulse, despite the numbers. Given what I saw against Indiana the answer is definitely maybe. Young gained most of his yards cutting it outside and just outrunning the Indiana defense. Michigan's linebackers won't allow that to happen, since they're fast. There will be opportunities for Iowa to exploit holes that shouldn't be there because of linebackers overpursuing or losing containment but just outrunning them? You tore your ACL last year, Young, you aren't getting outside with impunity. I call fraud on the Iowa run game. Michigan will largely shut it down; there will be scattered instances of linebackers getting (-2) on their chart for giving me aneurysms.
Key Matchup: DTs Pat Massey and Gabe Watson versus the Zone Stretch. I have confidence that Branch and Woodley will hold up admirably by this point in the year, especially against a backup LT (Lee Gray being lost for the year) and a JUCO transfer at RT. Massey and Watson have to fight the more experienced interior offensive linemen off to make that probable dominance count, though.
Pass Defense vs. Iowa
Drew Tate hasn't seemed quite the same this year for whatever reason and is now missing his best wide receiver, Ed Hinkel, for the year. I could point to more stats, but it's been mentioned before: Iowa has no meaningful ones. Tate's torn up three of the worst pass defenses in Division I over the past few weeks (Illinois: 11oth opponent passing efficiency; Purdue 113th; Indiana 69th) so his numbers are gaudy by there's not necessarily any there there. Michigan has somehow acquired the best pass efficiency defense in the Big Ten (24th nationally), probably because they've played Robinson, Cupito, Stocco, etc. Against Drew Stanton they sat back and got shredded. No one has proven anything.
I do think Tate is a very good quarterback who can lead Iowa down the field with some regularity, but without Hinkel he's somewhat handcuffed. Michigan will focus a lot of attention on Clinton Solomon and make him hit his other receivers. He'll complete a lot of passes, but he'll have to.
Key Matchup: Prescott Burgess/David Harris versus TE Scott Chandler. The play action boot is a staple of the Iowa offense and has been highly effective against Michigan for a long time now.
Both Steve Breaston and Garrett Rivas decided to show up against Penn State and Michigan needed both to win. Breaston has seemingly returned to form after two consectutive strong games returning kicks and punts. Also of note was Ross Ryan's performance against Penn State, which was great. Ryan's punts were all around 40 yards and unreturnable. The special teams seems extremely strong save for the field goal per game that Rivas sends into the sidelines.
Key Matchup: Garrett Rivas versus Stop Shanking Stuff.
Have you f
ound Gorgoroth? Let me tell you about how It entered my life. Before, I was a sinner. I loved dogs of all sorts. I consorted with them, hurling balls willy nilly, taking them for walks and disposing of their excrement, lying down in their dens, "roughhousing." I walked that deep, despondent path of friendship and happy companionship.
Lo, I was wretched.
But then, one day I was walking through the park and I saw this french fry that looked kind of funny. I tilted my head, wondering what this fry was trying to tell me. Tell me deep in my soul. I glanced at it for a moment; nothing. I looked away and tried to catch it off guard; nothing. Finally, I held it in the edges of my peripheral vision, waiting for the french fry to reveal itself to me. I heard a mighty crack and people screaming, screaming something about running home. I felt the hand of Gorgoroth upon me. All was black.
He appeared to me.
He spoke his black gospel. And now I'm saved! Shouldn't you be saved by the Demon Kitten God? Maybe? You'll get back to me? Okay. We meet at the civic center. Free coffee.
Three Things I'd Like To See:
- The interior of the offensive line grinding the young chilluns they oppose into a fine paste.
- JUCO transfer Marshall Yanda single blocking Lamarr Woodley.
- Mario, healthy.
Three Things I Don't Want To See:
- Michigan going to a three wide and then running into a stacked line.
- Anyone other than Mike Hart attempting to pick up blitzing linebackers.
- Any $*ing funny stuff on punts.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 5 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for On The Road Again (Ugh), -1 for And A Child On The Defensive Line Is A Bad Idea, -1 for You Haven't Beaten Anyone As Good As Us, +1 for Er... Probably.)
Desperate need to win level: 6 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for It Would Be Nice To Win Two In A Row, +1 for It Would Also Be Nice To Go To A Bowl; -1 for But It Would Probably Be The Music City Bowl.)
Loss will cause me to... get slightly cranky, boy howdy!
Win will cause me to... cease watching MAC games in preparation for our bowl opponent.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:Goddammit. I think we should win this game. Iowa is a giant fraud, having beaten Indiana, Illinois, Ball State, Northern Iowa, and Purdue. Not one of those teams is going to even sniff the Motor City Bowl. They lost to a bad Iowa State team by 20; they were completely bitched by Ohio State. Michigan has a crappy record but has played much stiffer competition. If Penn State couldn't do much about Hart is Iowa going to? Doesn't it seem fairly probable that Limpy McAnklestein in the secondary lets someone get a big play? Aren't the chances of #*$@ing funny stuff in the punt game fairly low?
I know, I know, I've doomed us. But what we have here is a lack of a control. Wins have been accompanied both by Kitten Power and predictions of losses. This week we get the kittens but not the prediction of a loss. Not all is lost!
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Manningham again plays sparingly due to the mysterious injury.
- Burgess finally gets it right and UFR does not contain "OMG YOU LOST CONTAIN."
- 24-20, Michigan.
The News From Ann Arbor
What could the news be? Michigan lands really, really big defensive lineman? Someone has devised a way to poke Angry Michigan Safety Hating God in the eye?
Find out at
11 ypsi~dixit. (OMG EVIL TEASER!)
The St. Fandrew type will take to message boards proclaiming their own blind faith in their coach as evidence of their superior virtue and character, indirectly accusing everyone who disagrees with them of the things they boast of being
... and the "Master Shake":
The question for the Master Shake fan is not WHO is to blame, but how to fire the coach, the staff, the groundskeeper, revoke scholarships from all enrolled players, slaughter the existing mascot, burn the stadium to the foundations, sow salt on the ground, and build an entirely new program from foundations on up.
EDSBS's dichotomy is something that rings true across the land. Bill of Eagle In Atlanta declares that BC fans are either "rah rahs" or "wah wahs"; the RCMB has regular, hilarious sectarian struggles between the "Sunshine Blowers" and the "Demand Excellencers."
I am a bad person for many reasons. One of them is the fact that I find Syracuse blog Orange44's tribute to Syracuse's dismal season--a photograph of a crying child at the start of every post--endlessly hilarious.
That is all.
Excellent things that demand reading: Gunslingers goes all Vijay on us and does a lot of comparative yardage and scoring sorting to try and determine exactly which undefeated teams are fradulent or non-. Dave Sez continues its series of fantastic analyitical football articles with something of particular interest to Michigan fans wondering wither Jerame Tuman: the waggle. All Things Longhorn indicates that Jeff Sagarin should not be taken seriously by using his numbers to assert that the Big Ten is the best conference this year.
Sunday Morning Quarterback presents its Thursday Morning Quarterback column on Friday. Confusion! He says this about Michigan-Iowa:
Two teams about which everyone, thus far, has been wrong, wrong, wrong - neither of these ubiquitous top 10 and 15 preseason picks is even ranked! SMQ has kept the faith with Michigan, who continues to seem to him very solid all the way around despite some, shall we say, inconsistency. But Iowa's following last season's come-from-nowhere script to T, only with a better running game, and might rise up and roll like a train through the Big Ten/Eleven the rest of the season. The beast is awakened, and tied for the league lead...
IOWA 27, MICHIGAN 21
I think perhaps the "only with a better running game" misses a key issue, that being that you could probably feature the Iowa defensive line on Orange44's posts and no one would be able to tell the difference. But I've quite literally been as wrong as possible ("this will be the least enjoyable game I've ever seen in Michigan Stadium") this season, so I strongly suggest you think the opposite of what I do. And what I'm thinking now is that you should not send me one million dollars.
Iowa partisan Mark Hasty's Pickin' On The Big Ten also predicts dismal defeat:
It's sad when you don't know whether to be afraid of Michigan or not. This game is at Kinnick, and the Revenge Factor for the Hawkeyes is pretty high, so I'm leaning towards "not." I just hope I'm right.
BECOME WHAT YOU ARE 31
Seconded about the sad part.
I am not a robot genius, so I urge you to check the comment threads on the UFR posts, as they often contain useful disagreements, corrections, reinterpretations, and discussions that function as good content I don't have to write. The PSU offense thread is a good example.
And now for something completely insane. Right, if anyone has access to Joe Paterno's computer and wants to set up some desktop wallpaper that will definitely kill him, Andrew Morrell returns with this... thing:
Your guess is as good as mine. Downloadable in 1024 x 768! Is it my wallpaper? You betcha!
Probably the best Michigan basketball preview you'll find this year has been written and is available up at Hawkeye Hoops. I agree with most of it, including the Horton dogging, which I did in my (somewhat dated) preview after exploring his shocking inefficiency with actual numbers. Later I added my own stat-wonkery to the canon started by Kyle, introducing a simple-but-hopefully-interesting "Shots Per Possession" stat that Michigan finished at the absolute bottom of last year.
Whatevs says whatevs about Bill Simmons, and since I am apparently keeping everyone fabulously up to date on everything that's ever said about the man I provide a link.
Chris Perry is about three touchdowns away from being the most successful NFL running back from Michigan since... um. That one three-week burst during which Biakubutuka carried my fantasy team before getting Vince Cartered? Sure.
|1||10||O20||Pass||9||Mason(-1) bites on the play action and Smolko's wide open.|
|2||1||O29||Run||5||End around to King. He gets the corner on Harris since the DBs to that side don't come off their blocks.|
|1||10||O34||Scramble||9||Five wide set here. Defense isn't too bad; the WR's route functions as a convenient block, otherwise Harris shuts this down quickly.|
|2||1||O43||Run||8||Burgess(-1) should make this tackle at the LOS, as the line holds very well.|
|1||10||M49||Run||11||Counter pitch play to Williams that Burgess(-1) gets faked out of his jock on. Can't be too hard on Burgess even though he got posterized as Williams is a tough guy to tackle. IBFC video.|
|1||10||M38||Run||-1||Yeah, the fulback trap is not a good idea. Watson(+1) drives his man way into the backfield; FB cuts right into Woodley(+1) who crushes him.|
|2||11||M39||Run||3||Another option play here. Mason(+1) reads it and hops out on the pitch man. Adams(+1) comes up and makes a very solid tackle on Robinson.|
|3||8||M36||Pass||6||Adams(+1) hits Williams the instant he catches the ball and negates any possible YAC.|
|4||2||M30||Run||7||Mason(-1) doesn't read the play very quickly and is hestitant attacking the corner. By the time he gets there he can only make a weak wave at the tackle.|
|1||10||M23||Scramble||5||Three step chop and fire that Robinson pulls down because of Hall's(+1) coverage. He's flushed by Woodley and scrambles. Trent puts a good lick on him.|
|2||5||M18||Run||3||Shotgun hand off a la MSU. Harris and Graham plug up the hole.|
|3||2||M15||Run||1||Blitz of one guy into a QB draw. Branch(+2) closes it down and forces the FG attempt.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG (32), 0-0 8 min 1st Q. PSU came with a number of fancy tricks designed to get the kid WRs involved and got several first downs off of them and Robinson's running.|
|1||10||O20||Run||5||Shotgun handoff. Watson(-1) slants too far inside at the snap and the guard can use his momentum to dispose of him rather easily.|
|2||5||O25||Pass||Inc||Play action, Robinson manages to slip it in between the guys in the zone here but it's a little bit too high and it falls incomplete. Good coverage by Mason(+1) here, who knows he has safety help. Branch(+1) gets a little pass rush.|
|3||5||O25||Pass||0||Screen that Michigan blitzes into. Harris(+1) slices up and forces the RB back inside where Woodley(+1), who's coming from the other side of the field, makes the tackle. Incidental face mask here against Woodley goes uncalled... that would have been a first down.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 5 min 1st Q. The play by Harris is key, as they had a rock and we had scissors on that play call. If Harris doesn't disrupt the timing of the screen and allow the stunting Woodley to read and make his way to that side of the field, it's easily a first down and probably significantly more.|
|1||10||O22||Run||2||Intended hole is totally jammed up by Harris(+1), who's an arm away from making a very nice TFL. A bounce gets a little yardage.|
|2||8||O24||Run||10||Watson... wow. I was sure that was Massey. Watson(-2) gets doubled on the draw and gets driven way back.|
|1||10||O34||Run||-5||Watson(+2) gets it back on this one, crushing his man in to the backfield. Massey(+1) sheds and tracks his guy down very well, too.|
|2||15||O29||Pass||Inc||Play action here to a doubled Williams. Hall(+1) has a shot at the PBU. Also: this is illegal hands to the face on Branch, uncalled.|
|3||15||O29||Pass||Inc||Rush three... bleah, but I guess against Robinson it's a good percentage play. He has Smolko open downfield but misses him. I think Terrance Taylor(+1) manages to get a hit on Robinson after a few seconds in the pocket.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 2 min 1st Q. Watson gives them a first down and then puts them in second and long; net benefit if you ask me, but why doesn't he make these plays with more frequency?|
|1||10||O5||Run||2||POA is again completely jammed up. Hunt cuts back into Burgess, who makes the tackle. Credit to Harris(+1), and maybe Watson.|
|2||8||O7||Run||7||Draw that we blitz into, perfect call. But Burgess(-1) completely overruns the play, and somehow Graham(-1) misses a tackle.|
|3||1||O14||Run||6||Short side option. Woodley(-1) gets blown off the ball and Graham(-1) just gets crushed by a guy wearing #24. never get crushed by a guy wearing #24!|
|1||10||O20||Pass||Inc||Robinson bombs it deep and Hall(+1) is in better position to make the catch than Williams. Ball is ovethrown.|
|2||10||O20||Pass||14||Slip screen out to #24, who turns out to be a true freshman WR, Graham. For shame. On this play Mason(-2) gets owned overpursing.|
|1||10||O34||Pass||7||Robinson reads the zone correctly and hits the open guy. Another tenuous tackle from Mason.|
|2||3||O41||Scramble||3||Big hole opens up; Harris is spying but doesn't get much of a stop here, more of a force the other guy to fall down. It's third and inches.|
|3||In||O44||Penalty||-5||False start. Muy estupido.|
|3||5||O39||Pass||24||Mason(-2) takes a terrible angle on a slip screen to Williams. Hall got blocked and the play had a good chance of being a first down anyway but not 25 yards and almost a touchdown if Williams doesn't step out.|
|1||10||M37||Run||2||Nice job by Trent(+1) to avoid the block on the run and come up and Burgess(+1) to keep contain.|
|2||8||M35||Pass||6||Three step drop that takes advantate of Trent playing off Butler. Trent does come up and make the tackle immediately.|
|3||2||M29||Run||1||Option short side that Robinson decides to cut up as Burgess(+1) plows through a blocker and is zooming in on the pitchman. Robinson is gang tackled.|
|Drive Notes:Missed FG(45), 0-0, 7 min 2nd Q. More below about the Mason-owning.|
|1||10||O23||Pass||12||Massey(+1) reads this boot as well as he can an d chases Robinson to the sideline. Grant Mason(-1) is way behind Smolko.|
|1||10||O35||Pass||15||Jamar Adams(-2) vacates his zone badly and the slant is wide open.|
|1||15||O45||Pass||6||They run a combo route that runs Mason off and then has Williams come underneath.They're clearly targeting Mason on almost every one of these short plays. They're largely avoiding Hall.|
|2||9||O46||Run||8||QB draw. Robinson scoots through a hole between two of the three (ugh) down linemen. David Harris(+3) gives the ball a yank job on his tackle. Textbook wrap, tackle, strip.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-0, 2 min 2nd Q. Harris is the man, man.|
|1||10||O28||Pass||7||Simple out in a zone that was obviously open at the snap; Hall was playing a good ten yards off and backpedals.|
|2||3||O35||Run||1||Branch(+2) owns the OT and makes the tackle on Williams, though he manages to squirt forward from the tackle to prevent a TFL|
|3||2||O36||Run||2||Another short side option that Robinson keeps. Woodley does a realy nice job of holding the corner, as does Massey, but Robinson just manages to squeeze it out by powering between the two.|
|1||10||O38||Pass||7||Play action that we've read pretty well. Branch keeps Robinson contained. Mason(-1) lets Williams get very open in man.|
|2||3||O45||Run||-5||End around to Williams. Spectacular play by Harris(+2) to read, fire into the backfield, and tackle. Woodley's(+1) push on the OL allows Harris the lane. IBFC video.|
|3||8||O40||Run||5||Run pass option for Robinson. Well played by Mason(+1), who covers the WR long enough to force the run and then comes up to tackle.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 7 min 3rd Q. Harris just tracked down Derrick Williams.|
|1||10||O26||Pass||0||Robinson checks down to the flare route. Burgess(+1) plays this very well and makes an open field tackle.|
|2||10||O26||Run||4||Draw. The DTs crease and there's a good sized hole; Harris is blocked but sheds and manages a tackle.|
|3||6||O30||Pass||56||The fumbled snap broken play ridiculousness. Plus a roughing the passer against Graham (no - because the call appears to be really bad). I'm not exactly sure what happens here. After the fumble a blitzing Harris flushes Robinson but gets blocked at the last second and can't make the tackle. Branch comes off his blocker and gets a hand on him but also can't bring him down; then the flick to a wide open WR downfield. Harrison is in hot pursuit but I don't know if this is really his fault; from the replay provided he appears to have the other side of the field. I think Adams(-2) came up assuming a run (somewhat reasonably) and let Golden get way behind him.|
|1||G||O7||Run||0||Woodley(+1) is unblocked and levels Hunt; Taylor(+1) also gets penetration.|
|2||G||O7||Pass||Inc||Great play by Adams(+2) to come around Smolko and break the pass up.|
|3||G||O7||Pass||Inc||Delayed blitz from Graham forces Robinson to throw. The ball is apparently inaccurate but Griese defends the decision as merely avoiding coverage.|
|Drive Notes: Made FG(25), 10-3, EOQ. The final play was something I've seen with frequency where Michigan will hold a linebacker in a spy and then release him on a delayed blitz if a lane opens up for him. It's usually effective.|
|1||10||O37||Run||61||Uh, yeah. Harrison(-2) has an opportunity to stifle this after about 15 yards but goes Shazor on us. Burgess(-1) gets crushed by the FB; Watson(-1) getting pushed back opens the hole up wide. IBFC video.|
|1||G||O2||Run||-2||Woodley(+1) stiffs the point of attack.|
|2||G||O4||Pass||Inc||Graham(+1) gets it thrown directly to him on this rollout and he drops it. Stupid casts.|
|3||G||O2||Run||4||Touchdown. Freaking QB draw, which always works against us. Just the wrong call, a blitz off the corner which forces Harris to drop into a zone and thus the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-10, 12 min 4nd Q. 10 points on busted safety assignments.|
|1||10||O20||Pass||9||Fairly simple out run in front of Hall. Williams does make a huge difference in the PSU O because of plays like this. Last year there's no way Hall's that far off.|
|2||6||O24||Pass||Inc||Williams traps a ball thrown low.|
|3||6||O24||Penalty||5||Holding on Hall(-1).|
|1||10||O29||Run||0||This is a good play by Burgess(+1), who doesn't let the FB block him and crams the hole full of OLB goodness.|
|2||10||O29||Pass||Inc||Spy/delayed blitz from Harris(+1) who levels Robinson as he throws; the ball is well OOB.|
|3||10||O29||Pass||Sack, -8||Three man rush gets relatively quick pressure from Branch(+1) and Woodley(+1), forcing PSU out of bounds. IBFC video.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 18-18, 7 min 4th Q. If three man rushes were that effective on a regular basis I'd be all for them.|
|1||10||O20||Scramble||6||Has all day to throw; can't find anyone. Good coverage but Robinson does that damned mobile quarterback thing.|
|2||4||O26||Pass||Int||Hall(+3) reads and picks the ball off. Mason(-1) gets called for what turns out to be a critical holding penalty.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-18, 3 min 4th Q. Robinson makes only his second real mistake (the other being the interception Graham dropped).|
|1||10||O19||Pass||11||Good time for Robinson and Mason(-1) misses another tackle, preventing this from staying as a five yard completion.|
|1||10||O30||Scramble||0||Flushes after looking downfield. Hall and Mason have him contained pretty well.|
|2||10||O30||Pass||28||Harris(-1) doesn't turn and find the ball. He's in position to make a play if he doesn't Todd Howard this. Of note: Woodley is getting double teamed on every play.|
|1||10||M42||Pass||7||Really soft zone coverage.|
|2||3||M35||Penalty||-4||We blitz into a QB draw that goes for 15; a downfield holding call brings it back.|
|2||7||M39||Pass||Inc||Another dropped snap. Robinson picks it up and, perhaps flustered, one-hops it to another wide open receiver.|
|3||7||M39||Pass||Inc||Reviewed and changed to incomplete. More soft soft zone coverage and another open receiver.|
|4||7||M39||Scramble||9||Branch(-2) loses contain, and Harris can't react because he's covering a guy who turns into a blocker.|
|1||10||M30||Pass||Inc||High and wide to Butler, who's open. We've covered guys on about two plays this drive.|
|2||10||M30||Pass||14||We blitz one guy ineffectively. Robinson makes a great throw about an inch above Harris' hand.|
|1||10||M16||Pass||Inc||Morgan Trent(+1) hits Golden when the ball gets there, though this ball isn't very accurate.|
|2||10||M16||Pass||Inc||Burgess(+1), lined up as a DE, bats Robinson's pass down... no 60 yard game ending run this time.|
|3||10||M16||Penalty||12||PI on Hall(-1). He's there a millisecond too soon.|
|1||G||M4||Run||4||Touchdown... QB draw. Burgess(-1) misses the tackle. We again blitz from the edges.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-25, 1 min 4th Q. I hate this drive. There are guys wide open everywhere and the only plays that are unsuccessful are that because of Robinson's inaccuracy. We play soft, fearing the touchdown that we yield anyway, and repeat the same mistake we made against Wisconsin by letting the opponent drive the clock way down and score.|
How did the new safeties do?
Fine except for the two 50 yard plays? Uh.
Harrison obviously took a bad angle on the Hunt run that turned a 15-20 yarder into first and goal, but the broken play ridiculousness is much harder to pin on someone since ABC didn't show a coherent replay of exactly what happened in the secondary. What happened is this: someone either abandoned their deep zone or their man at some point after the Robinson rollout when it looked for all the world like he was going to run. I don't think this was Harrison, who clearly has the deep middle of the field. It could have been Adams, the other safety, but if he was drawn up into man coverage than it would be whoever had that particular guy... which I still think was Adams.
So, one bad play each that led to a huge gain and, in total, ten of PSU's points. Outside of ground zero, though, they did play pretty well. Adams screwed up a zone and allowed an easy 15 yard completion but made a few other very good plays (coming around TE Isaac Smolko and breaking up a sure TD being the best). Harrison didn't show up in any way good or bad aside from the Shazor moment, which I'll take from a freshman. And he is really fast. I think both will be capable in time but now is not that time. Engelmon should return for Iowa and I'm very glad of that.
Hey, could you incorporate some Zen Buddhism in this column?
Comin' right up, koan style.
Why does Mason lead the team in tackles?
Because he can't tackle.
Is this causing a spiritual awakening in anyone? Someone should be getting enlightened around about... now.
What the hell am I talking about? Well, Penn State made a concerted effort to throw short routes against him, relying on their ability to break his tackles to pick up significant yards. This worked. Wait until you see the chart. I think this has been happening with increasng frequency as the year moves along and more and more film of Mason lunging ineffectually at people dashing past him become available. Mason is facing a ton of short routes run at him by teams looking for easy yards. He's pretty good in coverage but I think he's another reason our outside containment on running plays has ranged from abominable to "don't look at the Ark" this year.
Is there a solution to this?
I don't know. The easiest one seems to be abandoning zone coverages and moving more to a cover-two man-to-man look but that's a really drastic change to cover up a hole in a single player's game. Morgan Trent has looked good as the team's nickelback--he stuck Robinson pretty well on a particular play--and maybe if he starts platooning as a starter with Mason it'll reduce what appears to be a major liability, but I'm not one of those guys that assumes everyone on the bench is better than everyone on the field. There's probably a reason Mason is in front of Trent, and if you still believe that irrationally-playing-seniors stuff, well, you haven't been paying much attention.
Hey, what about the chart?
|Woods||-||-||-||Didn't see him in.|
|Taylor||2||-||2||A couple good instances of penetration.|
|Massey||2||-||2||Not much either way this game; I'll take it.|
|Watson||3||4||-1||Poor game for him.|
|Branch||6||2||4||Consistently a bright spot.|
|Burgess||5||5||-||Player of the game? Seriously? They didn't pick the guy right next to him?|
|Harris||9||1||8||Biggest scrub to star transformation since...?|
|Mason||3||10||-7||Well, at least some people are closer to Nirvana.|
What is the deal with that last drive?
I don't know. Robinson made some excellent throws but Michigan also played off, never blitzed until first and goal (except when they sent all of five guys on one play), and generally made things as easy on him as they could in an effort to not give up a big play. In doing so they repeated the mistake they made against Wisconsin by not adjusting their defense to a much more aggressive stance. Playing soft with that much time on the clock eats time, often preventing the offense from mounting a response drive. Michigan had 20 or 30 seconds against Wisconsin and just 50 against Penn State. Without the Breaston return they lose. The advantage of having the ball last in a close game is often overlooked and Michigan played in a way that immediately reduced their chances of getting a last possession.
Passivity also makes much less sense when the offense is going to go for it on fourth down. Allowing medium range passes without serious resistance when the op ponent has four cracks at a first down instead of three is a tactical error since you're relying on the opponent to screw up an extra play. Given that Penn State had way too much time on the clock for it to pressure them in any way, the correct strategy in that situation was to increase your aggression, reducing the chances of each individual first down at the expense of increasing the chance of a big play. Again, this is just my mathematical intuition at this point but I hope to back this with numbers at a later date.
What does it mean for Iowa?
Drew Tate's the kind of guy who runs around a la your headless chicken and then finds someone open after a long time; this is a nervous tendency given the events on the fumbled snap play. Getting Engelmon back will help but Solomon is a deep threat and Tate is the kind of guy who can get it there. Given Hall's excellent deep coverage (they tried it a few times and then abandoned it after it was clear that Hall was saying no sale) we should be fine in man to man but there may be a time or two when Tate buys a few extra seconds and heaves it into a wonky zone.
Iowa's missing Ed Hinkel and so probably doesn't have the ability to exploit the Zen of Grant Mason. Their depth at WR is negligible. After Solomon, Hinkel, and TE Scott Chandler comes RB Albert Young with 12 receptions. The next WR on the chart is sophomore Herb Grigsby, who was unleashed as a starter against IU and exploded for zero yards on zero receptions. Michigan will probably be free to lavish attention on Solomon and take their chances on the random scrub lining up opposite him.
Containing the Iowa run game will be difficult. Albert Young has racked up 715 yards this year, which is already more than their top two rushers from last year combined. He looked good against IU, but everyone does. Iowa's two-TE stretch rushing game is designed to spread the defense, attack the corners, and open rushing lanes when linebackers and defensive backs attack the wrong hole, something Michigan's done with frequency this year. Against everyone except Ohio State the Hawkeyes have ground out scads of yards--and we aren't Ohio State. However, neither are we Ball State.
A note: The "TA" category now includes times when Henne attempts to scramble because he can't find a man. Also I've linked to IBFC's highlights on the appropriate plays; IBFC is awesome.
|1||10||M20||Pass||Hart||16||Screen. Kraus and Lentz both get open field blocks and Massaquoi does a very good job downfield. (CA)|
|1||10||M36||Run||Hart||0||Jammed up inside; Kraus does not control his man.|
|2||10||M36||Pass||Hart||7||Screen. Kraus's attempt to chop Connor does not go very well or this could be a very big gain. (CA)|
|3||3||M43||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Misses Breaston on a little flat route that was wide open. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 7 min 1st Q. Big time missed opportunity on this drive; that's a simple throw that Henne has to make.|
|1||10||M28||Scramble||Henne||2||An actual rolled pocket. Henne can't find anyone to throw to and takes off. (TA)|
|2||8||M30||Run||Hart||3||Thompson's attempt to block Connor fails and he sticks Hart in the hole.|
|3||5||M33||Pass||Avant||Inc||Avant gets separated from the ball by the PSU DB, but this was a good throw. (CA)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 4 Min 1st Q. Good play from the PSU DB and the first of many instances where Henne can't find anyone open.|
|1||10||M26||Pass||Ecker||4||Henne checks down to Ecker. I don't understand why the throw doesn't go to Manningham. Avant's route is designed to get him free. (CA... close to BR)|
|2||6||M30||Run||Hart||4||POA is crammed up so Hart has to cut to the backside where Connor? Poz? Someone's waiting. Hart manages to drive for a couple extra.|
|3||2||M34||Run||Hart||6||Draw... credit where it's due: Henige/Kraus/Lentz do a great job getting engaged and allowing Hart to pick his hole.|
|1||10||M40||Penalty||Lentz||-10||Holding on Lentz, who got wasted, dude. Ref unfairly blames Kraus.|
|1||20||M30||Run||Grady||3||They come out with Grady and Hart I nthe backfield and run a little trap that doesn't work at all because it relies on single blocking the DTs effectively, which we don't do.|
|2||17||M33||Pass||No one||Sack, -2||Lentz gets killed again.|
|3||19||M31||Pass||Ecker||Inc||They run something that looks a lot like the screen they've already run twice to Hart but is actually a UW-like TE screen, which is all screwed up. The pass hits Henige. Henne needs to hold this a bit longer. (IN)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 2nd Q. Lentz is beaten twice by the PSU DT to end the drive.|
|1||10||M29||Pass||Avant||4||Long handoff. (CA)|
|2||6||M33||Run||Bass||23||Sweep with Bass taking the snap. OMG fast. Of note is Hart chopping a LB downfield, springing Bass for another 15. I love that little bastard. IBFC video.|
|1||10||O44||Pass||Avant||21||Play action; the offensive line and Hart do a beautiful job picking up the blitz. Avant is wide open downfield. Henne hits him between the numbers(DO)|
|1||10||O23||Run||Hart||2||MSU-ish counter draw to Hart. Lentz gets pushed down to the ground and when he gets back up Hart's running up his back and the rhythm of the play is disrupted.|
|2||8||O21||Run||Bass||3||QB draw. Don't really like this call since it seems obvious after doing it just a few plays ago, but if Bass had cut behind Lentz he had a lane.|
|3||5||O18||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Plenty of time but there's a little bit of a pocket collapse and Henne just tosses it away. Neither Ecker nor Breaston is open, don't know about downfield. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: Made FG(35), 3-0, 4 min 2nd Q. Right down State Street, says Nessler.|
|1||10||M39||Pass||Avant||Inc||Long handoff that's batted by the DE. Why doesn't Steno chop? (BA)|
|2||10||M39||Pass||Avant||9||Horrible spot that's a yard short of where he actually caught the ball. Oh yes: an out, throw's a little high(CA)|
|3||1||M48||Run||Hart||2||Up the gut.|
|1||10||50||Pass||Avant||4||Shotgun. Avant's hammered by two guys the instant he catches this. (CA)|
|2||6||O46||Run||Hart||12||Draw aided by a driving, crushing block from Ecker.It's amazing how there's always huge holes between the tackles and the guards on these runs. Interior OL also does a good job on this one.|
|1||5||O29||Pass||Hart||12||Henne checks down onto Hart's flare.A PSU LB comes up and Hart hits the circle button and spins free in totally awesome fashion. (CA)|
|1||10||O17||Pass||Hart||Inc||Screen attempted. The PSU blitzer is totally unblocked and Henne has to throw it faster than he wants to. (IN... maybe a bit harsh)|
|2||10||O17||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Ton of time here. Henne throws it away even though Breaston's sitting there wide open.(BR)|
|3||10||O17||Pass||No one||Sack, -9||Hali owns Riley and Henne has zero time to throw.|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(42), 3-0, EOH. Hali has been very quiet so far.The drive stalls because of a Henne mistake and a the OL issue... same story we've seen before so many times this year. Everyone does okay but then there's a couple of breakdowns from different people and we're staring at a FG attempt.|
|1||10||M29||Run||Hart||7||Really nice job by Kraus and Henige to crush the left side of the line and open up a nice crease for Hart.|
|1||10||M41||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Henne fires this into a somewhat covered Breaston. If he had thrown it a little behind Breaston it wou ld have been a completion. As it is the safety breaks it up. (IN)|
|2||10||M41||Run||Hart||5||Off the right side. Decently blocked but only would have gone for a couple except for Hart's three-yard post-contact mole burrow.|
|3||5||M46||Run||Hart||18||PSU brings a run blitz and slants their DL across the Michigan line. Hart finds a cutback lane behind a beaten Riley as Ecker holds off Connor and Kraus kills Poz downfield. Great read by Hart. IBFC video.|
|1||10||O36||Run||Grady||14||Lentz pulls around and murders the LB at the point of attack. What in the hell is going on here?|
|1||10||O22||Run||Grady||0||This one does not work so well as they slant again and get penetration.|
|2||10||O22||Pass||Avant||Inc||Dear Chad, the corner of the endzone is not in the band.(IN)|
|3||10||O22||Pass||Ecker||20||Dear Chad, this one was sweet. Fits it right in the hole in the zone. Perfectly timed. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: TD, 10-0, 11 min 3rd Q.What in the hell was this drive? Where have you been all my life, grinding run game?|
|1||10||M17||Pass||Breaston||-2||Long handoff; the CB is on top of Breaston immediately on the throw. Maybe if we could send him deep this would work better. (CA)|
|2||12||M15||Run||Hart||8||Words cannot describe this tackle breaking, grinding, driving run. You can see the PSU DB who has him wrapped up going "DOES NOT COMPUTE. DIV BY ZERO! DIV BY ZERO!" as he fails to bring down the magic midget. Watch it at IBFC; it's worth it.|
|3||4||M23||Pass||Massaquoi||4||Horrible throw makes what should have been a sure first down into something very close that we get only because of a bad spot. Amazing Mass catches this given the cast. (IN)|
|1||10||M27||Run||Hart||5||Draw up the middle; more good yards running straight at these guys.|
|2||5||M32||Run||Hart||2||Spins away from a tackle and breaks two more before getting swarmed. Blocking was pretty bad on this one. Almost all of this rushing is coming with 6/7 in the box in our 3 WR set.|
|3||3||M34||Scramble||2||Drops back and panics for no reason. If he sits in the pocket he's got another two or three seconds and Thompson is breaking open. (BR).|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 3 min 3rd Q. It's really hard for us to string together drives when Henne makes this many execution errors, so you get what we've been getting all year: stop/start. A couple first downs, maybe we get into the redzone, and then we peter out.|
|1||10||M18||Run||Hart||0||Hali gets free and sticks Hart. This seems like it was slow to develop; Hali got driven back but not engaged and popped back into the intended hole.|
|2||10||M18||Pass||Grady||Inc||Screen is batted down. Riley doesn't really control his man. (BA)|
|3||10||M18||Pass||Avant||10||Slant to Avant which is only really nine yards but we get a fortunate spot and a first down. (CA)|
|1||10||M28||Run||Hart||3||A pulling Lentz has two guys to block because this is a 3 WR set and PSU has seven in the box. You could check off I guess.|
|2||7||M31||Pass||No one||Sack, -2||Play action; Riley does get beat here again by a spin move and thus the sack. Nessler says that Henne had a guy open but didn't find him; I believe him. (BR)|
|3||9||M29||Pass||Manningham||Inc||All day because PSU rushes three. Henne can't find anyone and checks down yet again, this time inaccurately. You have to find someone. Lloyd looks pissed. (BR)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10-3, 13 min 4th Q. Just repeat what I said for the last drive. Our personell is well suited to a driving, methodical offense with Ecker, Avant, and Hart but our OL and QB are too inconsistent to make it work.|
|1||10||M28||Scramble||Henne||5||The Zemitas fumble return. This looks legit to me. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: PSU Touchdown + 2 PT conversion, 10-18 11 min 4th Q. Well of course we're in shock, Nessler. What did you expect?|
|1||10||M45||Run||Hart||10||Excellent cutting by Hart here on yet another draw.Interior offensive line clears out a big hole.|
|1||10||O45||Run||Hart||1||Uh, yeah, the OL fires right past the DL here. Two guys just whiff blocks.|
|2||9||O44||Pass||Breaston||10||A successful out just over Phillips' outstretched hand. (DO)|
|1||10||O34||Run||Grady||1||The same little trap thing they ran before to the same effect. I'm not sure who this is supposed to fool since we have nothing we run off that formation other than that.|
|2||9||O33||Pass||Manningham||33||The New Math! The New Math! Unbelievable play from Manningham. IBFC video. Sweet. (DO)|
|1||G||O3||Run||Hart||3||2PT conversion is just a plow up the gut against a three man line. IBFC video.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown + 2, 18-18, 9 min 4th Q. Shot of kid in stands pointing to number one jersey, that's damn right.|
|1||10||M42||Run||Hart||4||Run right into an eight man line here, Hart squeaks out a few yards but fumbles at the end of the play.|
|2||6||M46||Run||Hart||3||I can't see this play because Michigan is at the line, snapping the ball right as the replay is showing Hart's fumble... obviously they intentionally did this to prevent a review, and saved the possession.|
|3||3||M49||Pass||Avant||7||Slant once again; Zemitas doesn't seem interested in covering this particular route.(CA)|
|1||10||O44||Pass||Hart||5||Screen that Hart has no business making any yards on, but he makes two guys miss and creates five from nothing.(CA)|
|2||5||O39||Run||Grady||6||Grady finally shows that bowling ball stuff, meeting Poz at the LOS and plowing him seven yards backwards. IBFC video.|
|1||10||O33||Pass||Avant||Inc||Play action. Henne throws away the deep out because Avant is covered. (TA)|
|2||10||O33||Pass||Tabb||3||Long handoff. This looks like it should be good at the snap but the PSU CBs don't fear the speed nearly as much as MSU, so they read and come up to tackle nicely.(CA)|
|3||7||O30||Pass||Avant||Inc||Avant's blanketed by King and I think Henne's just getting rid of this one. Another example of his allergy to throwing to Avant in the endzone. (TA)|
|Drive Notes: Made FG(47), 21-18, 4 min 4th Q. Jesus, Rivas. That tied a career high and he had like 10 extra yards on it. Michigan clearly has to show that it can go deep more frequently. This whole game we try it twice, on this most recent play and the Manningham bomb. We have to try to get Breaston and Tabb open if only to give them something to think about.|
|1||10||O40||Run||Hart||2||Another run into an eight man front. This whole sequence of playcalls will get discussed below. The OL does an okay job but there aren't any creases with eight guys there. OMG! OMG! PATERNO GETS TWO SECONDS ADDED! CHEETERZ!|
|2||7||O38||Pass||Avant||3||Long handoff. If you're going to throw this I don't think it should be to Avant. It should be Breaston or TNM.(CA)|
|3||5||O35||Run||Hart||1||No fewer than nine in the box at the moment.|
|Drive Notes: 15 yard pooch punt (YAY!!!), 21-18, 3 min 4th Q. See below for discussion.|
|1||10||M47||Pass||Avant||17||Almost pulled him out of bounds but it's good enough.(CA)|
|1||10||O36||Pass||Tabb||4||Why are we throwing routes like this with 30-something seconds left in the game?(CA)|
|2||6||O32||Pass||Ecker||5||Little out route. Still dislike the playcalling.(CA)|
|3||1||O27||Run||Hart||10||Draw to Hart against like five guys in the box. The right thing to do against the D presented with a TO; it was a guaranteed first down and you don't want to throw an incomplete here, then be faced with even less time on the clock and be forced to get a yard. Get OOB quicker, Hart.|
|1||10||O16||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Thrown to a covered breaston at the LOS. Throwing this route at this point in the game is inexcusable. (BR)|
|2||10||O16||Pass||Manningham||6||This one's better since Manningham's right at the sidelines and just gets OOB immediately for something of a gain. (CA)|
|3||4||O10||Pass||Breaston||Inc||Tyrone Butterfield anyone? This is another inexcusable route and throw combination with six seconds left in the game. It's endzone or nothing here. If this isn't dropped it's game over man.(BR)|
|4||4||O10||Pass||Manningham||10||Touchdown. Breaston's drag route gets the safety to step the wrong way and it's over. You do not fuck with The New Math. And of course... IBFC video. (DO)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-25, EOG. I watched the final play like 20 times. The little "10 sec rewind" button on my DVR is teh sweet.|
So what does Mr. Rational Analysis think?
He's a little pissed off.
Let's discuss the playcalling after the Hall interception: it was largely inexcusable. To Carr's credit, he seems to realize that he erred after watching what unfolded after his reversion (and yes, it was a reversion) to 1997 Carr.
However, I don't think he correctly diagnoses what he did wrong. Play by play:
- First and Ten: Somewhat questionable given the obviously stacked line Michigan was playing against but not too bad. Forces them to use their first timeout and gives the best and most consistent player on offense an opportunity to make some yards. The time situation is such that you need to rip a couple TOs away
- Second and Eight. I question the player and the play. Try to get someone moving before the snap and throw them something akin to the slip screen we used a couple times against Wisconsin with Manningham or Breaston; the block provided by the other WR provides a much greater screwup potential for the D. As it was the DB just had to form up on Avant and wait.
- Third and Five. Just the wrong thing to do. Stripping the last TO here is not nearly as useful as taking a shot at a killer first down that would drive the clock down under a minute and put UM very close to strangling the game. PSU dared Michigan to throw, as they had to (allowing a three yard run here is devastating), but Michigan backed down.
- Fourth and Disaster.Carr's comments reveal that he thinks he should have been more aggressive on the previous plays but does not mention anything about the huge error here on fourth down when Carr punted. Michigan had a fourth and four with just under three minutes to go in the game against a team that had expended its timeouts. A first down essentially ends the game given that Michigan would have three plays to run about 40 to 45 seconds off the clock plus a full 25 seconds after the first down. In total that's going to wind the clock to about 20 seconds before a second fourth down, estimating conservatively. Michigan traded the ability to end the game for fifteen yards of field position, which is a complete disaster. The probability of making that fourth down is probably around 40%; the decision isn't even close.
In this situation there is some utility to getting a first down immediately but there is a huge advantage in one once Penn State has expended a timeout or two, so the first two plays, which set Michigan up for a medium-length conversion, were good ones. The third and fourth down calls were not. Michigan would be very close to ending the game if they convert on third down and would for all intents and purposes have ended with a fourth down conversion. The run into a nine man front on third and five was a terrible decision; the punt on fourth down was worse.
Was that you screaming about how Henne should be sent to the gulag after the fumble?
Proved you wrong, huh?
I'm sad to say not really. Even on the final, game-winning drive he made two giant mental errors on throws to Breaston that would have almost certainly meant a loss if caught. Check the chart:
|Team||Dead on||Catchable||Inaccurate||Bad Read||Throwaways||Batted|
Given the preponderance of screens and long handoffs (12 in total, 1 IN, one BA), Henne had a really bad day. On downfield throws he was acceptable or better on 14 of them and had 16 instances where he either missed, threw the ball away because no one was open, or messed up his read. Penn State is a good defense but when Michigan dropped back to pass the ball didn't even get in a place where it could possibly be caught more than 50% of the time, and several of the instances in which it did were little checkdowns.
The last drive was a microcosm of his day. The two throws to Breaston were the work of someone who does not understand the situation he finds himself in. If either of those is caught, we almost certainly lose. The checkdown to Manningham was a good decision that got us six critical yards and didn't run much time off the clock since Manningham just fell out of bounds. And then the final play was perfectly timed, read, and thrown.
Hell, the last drive was a microcosm of his season. Occasional brilliance, occasional meh, and a large number of questionable decisions/throws. If he had missed Avant in the corner of the endzone it would have been an exact replication. I know Carr said that anyone criticising Henne doesn't know what he's talking about, but hell, he punted on that fourth and four. He's not one to talk. Is Henne's inability to find open receivers downfield and excessive reliance on his checkdown routes a product of Carr's huge aversion to turnovers, as commenters have suggested? There's no way to know without being at practice, watching Carr tatoo "I WILL NOT THROW INTERCEPTIONS" onto his chi points or whatever. I think Michigan would very much like him to throw downfield to open receivers and has called a large number of plays that have emphasized this idea; I also think that when Henne is called to "exploit the middle of the field" he has more often than not made bad decisions. On the coaches? Maybe, but given their track record and how Henne's progress or lack thereof significantly departs from said track record I think the guy responsible is wearing #7.
Have anything nice to say, Mr. Grouchy?
I love Mike Hart sooooo much. He has a nickname after that driving, wonderful run: "DOES NOT COMPUTE." Mario Manningham is also super dreamy.
Special credit should also be offered to the offensive line, especially Steno, Henige, and Kraus. Lentz and Riley both suffered stretches where they got beat and thus killed Michigan drives but the left side of the line was very, very solid all day. Ecker also did a good job blocking on several of Hart's better runs.
Avant is Avant.
And, since I don't have a special teams section, you have to credit Breaston's returns. He put together a second strong game and if Henne had been more accurate on a couple passes would have put together a very nice combined yardage total. The return to midfield on the final drive was just as important as either of The New Math's touchdowns and he's looking OMG open on his routes now. It seems like that rumored hamstring injury was indeed legit and negative, and it seems like he's either almost totally or just totally healthy at this point. He's re-emerging into a weapon.
OMG REFEREES OMG!!!
How did you get in here?
All right: Michigan did benefit from two fortunate spots, but it also got screwed on one. Since Michigan got the first down when screwed and punted soon after on the fortunate ones the game was not unduly affected by either.
I have no idea whether the Avant catch was actually a catch or not. His toe clearly impacts the turf first in-bounds and is followed quite quickly by the heel out of bounds. I haven't seen anything conclusive either way from the rulebook. If Avant had been facing the other direction and his toe had clearly been in there's no controversy, so I'm inclined to think it's good.
The reason the Hart fumble was not reviewed was because Michigan rushed to the line after said play and snapped it before anyone had a chance to look at it. Credit Carr for saving the possession there; you can't blame the referees.
What does it mean for Iowa?
I feel much better about Michigan's ability to run against the Hawkeyes after watching the PSU game and Iowa's game against IU. Michigan did a decent to good job against an intimidating front four and a very good set of linebackers while Iowa struggled to pressure IU's Blake Powers all day. Michigan's weakness on the right side of the line may not affect them much against the Hawkeyes--I wouldn't expect three dead drives because of it. Michigan's ability to get Ecker and Kraus out on linebackers is also heartening; we'll have to block Hodge and Greenway to get the draw game going and we should be able to do so.
As far as passing, I think we're stuck with this version of Henne for the rest of the year, but things should get better at Kinnick. Iowa has two starting DBs down with ankle sprains who are questionable for Saturday. Even if they return they probably won't be 100%. Henne should have an easier time of finding open receivers than he did against Penn State, especially if Manningham (who was hardly used until late) is a bigger part of the passing game and Breaston can finally get some balls thrown to him. Michigan must throw deep more to open up the long handoff/screen game that they'll have to use to move the sticks. I expect a more consistent performance against an Iowa defense that doesn't seem nearly as intimidating without Roth and Babineaux, but not a great one.
Hurray, that's the poll hurray. If you're interested, you can see all the individual ballots here.
The poll came down on the AP side of the great ND debate, leaving them at #9 instead of dropping them to #12 like the coaches did. SMQB loves him some Irish so much that they of the two home losses check in at #4(!). It doesn't appear anyone budged on the Texas/USC issue, which is somewhat surprising. I had figured Texas would get a few more firsts. We did get two voters dropping the Trojans all the way to #3 after the Bush Push: EDSBS leads the charge followed by actionBERG.
Now on to the extracurriculars. First up are the teams which spur the most and least disagreement between voters as measured by standard deviation. Note that the standard deviation charts halt at #25 when looking for the lowest, otherwise teams that everyone agreed were terrible (say, Eastern Michigan) would all be at the top.
Deviation continues to plummet; Texas Tech continues to hover at the top of it, though this is probably the Red Raiders' last week on top of this metric, since next week they play Texas and thus finally get to demonstrate their competence--or lack thereof. Most voters have them #9 despite a shaky resume.
Our top five teams are becoming very clear, as you can see.
Ballot math: First up are "Mr. Bold" and "Mr. Numb Existence." The former goes to the voter with the ballot most divergent from the poll at large. The number you see is the average difference between a person's opinion of a team and the poll's opinion.
Mr. Bold is Warren St. John for a second time... and the reason is very clear: Louisiana State plummets out of his ballot this week, replaced by Louisiana Tech(!). Bold indeed, but probably a typo. (How can you type "Tech" when you mean "State"? Insert Blair/Miller cheap shot at New York Times here.)
In light of something that appears to be an honest mistake we'll have dual winners this week and bestow Mr. Bold upon Michigan blogger Rob in Madtown as well. Rob's one of a few voters pulling the lever for the Terps (#19), but other than that his ballot's just slightly different in a lot of ways: extra love for LSU (#5), ND (#6), BC(#9), and Oregon(#12) but little for FSU(#14) or Texas Tech(#20). He's also got Northwestern in the poll, one spot ahead of the Badgers.
Mr. Numb Existence is Texas blogger PoliBlog. Of note is that the numbers here, just like the numbers in the deviation, are coming down as the polls turn to less speculation as each week passes.
Next we have the Coulter/Krugman Award and the Straight Bangin' Award, which are again different sides of the same coin. The CKA and SBA go to the blogs with the highest and lowest bias rating, respectively. Bias rating is calculated by subtracting the blogger's vote for his own team from the poll-wide average. A high number indicates you are shameless homer. A low number indicates that you suffer from an abusive relationship with your football team.
The CK Award goes the WV Law Dog, who's got the Mountaineers at #14. Given the state of the Big East WVU is going to have to blow out the rest of said conference to get anything more than Texas Tech treatment from me.
The Straight Bangin' Award goes to Wisconsin blogger Bruce Ciskie, who interestingly enough didn't rank the Badgers last week and only has them at #23 this week, five slots behind Minnesota! The Badgers just, like, beat Minnesota. Flukily, sure, but beat 'em just the same.
Swing is essentially the total change in each ballot from last week to this week (obviously voters who didn't submit a ballot last week are not included). A high number means you are easily distracted by shiny things. A low number means that you're damn sure you're right no matter what reality says.
Swing doesn't work. Apologies;
I find myself fairly busy during the season. When I can find time to fix it I will.
Comments welcomed, as always.
Something I will defend to the death is my omission of Cal. Wins over I-AA Sac State, awful awful NMSU, UW, Arizona, and Illinois, losses to the only two half competent teams they've played. They trailed Illinois in the fourth. I hated putting them and their no-QB having, no-defense having asses in at all, and now I don't have to. Like Texas Tech with two losses.
Also Texas Tech and Auburn get no love because of the level of competition they've defeated. Sorry, TT, I don't think Nebraska is any good.
|1||Southern Cal||Their margin over the rest of the field is now very thin, but a margin it is.|
|2||Texas||Texas Tech appears to be the last serious hurdle... but who knows how serious they are anyway?|
|3||Georgia||As discussed earlier, VT and UGA are very similar teams. Georgia's played better competition.|
|4||Virginia Tech||Um... yeah. Schedule is about to ramp up.|
|5||UCLA||Giant jump based on everyone else eating it, but they didn't exactly cover themselves in glory either. Past this point... it's a mess.|
|6||Alabama||A last second field goal to beat Ole Miss? Er... that Florida win doesn't look so hot any more, does it.|
|7||Florida State||Yeah, they lost. So did basically everyone else.|
|8||Miami||Functional DNP vs. Temple.|
|9||Penn State||Loss of Williams will hurt very badly.|
|10||LSU||Arizona State close call keeps looking worse. Florida win doesn't really impress much given the offense's failing to exist. Not going anywhere.|
|11||Boston College||Thrilling last second victory! What a game!|
|13||Oregon||I dunno. I think they're pretty decent, but I'm really uncomfortable with them here.|
|14||Ohio State||Won via gift. (Ok, ok, you gifted them five fumbles as well.)|
|15||Wisconsin||Won via gift.|
|16||Michigan State||Maybe you do hate winning.|
|17||Minnesota||You hate winning too.|
|18||Auburn||Why is this team behind the Big Ten clusterintercourse? Wins over WKU, Ball State, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Miss State. Loss to the one non awful team they played.|
|19||Texas Tech||Opportunity to prove it Saturday.|
|20||Florida||Not to go all Sports Guy, but how do you think Orson felt watching Urban cry in the postgame? That's never, ever a good sign. It's like having a quarterback named "Joey."|
|22||Georgia Tech||Functional DNP vs. Duke before Miami showdown.|
|23||Fresno State||Last best hope against USC?|
|24||West Virginia||Um... I guess?|
Dropped Out: Cal(#15, ITYS),Louisville(#21), Colorado (#24)
Games I Saw: Michigan-PSU, UVA-FSU (half), MSU-OSU(half), Minnesota-Purdue(bits of the first half); Iowa-IU (yes, I taped it... help me); LSU-UF.
Help Requested: Anything you've got. This is a disaster.
Update: Dropped Michigan for UVA at #25, dropped Iowa for WVU at #24.
3-2 over BC, 9-2 over Merrimack. Michigan stands 4-0-0 on the year.
- ETA on "Hobey Baker" chants for Johnson: 2 weeks, and he'll deserve each and every one of them. Incredible player who can literally do it all. He crushes opposing forwards. He skates with them. He dekes them out of their jocks. He can shoot hard an on target from anywhere with little provocation. He makes all the right passes.
- Cogliano scored his first points of the year with 2-2-4 against Merrimack but his best play was a straight nasty bit of stickhandling that got him past two Warriors and garnered a hooking call. I was disappointed with him in the first few games but he's beginning to assert himself.
- We are going to have trouble scoring on a consistent basis. We've got Hensick and Cogliano, Porter and Kolarik, and Hunwick and Johnson, but there's very little after them. Ebbet and Kal will score periodically but they're not to be relied upon. I miss Tambellini badly.
- David Rohlfs got skated around on almost every shift against BC. He's going to have to be protected against skilled teams. Ditto Tim Cook, who many say is improved but... uh, yeah. I don't see it.
- Only two goals against BC sounds good but both were very soft and made me think uncomfortably about that guy from last year who liked punching people. Ruden was his usual self: solid positionally and completely unable to control rebounds.
There's a distinct possibility that the CCHA doesn't blow this year. A lot of teams have opened up with very strong results:
- Michigan is 4-0 with a win over BC.
- MSU is 2-0 and beat North Dakota.
- Alaska-Fairbanks took 3 points from Minnesota in Minnesota.
- UNO is 2-0 with a win over UNH.
- Lake State took 3 points from ECAC contender Colgate.
- OSU split with Colorado College.
Northern Michigan's split against St. Cloud--a team likely headed for the WCHA basement--hurts, as does BG's loss to Merrimack and WMU's loss to Robert Morris (enjoy your lovely parting gifts, Jim Culhane), but other than that no CCHA teams lost games they were supposed to win. Several teams outperformed expectations, which will really help out in the pairwise towards the end of the year.
Games to keep an eye on this weekend:
- ND is going into the lion's den (OMG CATHOLICISM!) with a road weekend against DU and CC. A split here would be a tremendous result for the CCHA. Wouldn't get your hopes up, though, Jeff Jackson or no.
- Northern has a home and home with and improved but still bad Michigan Tech team. If NMU is going to be one of the CCHA's better teams (and they probably should be) dropping more points to WCHA bottom feeders will not help matters.
- Fairbanks travels to Alaska-Anchorage for a pair. If UAF can take 3 or even 4 points from a meh UAA team in their second consecutive weekend on the road they'll announce themselves as a CCHA contender and greatly help the PWR comparisons. Michigan also takes on UAF next weekend for a pair at Yost. They could come in smokin'. [UPDATE: I'm mistaken on the location of the UAF series. It's at Fairbanks, making the weekend look even more daunting. Thx to reader Puckhead.]
- A two part cheer directed at BC freshman Brett Motherwell: "I did your..." "Moooootherwell."
- Students screaming "dance" in the first period against Merrimack whilst up 6-0 and again up 7-0.
- A treasured "Goalie Goalie Sieve Sieve Sieve" against the Warriors.
- "If you're not good at hockey, go to Merrimack /
If you're not good at hockey, go to Merrimack /
If you're not good at hockey and you know you really suck, go to Merrimack"
The Next Weekend
One game against Michigan State at Yost. State's gotten out of the gate well and this one will be a typical MSU-UM game in which the Wolverines badly outplay and outshoot the Spartans but can't put it away due to Angry Michigan Safety Hating God. I have doubts about Sauer's preparedness but none about Vicari's. Call it 3-2, MSU.