The nutty Michigan coverage isn't so much about Harbaugh as it is a signal to the Big Ten that Fox wants to party.
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.
|WHAT||Michigan vs. Minnesota|
|WHERE||The Worst Stadium In America, Minneapolis, Minnesota|
|WHEN||12:00 EST, November 8th, 2008|
|THE LINE||Minnesota by 7.5|
Run Offense vs. Minnesota
After a one week, jumped-snap-induced hiatus, Minor Rage returned and was darned effective, opening the game with a 45 yard touchdown run and ending with 155 yards on just 24 carries, an average of 6.5 per.
Some of that was Purdue hanging back with two deep safeties and only putting six guys in the box on many downs (they did blitz corners frequently, but that rarely impacted the play. With Steven Threet concussed and very likely out, Minnesota will probably be more aggressive.
As far as their defense goes, a year after being the defensive equivalent of Notre Dame they're… well, still the defensive equivalent of Notre Dame: much, much better but still not exactly good. They're #65 in total defense, #53 in rushing defense, and #20 in scoring defense. That gap is easily explained by another number: 2, Minnesota's rank in turnover margin.
So, mediocre run D versus mediocre run O should be a push, except, uh:
Minnesota does not do "push". They either destroy on the ground or get destroyed. (And when they're not getting destroyed they're giving up like 462 passing yards to Juice Williams.) And with all of those teams running some version of the spread there's not a whole lot to choose from here. Given Michigan's inconsistency I hesitate to predict anything.
Oh, I guess I have to: these guys seem like major gamblers. They get a ton of TFLs and lost yards and give up their share of big plays. I think misdirection will do well and we'll see whoever the quarterback is keep it more to good effect (Mike Kafka ran for 217 yards last week); at other times they'll shoot into the backfield and put Michigan in untenable long yardage situations. Sustaining drives will be tough; a big play or two seems probable.
Key Matchup: Whoever the QB is making the right reads on when to keep the ball.
Pass Offense vs. Minnesota
Key Matchup: DEAAAAAAAAATHHHHHH
Run Defense vs. Minnesota
Minnesota's run offense has taken a major step backwards in year two of the Brewster regime. Some of this has to do with the injury absence of starting running back Duane Bennett. His main replacement is DeLeon "Ponce" Eskridge, and he's struggling mightily thus far, averaging just 3.6 YPC. Quarterback Adam Weber will also keep it eight to ten times a game; he's kind of meh on those carries, too.
Michigan, meanwhile, you know the story: pretty good on the defensive line with erratic (read "poor") play from the linebackers and the occasional secondary disaster. This should be advantage Michigan.
Key Matchup: Nose Tackle Whoever versus double teams. If we're in the 3-3-5, and I imagine we will be against an offense much like Purdue's, the NT has to exploit what looks like a shaky offensive line.
Pass Defense vs. Minnesota
The pass offense remains pretty good and pretty efficient, with Minnesota checking in 36th in passer efficiency. A serious sack count (they're 73rd) indicates problems on the OL, especially when coupled with the iffy run numbers. Weber's averaging 7.3 YPA and has 11 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions.
Given the issues we saw in the secondary last week, this has to be considered a significant Minnesota advantage even if their big threat, Eric Decker, sounds like he'll be gimpy with an ankle sprain.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus TACKLING. Obvs.
Things have started to get slightly brighter here: Martavious Odoms returned a punt for a touchdown last week (and, yes, fumbled one); he and Boubacar Cissoko had a series of excellent returns that set up Michigan's offense with good field position. That's two weeks in a row the kick returns have been pretty good. There was one major error last week other than the muff when Odoms failed to field a pooch at around the 13. The ball was eventually downed at the one. Oh, and Purdue had a 60-yard fake punt.
Still, punt and kickoff returns have gone from dire to downright average (58th and 64th) over the last two weeks. (Michigan was #111 in punt returns when the Purdue game kicked off!) Add in Zoltan's usual displays of excellence and the special teams is approaching something… okay. Woo?
Minnesota, meanwhile, is doing all right in the various categories: 44th in net punting, 48th in punt returns, 31st in kick returns. Kicker Joel Monroe is okay, going 9-13 so far this year.
Key Matchup: Michigan keeping up the returns would be good.
- The outside coverage doesn't make more sense.
- We have a QB wearing #30.
Cackle with knowing glee if...
- Um… not death?
- Minor Rage actually works two weeks consecutively.
- I dunno.
Fear/Paranoia Level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for DEATH, +1 for DEATH, +1 for DEATH, +1 for DEATH, +1 for DEATH.)
Desperate need to win level: 2 out of 10. (Baseline 5; –1 for I Am Henri, The Otter of Ennui, –1 for There's Not Even The Vague Hope Of A Bowl Game, –1 for DEATH.)
Loss will cause me to... react in no way whatsoever.
Win will cause me to... well, I'll have to re-nickname Sheridan, I guess.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Minnesota, 23-15.
What, there's something else going on?
11/23/2007 - Michigan 3, Wisconsin 2 -12-1, 8-0 CCHA
11/24/2007 - Michigan 5, Minnesota 1 - 13-1, 8-0 CCHA
I hate Minnesota.
This is an unusual thing for anyone to hate. Minnesota is a nonentity in the big two collegiate sports. They haven't been to the Rose Bowl in 40 years. The only time their basketball program is any good is when they're cheating their asses off (ya, ya, glass houses, not relevant to the discussion). Maybe Wisconsin and Iowa have a real antipathy for the Gophers, but both rivalries seem built more on sweet trophies -- an axe and a pig -- than venom. Who doesn't want to win a huge ax? Or something called Floyd of Rosedale?
No, it's impossible to truly hate a school so limply sad that when you win the Big Ten at their stadium you can not only pull the goalposts down but haul them out onto the street. Outside of certain frigid enclaves, Minnesota is nothing.
But there is nothing that makes me want to throw a brick into a crowd of revelers than the goddamned Minnesota rouser. The reasons for this are obvious and obscure. The obvious bit:
The obscure, at least in terms of national significance: the first Michigan hockey game I watched was the national semifinal my freshman year of college. Michigan torched UNH 4-0. Two days later, Josh Langfeld wandered out from behind the boards and sort of tossed a puck between Scott Clemmensen's pads and Michigan was national champions. My vague September desire to maybe get hockey tickets had been quickly forgotten in the rush of Charles Woodson and company's national championship thrust; suddenly the decision to not get tickets seemed dumb indeed.
I rectified that the next year just in time for Minnesota to embark on a scorched earth campaign against Michigan. Suffice it to say that before Saturday, Minnesota had won six straight against Michigan and nine of eleven, several of them humiliating blowouts.
In 2003, Michigan made the Frozen Four in Buffalo, there drawing Minnesota. Buffalo being a relatively short jaunt through Canada for Michiganders, we went. (Side note: Canadians are exceedingly accommodating when you tell them you're driving five hours to watch some hockey. If you ever find yourself forced into drug smuggling by some tragic turn of events, just tell the border guard you're watching your cousin play in Lethbridge.)
Minnesota was good. They're usually good, but this edition of the Gophers was a real Death Star of a team: the defending national champions, WCHA double winners, and the tournament's top seed overall. Minnesota's national title run the year before had gone through Michigan, a painful 3-2 loss that was not nearly as close as it had looked. Freshman Thomas Vanek, now a ridiculously overpaid Buffalo Sabre, had 60 points, and the rest of the team was fast and talented.
But Michigan had beaten them 3-1 in the Showcase earlier that year, and dominated the first period. Just crushed them. Jason Ryznar and Eric Nystrom were crushing guys along the boards. Minnesota could not get possession and only a parade of saves and missed opportunities kept the score relatively close. It was 1-0 after one. The second period was the exact opposite, with Minnesota dominating play, until Jed Ortmeyer, god bless him, popped in a second goal and the final five minutes were even. A late Minnesota goal gave the Gophers life, but down 2-1 against an opponent that had beaten them earlier in the year and clearly was giving them all they could handle is not a good spot.
So it was with some disbelief that I listened to a wide array of Gopher fans chatting about the game during the second intermission, every one of them blithely assured that Minnesota would come out and roll over Michigan in the third. I have been around my share of frustratingly overconfident opposing fans -- wooo Ohio State! -- but nothing compares to Minnesota fans in Buffalo that day.
The third period was tightly contested. Minnesota tied it at the other end, but Michigan controlled much of the period. Achingly, Nystrom or Ryznar or someone knocked a puck through the Gopher goalie only to see it waved off, as the whistle had gone. Ryznar had a golden opportunity at an open net that a defenseman hacked off the line. Halfway through the first overtime, Vanek wandered out from behind the net and swept the puck at Al Montoya and it went through his pads and all I could think was "that was soft." We had a hotel room in Niagara Falls for the next couple nights. We left the next day.
Michigan hasn't been to the Frozen Four since and has only intermittently looked like a threat. Every year, Michigan would play Minnesota in the Showcase and prove that it was not national title caliber, then a parade of CCHA teams would get hopes up only for them to be dashed when
the big boys came calling.
Last year, Michigan was obliterated by the Gophers. The upperclass-laden team was basically the same group of guys who limped into the 2006 tournament with zero chance and got blown out by North Dakota. When Michigan drew Minnesota and North Dakota, the season was over. Even though Minnesota managed to blow it against Holy Cross (ha!), the season was indeed over.
This year, Michigan beat Minnesota raw. The shot count didn't reflect it, but the final score did. It doesn't really matter that the Gophers look decidedly un-vintage so far this year at 7-6-1. Michigan and Minnesota have played six periods this year and Michigan has owned five of them. They are streaking towards a real #1-#2 matchup against Miami later this year, and the malaise of the last couple years is gone, replaced with a bunch of freshman who reveal delightful new abilities -- look! backchecking! -- every game.
Everyone was waiting before making a declaration. Are they? Yes. They're for real.
Video trouble? Try VLC.
Before we start, the play table below has multiple references to a "5-3-1-7 tech split." This is what is meant by that:
Note the alignment of the defensive line: Three players lined up basically over the tackle (5), guard (3), and center (1) to the side of the play a zone read will come, no one over the nominally weakside guard, one DE split extremely wide (7) on the nominal weakside. The goal here is clear: defeat the zone read by overloading the area of the line where the running back's hole is supposed to be while leaving a wide-split DE to handle the QB.
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|Michigan twists its DTs, giving Minnesota an opportunity to seal Taylor; Ezeh comes up and is blocked out of the play by the guard; an unblocked CGraham(-1) misses a tackle, turning two yards into five.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||12||Zone read handoff|
|Michigan in what Colin's described as 5-3-1-7 tech in an effort to stop the zone run; Minnesota motions the tailback to the other side of the line and flips the play, running directly at the huge gap on what was, until moments ago, the backside of the formation. Taylor(-1) is cut to the ground uselessly; BG actually does a really nice job of defeating a double and flowing down the line but as he gets to the POA he's held or stumbles or something and Bennett shoots past him. Both linebackers are crushed by blockers with excellent angles. Englemon(-1) misses a tackle, providing another three yards at the end of the play.|
|Weber throws it well over his receiver's head. I can't tell whether Harrison was going to cut this down or get cut inside of. Maybe credit Crable for reading this and backing off such that Weber had to loft it long? Sure. +1.|
|O37||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-1||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor(+1) stands up his guy, driving him a couple yards back. A blitzing CGraham(+1) tackles from behind thanks to the delay caused by Taylor.|
|O36||3||11||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Wheel|
|A twist gets Ezeh in totally unblocked, as a Harrison blitz from the same side occupies the back. Weber gets rid of it in time, finding a marginally open receiver; Warren(+1) hits him as the ball arrives. Moot point as it had already glanced off his fingertips. (Pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Bill Curry's already mistaken Shawn Crable for Will Johnson mere minutes after saying "Ironically, Minnesota has a good offense and could move the ball." I've heard people misuse "irony" from sea to shining sea and never has it been so spectacular. Thank you, Bill Curry.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||Zone read handoff|
|Our "please gash us" formation. Crable lined up over a slot receiver, threatening blitz; three DL with Ezeh sticking his nose in as a threatened blitzer next to Taylor. He comes; the C and G double Taylor, sealing him, as Jamo runs himself upfield and out of the play. CGraham unwisely blitzes away from where the zone read play will go if they hand it off, which they do, and there is no chance Michigan stops this. Very poor scheme on this play â€“ I think the lack of wisdom here is not on the part of any of the players.|
|O29||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Another DT twist means neither is in a position to do much at the snap. Linebackers are useless; CGraham(-1) meekly blocked out of the play, ending up on the ground; Crable(+1) sets up well and disconnects to make an important tackle as the RB passes.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read draw|
|This is not a true zone read, as the pulling tackle reveals this is going to be a QB keeper all the way. I might need to diversify my nomenclature here. Anyway, Johnson fights inside in an attempt to get to the RB, who doesn't have the ball, opening up a hole. Ezeh(-1) is very late reading this, getting plowed by the pulling tackle.|
|O41||2||2||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|5-3-1-7 tech splits; this time Minnesota does not adjust to it and runs directly at it, probably because our linebackers are slanted to the backside. Bennett manages to squeeze through a hole between Johnson and Taylor, but only just barely. No linebacker help again; Bennett is grabbed by the legs and manages to fall forward.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||24||PA Post|
|A zone read fake into play action; well blocked by Minnesota and a post comes open over the middle. CGraham didn't actually bite on this and got into his drop; this is just a good play all around from Minnesota. (Pressure -1, cover -1)|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||14||Zone read keeper|
|Crable(-2) gives up contain.|
|Nominally, anyway, as the RB takes a step outside before coming back inside; a pulling tackle and guard head for the backside hole. (We are again in 5-3-1-7.) Subtly, Taylor(+1) makes a play, sidestepping a cut and forcing the tackle, blocking down and leaving the DE and LB to the pullers, to deal with him. Thompson makes a barely adequate tackle, allowing a couple YAC.|
|M14||2||6||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read draw|
|Same play as earlier in the drive. Crable(+2) defeats a block and tackles after a minimal gain.|
|M12||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read rollout|
|Play action; Weber rolls out; Jamo(+1) up in Weber's face, forcing an early throw and maybe deflecting the pass. Yes, he got it. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(29), 0-3, 6 min 1st Q. A lot of poor scheming gets Michigan players in no place to make a stop; one excellent pitch and catch from
Minnesota and a blown contain gets the Gophers in field goal range.
|O41||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Assume 5-3-1-7 splits unless otherwise noted at this point. Taylor(+2) is the NT here; they run right at the massive gap; Taylor gets his man a couple yards in the backfield and makes a tackle as the RB passes. This is the sort of thing we haven't seen from him enough.|
|Similar to a number of plays last week where Michigan linebackers flew out of zone coverage to deal with running backs on little flares; this time Ezeh moves out, opening a hole in the zone for the slant. (Cover -1)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pen||-5||False start|
|Ezeh(+1) reads this, flying up into the passing lane; Weber throws it away. (Cover +1)|
|O47||2||15||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-3||QB Draw|
|RB motions out; empty look. Both Crable(+1) and Jamison(+1) beat their men to the inside instead of rushing up around them; Weber has no chance; BGraham also comes in to help after a DT twist.|
|O44||3||18||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Deep out|
|Blitz does not quite get there as Weber fires the ball quickly on an out in front of Warren. It's short-hopped; there was the potential for a completion here but it was a narrow window. (Pressure +1.) Minnesota called for a chop block, Michigan takes the penalty.|
|O29||3||33||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Johnson(+1) does an excellent job flowing down the line to tackle; BGraham(+1) cut off the outside.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 2 min 1st Q. Some help from Minnesota via the penalty, but a good series.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Good push from Johnson(+1); Taylor gets pushed down the line a bit, slipping on the turf, but manages to grab a foot as the RB cuts back; Crable shuts him down after keeping contain.|
|First part of the play missed. Harrison(+2) jets in, fending of a blocker to chop this down in the backfield. Thompson(+1) also out there to help after a quick read.|
|O20||3||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||7||WR Screen|
|Fake RB screen to the topside of the screen; they got to Wheelwright at the bottom. Warren(+1) gets cut but gets up and manages to force Wheelwright out of bounds short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, EO 1st Q.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||13||Zone read counter|
|A more convincing counter that looks like your traditional zone read but for a pulling guard; Minnesota is again attacking the big gap between the 1 and 7 technique DL. We are one blocked CGraham away from giving up a big gain; CGraham(-1) is blocked and we give up a big gain.|
|O44||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|Bennett motions out; Weber pump fakes a screen to him, then goes deeper. Harrison is our designated guy to freak out on these and he does; everyone else stays with their assignments. CGraham(+1) gets a bump on the TE, knocking him off his route and making this pass look wildly inaccurate. Even without the bump it's probably still IN; as it is it's ridiculously overthrown. (Cover +1)|
|O44||2||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Inc||WR Screen|
|Weber throws it wide.|
|O44||3||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||14 (pen)||Skinny post|
|The Warren pass interference. The replays given aren't particularly good, but this looks like excellent coverage to me. No punishment doled out.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. BGraham(+1) beats his guy; can't make the tackle but does slow the back in the backfield. The center never got out on CGraham, and we all know that when you don't block CGraham he can spear you. This he does.|
|M41||2||9||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Excellent play by Johnson(+1) to disconnect and tackle; CGraham(+1) dodges a block and knocks the ball loose from a falling Weber. Michigan recovers.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 3-10, 9 min 2nd Q.|
|O31||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Inc||Zone read PA|
|Adams at the LOS as if he is going to blitz, but he bails at the snap as Michigan drops into zone. This may confuse Weber, who tosses it into coverage. Initial bite by Ezeh(+1) but he recovers well, getting in the passing lane and deflecting the ball. (Cover +1)|
|Same play as the first counter. TE and guard pull around in an effort to attack the backside. Crable(+1) crashes in, removing any crease at the intended POA; cutback. Johnson(+1) avoids a cut block and tackles.|
|O33||3||8||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Out|
|Taylor(+1) defeats his man and crushes Weber as he throws; ball is low as a result and into tight coverage from Warren(+1). The ball is dropped; Decker wants a flag. No sale. No, check that. On replay Warren comes around from the bottom to knock it away. Great play. (Cover +1, pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 6-10, 5 min 2nd Q. Warren is officially good, kids.|
|We basically miss this play talking to Rece Davis. But Jamison(+1) knocks the ball down. (Pressure +1)|
|Crable flies upfield on an edge rush but gets pushed past the quarterback; Weber steps up. Jamison(+1) makes an edge rush of his own, then pushes the OT away and collapses down on Weber, hitting him as he throws and forcing an incompletion. (Pressure +1)|
|Harrison blitzes, so does Graham. The tackle on that side has blocked down on the DE, leaving just one running back to attempt to take on both blitzers. CGraham(-1) manages to get pushed by the RB and allows Weber to escape; he keeps his eyes down and attempts to run; Jamison and Ezeh(+1) put an end to that. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 2 min 1st Q.|
|O21||1||10||???||Nickel?||Run||20||Zone read something|
|We miss the beginning portion of this play looking at Tim Brewster; as we come back Will Johnson(-1) has been pancaked and both linebackers (Ezeh -1, CGraham -1) are running right up the middle, getting blocked by one guy. Boom: secondary instantly and a twenty-yard run.|
|O41||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Johnson(+1) stands up his guy, driving him back a bit and disconnecting as Bennett passes; Ezeh(+1) had gotten to the guard quickly enough to also help close the hole.|
|O41||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||-4||Zone read PA|
|Weber gets the ball knocked out by his own running back; he falls on it for a loss.|
|O37||3||14||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Post|
|Weber's pass is sailed, perhaps fortunately as both these Gopher receivers are in the same area and well covered (cover +1). The pass sailed because Will Johnson(+1) drove the guard into Weber as he threw. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 11 min 3rd Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||5||Speed option|
|A tough spot for the defense with no DB within eight yards of the LOS at the snap to the side the option is run. Jamison, unblocked forces a pitch; Adams attacks and gets outside, forcing the ballcarrier in; Johnson pursues and tackle. +1 Johnson.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Actually a lead draw as the QB fakes a zone read handoff, then follows the running back into the hole; a guard also pulls. CGraham(-1) is met by this tiny running back and pancaked â€“ ugly, this should never happen â€“ and for a moment it looks like a big gainer until BGraham(+1) spins free of a double team and tackles. Still a good gain; could have been considerably worse.|
|O33||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. I believe Johnson(+1) gets a push into the backfield here; Taylor(+1) also shoves forward. No crease; Bennett forced to cut back and leap over a prone Jamison. CGraham, unblocked, tackles him in the air.|
|O35||2||8||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||10||WR Screen|
|Nominally a 3-3-5 with Crable standing up outside the tackle. CGraham(-1) again shoved to the ground by a blocker as he overruns his spot; Warren got to the outside â€“ I think this is what Carr means by "leverage on the football" -- but the Graham failure just means there's a huge gap for him. Englemon chops him down after ten. Curry doesn't like his tackle; I agree.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||-5||Fumbled snap|
|And John Sullivan pays us a visit.|
|O40||2||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|Taylor(+2) pushes into the backfield, making a diving grasp at Weber's ankles that brings him down. Without that, a big gain.|
|A delayed blitz from Harrison doesn't get there; neither does anyone else. (Pressure -1). The post comes open ( cover -1); Weber underthrows it.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 5 min 3rd Q. A dispiriting drive that stops because of Minnesota mistakes and one good play from Taylor.|
|O32||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||7||WR Screen|
|Warren(+1) reads this well, shooting past a blocker; so does Johnson. Unfortunately, Johnson(-1) overruns it, allowing the WR to pick up decent yardage despite Michigan being all over this at the snap.|
|O39||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Excellent job by Johnson(+1) to get penetration and force Bennett outside the tackles, where Adams fills at the LOS.|
|Not even a playfake? Okay. Great coverage on three short routes here (Cover +2); Weber has no place to go. BG(+1) drives his guy back, then sacks. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 20-10, 1 min 3rd Q. I feel way better about this drive than the last one.|
|O27||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||9||Angle|
|Balanced line; the RB runs a little flat route, then cuts it inside; I used to run this all the time in NCAA. Ezeh(-1) overruns it, not even getting close enough to miss a tackle, and three yards turn into ten. (Cover -1)|
|O36||2||1||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||4||Zone read handoff|
|Balanced line. Johnson is blown back by a double team, and though he manages to split them and help tackle he's been driven a couple yards downfield and Minnesota picks up the first down. Taylor did a good job disconnecting and diving, grabbing Bennett's feet as he passes. I do agree that Taylor's played well; Bill Curry and I see eye to eye. Cats and dogs living together.|
|CGraham(+1) times a blitz perfectly, shooting up the middle unblocked and hammering Weber as he attempts to throw. (Pressure +1)|
|Ezeh(-1) fails to read this, getting blocked out of the play by a wide receiver. Warren keeps him inside; Taylor tracks him d
own from behind.
|O47||3||3||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||11||Speed option|
|Harrison(-1) is late on this one, as is Ezeh(-1); Michigan loses contain.|
|M42||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||-2||WR screen(?)|
|Not sure WTF Weber is thinking; a corner blitz from Harrison gets in unblocked (pressure +1) but instead of taking what looks like an open out from the area where Harrison vacated the zone he comes back to Wheelwright, who's run what looks like a screen route without any blockers. The throw is made, but Warren(+1) has come up hard and tackles with help from Crable for a loss.|
|All day for Weber (pressure -2); Webber throws to Decker; Englemon(+1) reads it, breaks on it, and probably should have picked it off. (Cover +1)|
|Oh, you've screwed up something when you leave Crable to be blocked by a freshman tailback. Crable(+1) goes right around him and sacks. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 10 min 4th Q.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||8||QB Draw|
|Bennett motions out; empty look. The linebackers shift over in preparation for a screen, which Minnesota fakes; Weber takes off. Crable(-1) has been pancaked after attempting to dive inside. With the linebackers headed over to the screen fake, acres of space. Slocum and Sagesse in at DT. Rest of the first team D in.|
|O28||2||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||2||QB Draw|
|The draw they've run a couple times where a PA zone read fake turns into a lead blocker for the QB. Thompson in; does a good job with the TB; CGraham fills unblocked.|
|Warren tackles immediately after a brief gain.|
|O35||2||5||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read counter|
|Well... Crable gives up contain here after fighting inside to fill the hole; once Bennett bounces out he does a good job of getting back outside the tackle but his tackle attempt is stepped through and Bennett picks up seven yards. This is a tough play for him to make, all alone out there as CGraham had gotten suckered on the counter action... no minus.|
|Oh... okay, I get it. Remember the WR screen(?) on the last drive? I think the idea here is to get the CB to bite up on it, then hit the RB on a wheel route. Warren does indeed bite, opening up a spot for the wheel; Weber overthrows it. Decent recovery from Warren made this a more difficult throw. Still (-1, cover -1).|
|O42||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||4||TE Out|
|For some reason they decide not to block Crable at all; Weber hurried. (Pressure +1) The TE runs a little out route; Adams(+1) hits immediately. (Cover +1)|
|O46||3||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||9||WR Screen|
|They play off the wheel route earlier and go to an actual WR screen; this time Warren(-1) is hesitant, fearing the wheel, and Wheelwright has plenty of room. (Cover -1). Mouton has entered the game.|
|Harrison in unblocked on a blitz. (Pressure +1) A quick throw is jumped by Adams(+1), who breaks it up and nearly intercepts it. (Cover +1)|
|Harrison(+2) reads and shoots into the backfield, making a huge TFL just as the ball arrives.|
|O48||3||17||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||12||Stop|
|Harrison again unblocked, forcing a quick dumpoff to Wheelwright for what should be five yards. Thompson misses a tackle, and then about four Michigan players whiff, turning this into a makeable fourth down. (Pressure +1, cover -1)|
|Pass completed, but short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 4 min 4th Q. Chartin' over.|
So why can't we defend the zone run?
Let's take a look at the second play of the game. You may remember this picture from such locations as "the top of this post":
Balls. As you can see, Taylor's been chopped to the ground, the frontside guard has no one to even think about blocking on the first level, and Jamison is in no position to get inside the tackle. The hole gapes like Tim Brewster's... mouth after a meaningless pass on the last play of the game.
So we have a first facet of our issues against the run: sometimes our scheme gets exploited. We broke out our 3-3-5 with massive gaps between the DEs and DTs once in this game; Minnesota promptly ran for nine yards with little any Michigan player could do about it. This same formation was responsible for a lot of the ugliness against the Northwestern run game. It makes no the sense.
It's times like these that I wish I could see into the heads of the coaches, who obviously know way more about football than I do: is there some way in which this defense can stand up to interior runs? Is someone not executing their job? Do they just assume that teams will pass in these situations? When Michigan has gotten opponents into must-pass situations the rampant pressure they've applied certainly justifies the use of the 3-3-5, but whenever it comes out on a plausible rushing down Michigan gets gashed. Isn't it time to shelve it?
Aspect two: the linebackers are not so good. Chris Graham did some good things in this game, but the standout memory of him in this game was one of those QB draws that came coupled with the tailback as a lead blocker. This Bennett guy is like 180 pounds or something -- tiny -- and when he met Graham in the hole he splattered him like a bug. Result: another big gainer. It has been rare indeed for any Michigan linebacker to stand up to a block and tackle.
Aspect three: The defensive tackles are not really absorbing blockers. The 5-3-1-7 wasn't so good, but when Michigan lines up in a flat front, they still get gashed because too often the DTs can't control the gaps between the guard and tackle. Often they get momentarily doubled sealed, then the guard leaps out on a linebacker.
Aspect four: Shawn Crable sometimes gives up contain on quarterbacks as the first three aspects often make his backside pursuit necessary.
That, I think, covers it. It should be noted that Michigan is now 36th in rushing defense, which is not terrible. However, a ton of sacks -- 15th nationwide -- help cover up Michigan's average-at-best run defense.
|Johnson||9||2||7||Best day of his career, probably.|
|Taylor||8||1||7||A couple diving tackles that really helped out the befuddled linebackers.|
|Crable||7||3||4||Well, he's active.|
|Thompson||1||1||0||Had another couple near-minuses.|
|Ezeh||4||5||-1||Still a work in progress.|
|C. Graham||4||7||-3||Sometimes his inablity to stand up to blocks is truly amazing.|
|Trent||-||-||0||A remarkable complete game shutout for Trent -- wonder if this has ever happened before. Since he's a corner, this counts as an excellent performance.|
|Harrison||4||1||3||Blew one option; killed two drives with monster TFLs on screens/option plays.|
|Warren||5||2||3||Minnesota attempted to pick on him all day and mostly came up empty. Already a standout, IMO, and poised to have a huge career.|
|"Pressure"||15||4||11||Heavily Minnesota assisted, as several times their line calls completely missed corner blitzes and, once, Shawn frickin' Crable. Still: good.|
|"Coverage"||11||7||4||Another fine day for the secondary.|
More of the same: good play from the DL, an effective secondary, and linebackers that just didn't do much. Michigan's leading tacklers are Englemon, a safety, and Crable, a defensive lineman. Total safety tackles: 127. Total linebacker tackles: 118. That is not a good ratio. For comparison, last year it was linebackers 215, safeties 101.
Sometimes I feel like I'm being too harsh on the linebackers because of an expectation bias: I expect them to be bad, so I interpret their play as bad. The tackle numbers reassure me. They're the main issue with the defense at this point, IMO. Everything else appears solid.
Taylor had a very strong day, as did Johnson. Harrison and Warren were the best members of a strong secondary.
Well, yeah, the linebackers.
What does it mean for Michigan State?
It'll be interesting to see how Michigan adapts to a traditional offense, which they've seen all of once this year (Penn State) if you make the reasonable assertion that whatever the hell Weis is running, it's not "traditional" or for that matter "an offense". They did well against Penn State and the parallels between the two are vast: erratic quarterback, power-run philosophy, unquenchable thirst for brains.
Maybe not that last one.
Where Michigan State has the advantage on Penn State is they have a pair of good runners who complement each other -- Javon Ringer is an All-Big Ten level performer, IMO -- and a #1 wide receiver. Devin Thomas is legit and will be the stiffest test for Trent or Warren (or, more likely, whoever happens to line up on his side) since Oregon left town with our womenfolk trussed to their wagon.
IMO, this could go either way and slowing the MSU rushing attack would be an accomplishment of moderate valor that bodes well for the final two games of
Video trouble? Try VLC.
|M32||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||3||Brown||Zone left|
|Seven in the box, so, like, okay. But Minnesota is lying in wait for this, shifted to the strongside. As a result, Boren doesn't have an angle for his second level block and there's a linebacker ready to meet Brown a few yards downfield. Fairly well blocked save for the Boren thing, which wasn't really his fault.|
|The TE-pull makes its first appearance since it showed up once against Penn State. Except instead of a tight end the pulling guy is a wide receiver. Seems like this would be a dead giveaway, no? It doesn't matter, though, as Minnesota bites like whoah. Mallett holds onto the ball â€“ there's no one in his face this time as the backside DE had crashed down on the run play â€“ until he finds Arrington open for a significant gain. Like the ability to take the deeper route here. (CA+, 3)|
|O46||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||-1||Brown||Zone left|
|Boren(-2) doesn't bother to block the strongside DE. Bleah. Think this was supposed to be a counter thing as the FB headed to the backsie; no matter.|
|O47||2||11||I-Form Twins||Pass||Inc||Hemingway||WR Screen|
|Mallett horribly underthrows a screen. I think this is a fumble; it's called incomplete. Fortunate. (IN, 0)|
|DE speed rush almost gets past Long but does not; Schilling, however, is beaten. Mallett steps up past the pressure but can't find anyone and is eventually collapsed upon. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Schilling -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt,0-0, 11 min 1st Q. Stewart(-1) lets a Zoltan punt bounce at the five and into the endzone.|
|Mallett checks into a pass with Minnesota showing eight in the box and everyone fairly close to the LOS. He can't find anyone, checking down to Moundros. Throw is late and behind him; a linebacker, drawn up by the delay, hits him as the ball gets there. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|M33||2||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Minor||Zone right|
|Pretty crappy block from Mathews as Minor goes for the edge; Minor does very well to stiffarm a corner and get outside the safety and up the sideline for a few. Minnesota all over the frontside of the play, in a 5-3-1-7 split of their own; counter counter counter dammit.|
|No idea what Minnesota is thinking on the coverage, as they pull up a safety in sort of a robber zone but he's nowhere near anyone. A simple slant is wide open to the outside. This is a completion so I can't be too hard but I think the placement of this ball is too far in front of Arrington and if he was being tightly covered, or someone had jumped the route, is a potential interception. Results based charting service says: (CA-, 2, protection 1/1)|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||8||Brown||Zone left|
|Long(+1) and Butler(+1) seal the corner, giving Brown an opportunity to use the jets. If Schilling can get a block on the WLB this could go the distance; he doesn't. Tough assignment, but worth noting. Brown doesn't switch arms, fumbling the ball as the WLB gets there; turnover.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-3, 5 min 1st Q.|
|Pass interference called; looked weak live and still looks weak to me. Ball is way too far inside â€“ Manningham has a ton of room to the sideline â€“ and could have been intercepted if this corner wasn't ten. (IN, N/A, protection 2/2)|
|O46||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||0||Minor||Zone left|
|Kraus and Ciulla attempt to execute one of these zone blocks we've seen of late wherein the first blocker blows the guy back and the second blocker picks him up as the other peels downfield. These need a name: they are now handoff blocks. This one is executed poorly, as Kraus(-1) never gets into him and Ciulla can't get there; the result is the DT tackling at the LOS.|
|Linebackers take steps back and get themselves in trouble; three second-level blockers get out to their man and momentarily this looks like a brewing big play; Ciulla(-1) loses his guy, who forces Minor outside, robbing a couple second level guys of their angles and limiting this to a small gain.|
|Minnesota sends the house; Mallett reads it and finds an open Manningham. The ball's knocked down; IMO just bad luck and a good play from the Gopher DL. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 1 min 1st Q.|
|50||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||-4||--||Free touchdown|
|Hey, that sucked ass. One clarification from earlier: this was intended to be a run play, not a pass.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-10, 14 min 2nd Q.|
|M21||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||3||Minor||Zone left|
|Michigan seals the edge, as Butler, with some help from Long, blows the DE off the ball and gets out on a linebacker. If he wants it Minor can get the corner; he inexplicably cuts it up. He does get a good push after making contact, but this was a missed read.|
|Minnesota blitzes, opening this up. Good throw and catch; little YAC. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|We get this, but another example of why I hate the stretch on third ands hort. Minnesota loads up the frontside with two linebackers and has eight in the box with one deep safety; Butler takes a hit from a charging LB, eventually stalemating him and driving him back a bit; his one-armed tackle attempt is warded off by Minor at the LOS. The backside pursuers fall, and Minor has a lane.|
|Lead draw fake with Minnesota showing eight in the box. Arrington has one-on-one coverage, running a comeback route that's ends up pretty well covered. Not sure if this was a poor route or poor timing. In any case, the window here is small and Mallett hits it. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2) Curry says this is a horrible read. I don't think it's so bad.|
|M42||2||3||Ace 3-wide||Run||5||Minor||Zone right|
|Excellent push from the right side of the line but four players end up sprawled on the ground in a mess. Minor hops over them, getting popped by Steve Davis after picking up the first. Clay Matvick is always wrong about the yardage. I hate him.|
|M47||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Pass||22||Arrington||Stop and go|
|Mallett pumps; the corner bites on a stop route. Mallett then lofts it into the space vacated. The ball is a little long â€“ Arrington lays out, making a gorgeous grab â€“ but catchable enough. (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|We're watching replays as this snaps. Looks like Ciulla can't maintain his block.|
|Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw is a week late. Next time be infinity weeks late. Minnesota's MLB shoots up between OL as if this play is sort of... predictable.|
|Batted down. Bleah! (BA, 0, protection 0/1)|
|Drive Notes: FG(42), 3-10, 10 min 2nd Q. Lopata called a senior; he does have another year.|
|M37||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||5||Brown||Zone left|
|Again attacking the edge; a combo block from Long and Butler drives the DE back as Criswell takes on the corner. There's a gap between the two. Butler eventually loses the Long-provided momentum and allows his guy to come free to tackle with the help of a linebacker.|
|M42||2||5||Ace 4-wide||Pen||-5||Boren||False start|
|Butler spread wide; Mallett tosses a short out that's well covered. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Mallett with all day, eventually firing it long to Manningham in virtually the same spot on the field Arrington was. Like that pass, this is a little long and outside, but Manningham makes a fantastic juggling catch. (CA, 1, protection 3/3)|
|O15||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Minor||Zone left|
|Going after the edge. Helmuth in as a second tight end. Butler can't really seal his guy (Long does a great job to make him the only relevant player) but does stalemate him. Minor meets him two yards downfield; he, Butler, and Helmuth combine to make a train that plows its way inside the ten. Powerful running.|
|O7||2||2||I-Form Twins||Run||-2||Minor||Zone left|
|Ciulla's asked to make a near-impossible block as Boren ignores the NT lined up directly in front of him. Ciulla can do little but chase him to Minor. Minor manages to get past him, but the play's messed up. Stretch on short yardage.|
|Overthrown. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) Curry says he's just throwing it away, but there's a window here since Arrington can jump out of the stadium; Mallett misses it entirely.|
|Drive Notes: FG(26), 6-10, 6 min 2nd Q.|
|Arrington runs a stop route; a Minnesota player plows him. Mallett has to take off. After initially trying to get something downfield, he settles for a decent run. (TA, protection 2/2)|
|Eight in the box for Minnesota. We have an inverted TE set with Webb [erroneously IDed as Butler earlier. -ed] in a two-point stance on the line next to Moundros in the backfield; we run a draw off this. Webb(+1) gets an outstanding block on the linebacker attempting to contain; two guys come up inside; Moundros does a good job with one. This time Minor makes the right read, shooting outside into acres of space for a big gain. Long also excellent here.|
|O45||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||12||Minor||Zone right|
|Shuffle right, run right, away from the TE. This time we get an actual zone block from Ciulla and Boren, who drive the DT back; Ciulla(+1) peels out on to a linebacker as Helmuth hits the hole. Long has made the tough stretch block on the backside DT, the one Ciulla could not make on the last drive. This allows Boren to head downfield and flatten a linebacker. With a crease and no chasers, Minor hits the secondary again. (Replay)|
|Miscommunication between Long and Boren; both head out to the second level, allowing the frontside DE in unmolested. Think this is on Boren because, well, obviously, right? Brown runs past the DE; he makes a shoestring tackle.|
|Minnesota stacks the line and sends them all, six in total. Arrington gets a step on the seam and has the opportunity to make a catch with only a safety to juke for the endzone; Mallett overthrows it. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Excellent coverage from Minnesota: a bump and no separation; Manningham forced to the sideline. Mallett loads up and threads it in there; Manningham makes a good catch as the corner fails to locate the ball. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|O5||1||G||Ace Twins||Pen||-5||Ciulla||False start|
|Ciulla(-1); he's yanked for McAvoy.|
|A horrible decision; an equally horrible throw bails him out or Mallett throws an interception here. What's worse is he had a simple dumpoff to Mathews on the "TE" pull with no one within ten yards of him. Maybe a touchdown; definitely five yards. (BR, 0)|
|O10||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Pass||6||Manningham||WR Screen|
|Mathews in the backfield; he motions out to two guys at the top of the formation; I mutter "screen"; Michigan screens. Excellent blocks from Arrington and Mathews; I wish Manningham had attacked this a little harder and picked up another yard or three. (CA, 3)|
|O4||3||G||Ace 3-wide||Pass||2 (pen)||Manningham||Slant|
|Manningham abused; flag. (CA, N/A, protection 1/1)|
|O2||1||G||I-Form Big||Run||2||Minor||Zone left|
|Can I use a touchdown as a further example of why I hate stretches on short yardage? The Minnesota MLB shoots into the backfield, nearly tripping Minor at the five. Minor manages to run past him, then cut up into a massive hole as Boren(+1) blocks a mofo into the wall.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-10, 3 min 2nd Q.|
|We motion the TE to the side oppose our FB offset, then run to the offset. Ciulla and Kraus combine on a crushing zone block that drives the Minnesota DT five yards downfield; there's a gaping hole up the middle as a result. Good job by Boren to seal the backside DT, and good downfield block by Long. Helmuth uselessly runs up the back of the zone block, allowing the MLB to tackle unblocked, but only after six yards; Minor carries him for three more.|
|Kraus has a tough time with the DT, getting no push and no seal; escorting him down the line to Minor. They meet at the LOS; Minor pushes forward for the first down. Think Minor misses a cutback opportunity here, as Schilling cut the backside DT to the ground.|
|Schilling(-2) lets this guy in, sure, and this is another instance where he's been shaky in pass pro. But Mallett has to help the guy out and step up in the pocket instead of running right into the DL and fumbling. (PR, 0, 0/2, Schilling -2)|
|Drive Notes: EOH, 13-10, EOH.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form Twins||Run||3||Minor||Zone left|
|A late-blitzing safety makes this a seven-man front with another cornerback coming up to cut off the outside. Kraus again does an adequate but not great job on the DT. No penetration but no push and no seal. There is still a small gap between the DT and DE that Mallett flows up into. The Gopher safety does a good job of picking through traffic to pop Minor after he squeezes through the hole; more Gophers converge, including the aforementioned DT.|
|Same story with Kraus and the DT except a charging Moundros does a great job of chipping him as he plunges through the hole, knocking him backwards and to the ground. Moundros then continues on, helping Minor get a cutback lane by shoving a linebacker on the second level. Minor into the secondary. A Dudley-level play from Moundros here. Also, kudos to Schilling for getting a late cut on a backside DT.|
|Minnesota brings an eighth guy in the box and blitzes a linebacker right into the G-C gap on the frontside where the last two plays have gone. He gets through and tackles for loss. On Debord.|
|M40||2||13||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Manningham||WR Screen|
|Michigan motions a TE out to two receivers at the top of the screen; I mutter "screen"; Michigan screens. Mallett throws it over Manningham's head. (IN, 0)|
|Mallett with time; can't find anyone. He steps up, continues to look around, and eventually scrambles for a few yards. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Miss the first portion of this play coming back from commercial... I mean, no big deal, it's just a 48-yard run. Even better: the replay is from ground level. From what I can tell, Kraus gets a seal on aDT; a frontside zone double shoves the other guy out of the hole, and Boren(+1) plows the MLB. Long must have gotten a good cut as tehre's no one on the backside when Minor cuts back. From there he's off to the races.|
|O43||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||0||Minor||Zone left|
|Eight in the box; Kraus(-1) has a bit of a hard time with his guy and Minor decides to take it outside instead of heading upfield in the gap. Butler(-1) doesn't to a good job on Davis, forcing Minor further outside; the play is strung out.|
|Minnesota blitzing up the middle; one unblocked linebacker picked off by Moundros; the other is forced to halt by the traffic. Unfortunately, McAvoy has peeled off in a futile attempt to get the second blitzing linebacker, allowing Davis to fill on a play that otherwise would have worked for near first-down yardage.|
|Mallett one-hops a stop route that wasn't going for the first down, anyway. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 13-10, 9 min 3rd Q. Zoltan, angry, boots it into the endzone.|
|M25||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Minor||Inside zone|
|A rare zone play that's not a stretch. Michigan is fortunate the unblocked Davis doesn't shoot into Minor on this play; as it is he's a foot away. Minor cuts out of the intended hole, finding a crease between Butler and Schilling; he meets resistance 3-4 yards downfield, powering forward for a sizable gain a
|M33||2||2||Ace 3-wide||Pen||-5||McAvoy||False start|
|A well-timed corner blitz gets to Minor in the backfield; the corner trips him up by his ankles. Kraus(-1) defeated on a second level block; this wasn't going anywhere anyway.|
|Well, yeah, of course he makes this throw. Wish it was a little bit inside, as then it's a touchdown, but that's a tiny nit to pick. Manningham blew by on a straight fly route. Oh, I hope you're really really back. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Minnesota shifts very late, bringing up an eighth guy and throwing two linebackers at the strong side of the play. In the stands, I go "noooooooo" as Michigan snaps it and runs right into it; Brown breaks it big. Outstanding job by Helmuth to stone one of the strongside linebackers; Brown heads outside of him. Long blows the DE back; Boren... uh... definitely gets away with holding, dragging the DT to the ground. Criswell loses another LB but manages to block him out of the Long-generated crease. Secondary time. Five yards downfield, Brown meets up with Long still driving his guy back; a filling safety trips over the Minnesota DE's legs. Brown slips down to the five. This should go on Long's Heisman reel.|
|O4||1||G||I-Form||Run||4||Brown||Inside zone left|
|Key to this play is a powerful zone double from Boren and Kraus that drives the DT back four yards; McAvoy just barely gets enough of a cut on the backside DE; Schilling heads out to the second level and gets a good cut on a LB. Helmuth stones a guy on the fronside; Brown runs up the backs of Boren and Kraus for the TD.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-10, 3 min 3rd Q.|
|The Minnesota LBs are washed out; the MLB shoots upfield and is shoved to the ground by Kraus; Long engulfs the SLB. A safety heads outside for contain; Minor follows the FB between Butler and Boren(+1), who got the DT sealed at the last moment â€“ no grasping arms. Minor bolts through the hole and into daylight. (Replay)|
|Not sure what Moundros(-1) is thinking here, as there's a cavernous hole on the frontside that Davis is trying to fill. He peels off and hits a backside DT who's not a threat, leaving Davis alone. Minor manages to cut back for a few because the drive blocks mentioned previously (Boren +1, Kraus +1, Long +1) have opened up major space.|
|O48||2||7||I-Form Twins||Run||6||Brown||Zone left|
|Our unbalanced line that we toyed with against Eastern; still a 100% run formation. Minnesota appears to know this, shoving an eighth guy in the box and shifting to the overloaded side; doesn't matter. Boren(+1) again gets the DT sealed; Long and Butler have crushed the DE downfield. A desperate arm tackle from a pancaked backside DT and Schilling's inability to cut his guy lead to a tackle, but it's six yards downfield.|
|O42||3||1||I-Form Twins||Run||1||Brown||Zone left|
|The unblocked backside DE comes in to make this play... actual blocking was definitely sufficient for the first. I dunno... Brown sometimes goes down too easy for my tastes. Not much YAC in his legs.|
|I disagree with Bill Curry on everything. I just wanted to say that. Everything. Except an Englemon tackle earlier in this game. Mallett sneaks it.|
|Perfect throw; Manningham toast his guy; ballgame. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-10, 13 min 4th Q.|
|Criswell(-1) gets beat; the delay that causes allows the backside unblocked guys to close it down.|
|Critical error from the Gopher DT, who takes a step back instead of slanting hard left; this allows McAvoy to slide out on him and get a block as Kraus heads to the second level. Boren does a good job on the other DT; Moundros crushes one linebacker; Schilling cuts the other one. Brown jets for the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 34-10, 8 min 4th Q. Charting? Over.|
Well, that was... confusing.
Indeed. I mean, just look at the--
Those three DOs were all near-perfect bombs; two more CAs were further bombs that receivers laid out for. Other than that, though... ugly, ugly, ugly. Many of those incompletions were on screens and stops. The BR was also IN or Mallett throws a terrible redzone interception; in general TAs and BAs and PRs are not held against the quarterback unless they start to pile up... six is starting to pile up. And then there was the free touchdown. This was without question the most schizophrenic quarterback performance I can remember.
As a result: several scoring drives when the long completions came in with bupkis otherwise. Frankly, Mallett is a C- quarterback at the moment, and Henne's health will be critical for the stretch run.
It is nice that when Mallett does something right it's often damned impressive. He seems to have terrific command of the pocket and has arm strength for days. He was supposedly very accurate in high school; both Navarre and Henne had skittish days where they sailed a lot of balls before working their mechanics out and getting accurate. Mallett has a world of potential; still, I'm concerned that he will remain thoroughly bad through most of next year.
A flawless day from the wideouts, albeit in limited opportunities to actually catch the ball. The first two bombs from Mallett were circus catches.
Protection: 27/31, Schilling -3, Team -1.
A great day from anyone who wasn't Schilling, and Schilling wasn't awful. Just Minnesota, though.
Why did we run so much better in the second half? Was it the Ciulla-McAvoy switch? Something different we did schematically?
Not in my opinion. The key, IMO, were a few truly outstanding blocks from Boren and Kraus on some of Michigan's many zone lefts. Long was also near flawless, but he is always near flawless. During the Illinois game it was clear that Michigan was one block away from breaking into the secondary time and again. Against Minnesota they were again one block away through much of the first half; in the second half they started getting those blocks. I'd like to see Boren match that level of performance against a defense that isn't the worst in I-A before anointing him Arrived, but it was a really encouraging performance from him.
Also, Mark Moundros spent much less time flopping at the feet of linebackers and more time punching them in the facemask with his head; this was the first time this year the fullbacks were a definite positive.
As far as the scheme goes, there were a few instances where we saw true zone doubles on the interior of the line -- Brown's first touchdown run for one -- instead of the stretch blocking we've gotten used to over the past year and a half. These were generally very effective, perhaps because the Minnesota DTs were in no way able to stand up to them. That might not be as effective against lumbering tubs of goo.
Long, Kraus, and Boren; Manningham. Minor, I thought, was the better of the backs, consistently running with power and picking up YAC.
Mallett was the main reason the offense sputtered early. Schilling appears to be a weak link in pass protection.
What does this mean for Michigan State?
Very little assuming Henne and Hart plays. I think everyone's more worried about Henne now that Hart's backups have shown they aren't straight off the short bus, if that's a takeaway lesson.
Other things that might be relevant: Boren is quickly playing himself out of "oh God, so young" status. Manningham looks to be back to the form he
flashed before the meniscus injury last year; Spartan cornerbacks beware.
Overall, this offense was sabotaged/saved by a freshman backup quarterback playing against the nation's worst defense. Little can be gleaned.
10/29/2007 - Michigan 34, Minnesota 10 - 7-2, 5-0 Big Ten
If you could create some sort of time vortex that inverted the order of the quarters in the Minnesota game Saturday, there would be no complaints from even the grumpiest Michigan fans out there. After an insane decision to rotate David Cone and Nick Sheridan at QB and two atom-sized white dudes at RB on the open series, Carlos Brown jets for an 85 yard touchdown, Ryan Mallett lays in a perfect strike to Mario Manningham, and the rout is on. It's 21-0 at halftime and eventually 34-0 before Mallett offers Minnesota a free touchdown and the Gophers get a late, meaningless field goal. Order is restored, Michigan squashes all comers and everyone goes home happy, even wizard's sleeve Tim Brewster, as Michigan's final drives would have been tepid three-and-outs.
This did not so much happen. I didn't actually read this week's game thread -- it's 926 comments long! -- but I did get this email about it from Matt K:
I wanted to drop you an apology for the flame war that took place in the game comment thread. I got pretty pissed off at something that was said and unleashed a barrage of f-bombs and inappropriate insults. I know you like to keep that stuff to a minimum. I know you'll end up deleting the posts, but please don't ban me. It won't happen again. I won't comment for a few days and will come back with a clean mouth and without the anger.
I would put the ETA on this little contretemps at two seconds after Mallett fumbled away the aforementioned free touchdown, staking Minnesota to a 10-0 lead. I can sympathize. In the stands at Michigan Stadium, I swore like a sailor and mentally prepared myself for The Horror II.
Michigan ran off 34 straight points and 500 yards from that point, Minnesota 0 and about 100. Michigan's last useless throw to Andre Criswell vaulted them to 561 yards, eight past Minnesota's season average. After the game, I accepted a chiding for my lack of faith. I'm betting that simultaneously frequent game thread commenter Magnus called various other frequent game thread commenters wizard's sleeves for various slurs, profanities, and gypsy curses uttered whenever anything went wrong during the game.
I was annoying; Matt was annoying; Magnus was annoying. We are all united in this. All of us reasonable people are really two completely insane people coming to a compromise. One of them, sports id, is Mike Valenti (MAKE PLAYS!). The other, sports hope, is that guy who predicts 12-0 before every season and then is totally unperturbed when things go wrong when they should be angrier than anyone. Unadulterated, both are irritating. So let's stop, maybe? Let's take immediate aftermath venting for what it is and let it go; I promise to not let gunmetal skies, Appalachian State, and the comical ineptness of an opponent or two ruin the last days of Hart and Henne and Long and (very probably) Manningham.
- This game meant nothing given all the backups in and the hideous performance of the Minnesota quarterback. The only two takeaways, IMO: a reinforcement of our issues with the interior run and what should be a final dispelling of any Manningham-related discontent.
- I swear to God I sat directly in front of Gloria from Miscellaneous T. Same irritating New Yawk accent, same complete inability to grasp simple concepts -- her husband explained that the teams switched endzones after the first quarter, then had to explain it again after the third -- and the same (projected) inability to stop talking. It was alternately amusing and awful. They were going to the Gandy Dancer after the game; I debated whether to tell them it was the most overrated restaurant in town and suggest the Earle, eventually deciding against it. The specter of a long conversation where she completely failed to understand me was too much.
- At halftime, a various men set up something that looked like an oversized metallic dandelion, then exhorted the crowd to cheer the oversized metallic dandelion, then took the OMD to the sideline without offering either an explanation or compensatory pyrotechnics. We booed them as they left the field. Why? Because eff them, that's why.
Does anyone have any idea what this was all about? The theory batted around was that they were measuring noise levels, but why and for what? And why at halftime when nothing in particular was going on?
- Oh God, every dire and awful item about Ryan Mallett's preparation consisting of playing MarioKart and listening to Bob Marley seemed horribly true in the first half. The free touchdown, screens winged to Tacopants -- Tacopants has never done screens before -- and Mallett's now-standard running-around-and- maybe-doing-something- awesome-but-probably-just-getting-sacked act... all horrible. Even the long completions were overthrown balls upon which Manningham and Arrington made superb catches. (This is less of a criticism, since said balls were a bit long and outside -- the place to miss if you're going to miss -- and they were completed; any ball thrown that far downfield and completed is by definition a decent throw.) I pined for, in order: Tom Brady, Chad Henne, Steven Threet, David Cone, Nick Sheridan, myself, and Richard Nixon's corpse, almost reaching Jimmah Clausen before Mallett did something, anything right and definitively proved himself better than Jimmah. Then in the second half he bombed and bombed and bombed and hey, that's pretty good. The most deeply schizophrenic performance by a Michigan QB in a long time.
- Greg Mathews looks like he's going to get his shin broken on every punt return.
- Weekly complaints about special teams: Zoltan dropped three punts at the five. All of them made it to the endzone. Not once has a Michigan gunner flagged down one of the many opportunities Zoltan The Inconceivable has provided to pin opponents deep. More evidence of disjointed coaching on special teams, yes? ZTI ended up so disgusted that he booted a second-half punt into the endzone, saving the crowd the trouble of hoping.
- At this point it looks like Michigan is going to have a bonafide tailback rotation in 2008 for the first time since Anthony Thomas took over for Clarence and Howard in 1998. (Unless you'd like to count the brief Askew-Perry here, but IIRC that was short-lived due to injury.) Grady, Minor, and Brown are all likely to receive carries, and probably for most of the year.
- Another day, another disturbing inability to stop read option dives. At least with Mendenhall and Jonathan Stewart you could console yourself with the idea those guys would be playing in the NFL before long. This Bennett kid? Not so much. Fortunately, it looks like we're done with the damned spread option until the bowl game; unfortunately it's doubtful that Michigan's weakness against the interior rush is limited to just one particular play.
- I don't know if the pass interference call on Warren was legit, but even if it was that sort of tough in-your-face defending bodes extremely well for his future. Draped on the receiver, he found the ball and made a play on it. The recruiting hype on him, at least, was 100% accurate.
- Brandon Harrison has come into his own as a detonator of screen and option plays.