'House. Jimmy Johns delivers coke so fast you'll freak*, and 'Bama is one scholarship closer to cramming everyone in the phone booth. Just like Saban planned. (Thanks to the dozen or so emailers on this... more email than I've received on a single topic in blog history, I think.)
I think I should revise my position here: Saban's managed to sluff off most of his roster deadweight on medical scholarships of dubious merit and it looks like there will be no outright cuts. So this is not PURE EVIL, as previously theorized. It is still KIND OF EVIL, a highly unethical way to game the system that makes Alabama hope something like 20 Fulmer Cup points happens. As the JCCW says:
...I doubt Lionel Mitchell probably thinks very much of the crunch. I have zero clue how severe his back injury might be, but either a) it's hella severe, career-threatening, painful as anything, and still even 'Bama fans are writing things like "If I had to wager, I would bet there's nothing wrong with his back" and believing he was just too crappy to keep his scholarship; b) it's not that severe, but rather than wait and see if he could come back from it and contribute, his coach has told him his career's over anyway. Neither seems like a scenario that would make Lionel Mitchell happy.
Second: I certainly don't blame 'Bama fans for not wanting to put the 2 of Lewis's surprise academic disqualification--which even OTS said was "dumbfound[ing]," "never made sense," and left him with "no clue"--and the 2 of "'Bama needs scholarships" together.
Also at the FanHouse: if you have Time Warner you may be getting good news about the Big Ten Network soon.
(HT: Pete Holiday.)
Vic Sprouse might want to buy a disguise kit. The West Virginia Record describes itself as "West Virginia's legal journal" and one Vic Sprouse comes down on Rich Rodriguez's side in the ongoing spat:
Looking at the RichRod saga now through the prism of knowledge of the utter disaster that is the Garrison administration, it is apparent that they ran Rich off.
I believe Rich is telling the truth when he said the entire relationship changed when Garrison took over. His relationship with Pastilong changed. His relationship with Garrison changed. And, before you know it, Garrison was wanting to show he was the new Sheriff in town and he wasn't going to accept ANY ADDITIONAL demands of Rich Rodriguez.
What a shame.
Michigan lucked out because West Virginia is the sort of backwards place where the governor can appoint an unqualified unversity president the entire faculty thinks is a dolt, and that president and his athletic director can poison their relationship with one of the best coaches in the country. Rodriguez fell into our laps just when we were going to start scraping the bottom of the barrel.
First, one thing I can't take is just how often Rich refers to himself in the third person. That is such a bad habit, someone needs to break him of it, it's tough to listen to him say "Rich Rodriguez" over and over.
I don't have as much revenue as the Big Ten, so I can only read a couple sentences from this Sports Business Journal article:
The Big Ten Conference generated more than $177 million in revenue during its 2006-07 fiscal year, according to documents filed this month with the Internal Revenue Service.
Anyone got the full monty on this? I assume it has interesting Big Ten Network details.
Worst. Comic. Ever. Andy Staples has an entertaining piece on the constant race to stay one step ahead of the NCAA's recruiting regulations. The real meat, though, is an honest-to-god recruiting tool used by Oregon to land Jonathan Stewart, who you may remember from such runs as "Aaargh," "Aaaargh not again," "I want to die," and "How many points do they have now?" It's a comic book. The worst comic book ever made. This is perhaps my favorite stupid part of many stupid parts:
The comic's "plot" consists of a kindly old grandfather telling his towheaded little brat all about the legend of "Snoop," AKA Jonathan Stewart. That grandfather is... familiar.
Follow up. Lake The Posts landed an interview with the Northwestern sign-stealing guy that's worth a read. There's this on Payne's tendencies -- the Luther Van Dam bit:
As I broke down the film of Michigan's offense in '95 I thought there was a possible tendency with the center's non-snapping hand. I went back and checked every snap and sure enough the tendency was about 95% that when his hand was on the ground it was run and when he had it on his thigh it was pass. This was not signal stealing, this was just a tendency found way before the game was even played. But it was a GREAT help for our defense. (As a GA I was in the coaching booth for games and was not stealing signals.) This is not exactly unfair tactics on our part but more of an error on their part. Either they coached the center to do the hand thing or the kid was doing it himself and their coaches never noticed. Either way it was their own fault.
That speaks to a certain complacency, I think. I wonder how many other teams noticed?
Etc.: normally I am a Michael Rosenberg fan but I have to agree with BSD and their fisking of his BTN-Comcast column. Said column made no sense. Vijay's trying to figure out if ESPN's any better at ranking players. Autumn Thunder makes a triumphant return. More pictures of stuff, this the football practice facility.
A day after I trash the Free Press for focusing on things like Tae Bo instead of information, Mark Snyder puts out an interesting piece about the '97 championship and the ballboys that saved it. This is literally the headline: "How 2 ballboys stopped opponent's signal stealing, saved UM's 1997 title."
The story: two student managers ferret out that Northwestern has somehow stolen Michigan's offensive signals, and run over to the other side of the field at half time to urge Lloyd Carr and company to change things up. After being bottled up in the first half, scoring thirteen points, Michigan explodes for... uh... ten in the second. Without the student manager's contribution, Michigan could have lost to Northwestern by negative one touchdown. The final score was 23-6.
Okay, so the story is oversold. It's still pretty interesting as a tall tale from the past, and you should read it if you've got a few minutes. My take-home message was vastly different from what was intended, I think.
Some key passages:
"There was a guy on their sideline that day, and he had our signals down pat," Datz said. "Every time, he would scream into the defense what we're going to do -- pass or run -- and he was almost always right. ...
"They were blowing up draws, calling our counters and destroying our screen passes -- all a big part of our plays that year. I was just screaming mad. Youtan and I are thinking to ourselves, 'This guy has us.' "
Raise your hand if you think you could predict with 80% certainty whether a Michigan play would be a run or pass. It is possible they just co-opted a cranky 50-something Michigan fan.
Anyway, the kids run across the field and tell Carr early in the third quarter. This is the result:
"I absolutely remember that," Carr said recently. "The reason I do remember it is I don't ever remember anybody else offering advice or information during a game.
"Those are all bright guys that get into those positions. But that's the only time I remember one telling me something."
But that still wasn't enough for the coaches to change their signal calling. So later in the quarter, Datz said he ran around the field to repeat the message to Magnus.
The play that finally sold the U-M coaches on the need to adjust came on a third-and-25 with less than three minutes left in the third quarter. That's when U-M tailback Clarence Williams ran a sweep -- an odd call for that down and distance -- and two Wildcats grabbed him behind the line of scrimmage.
It's only after this play that Michigan grabs Jason Kapsner and starts sending in multiple sets of signals. But this is the kicker:
In 1995 and '96, Hansburg said, all he had to do was watch U-M center Rod Payne, a one-handed snapper who apparently placed his opposite hand on the ground for a running play and on his thigh for a passing play.
This was the plot of an episode of Coach. When the Minnesota State Screaming Eagles play for the national championship in the Pioneer Bowl, ditzy assistant coach Luther Van Dam (Jerry Van Dyke) gets concussed and has to watch from the hospital, where he notices one offensive lineman has totally different stances for run and pass. He calls in the tip and Hayden Fox gets a Gatorade bath. I was 14, and 14 years later I remember this clear as day.
Reading Johnny's piece yesterday was the love side of my love-hate relationship with Lloyd Carr. This is the hate side. ONE: Michigan didn't bother employing multiple signal-callers -- a zero-cost activity -- from day one. TWO: It took them a full quarter and a second prodding to actually act on the information provided by the student managers when the cost of listening was zero. THREE: They ran a sweep on third and twenty-five. FOUR: Michigan football was outsmarted by Jerry Van Dyke.
Silver spoon, coal spoon
None of this should surprise you. This was a program that would run 95% of the time it lifted its starting wide receivers. Lloyd Carr thought deception and trickery had their place in football, and that place was Northwestern.
When you are at a place like Michigan and you have been inculcated in the culture of the program for the vast majority of your coaching career, I think you take certain things for granted. One of them is the belief that a paramount focus on execution is enough. That if you motivate and educate and drill better than the other team, you will win. It did very well for Bo until he got to Pasadena, and it did pretty well for Carr until Tressel showed up (and, it must be said, Carr had a real run of rotten luck re: actually getting to use his senior quarterbacks), but it was always giving something away. You have a limited amount of time with your charges every week; there is always time to work on your poker skills. Michigan's been bad at poker forever.
Rich Rodriguez focuses on execution and motivation -- see Barwis -- but he also makes deception his stock-in-trade, creating a modern version of the triple option that has intricate variations and one end result: linebacker confetti. In a way, the spread 'n' shred is terribly predictable. They run, they run, they run. But you do not run more than all but five other teams and finish top five in YPC three years running unless you know when to bluff and when to raise.
Rodriguez comes from a wholly different background than Carr, coming up through the ranks at NAIA schools and Tulane and Clemson and West Virginia. Until Pat White showed up he never had a significant talent advantage agaginst the vast majority of opponents. He never, ever had the luxury of lying back and thinking to himself "if we out-execute the opponent we will win," and it shows. He invented a whole new offense and used it to exploit inefficiencies in recruiting. To seal the Sugar Bowl against Georgia he called a fake punt, exploiting inefficiencies in fourth-down playcalling. For the past seven years he has played Moneyball at West Virginia.
To me, the exciting thing about Rodriguez is not necessarily his system but his mindset. He's looking to squeeze out every ounce of expectation, make every resource stretch as far as he can, and now he's been provided resources few other coaches have. When Moneyball moved to Boston in the personage of Theo Epstein, Pedro Martinez got a hat:
no video; sorry.
|A simple out turns into a huge play because the receiver ends up on top of two defenders and manages to get up and sprint downfield. It's hard to get exercised about this. It's a fluke. (Cover -1)|
|Bacher gives a pump fake and two Wildcats leap as if the ball is coming to them on short screen routes; the third receiver to that side runs a wheel that Trent(+1) covers excellently. Ball OOB; probably just a throw away. (Cover +1)|
|M16||2||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|The center and tackle move out to the second level immediately; Crable is unblocked. Taylor(+1) fills the gap where this play is supposed to go; Conteh is forced to run it into Crable for a minimal gain.|
|Zone blitz with a DT backing off at the snap, probably BGraham. Bacher takes a short stop route; Adams(+1) closes on it short of the sticks.|
|Drive Notes: FG (26), 0-3, 13 min 1st Q. It's hard to blame the D for the big play on this drive, since by all appearances the guy was down and to continue hitting him only invites late hit flags. It's a fluke.|
|O21||1||10||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Stop|
|Stunting abounds as we line up with one DT and huge, huge splits out the DEs. Seems like an invitation to run; they do not. Terrance Taylor(+1) plows his man directly back into Bacher, who throws inaccurately on an eight-yard stop. (Pressure +1). Stop was open enough.|
|O21||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Out|
|BGraham(+1) avoids an attempted cut block and comes in on Bacher, forcing a hasty throw. This is to a TE on a little out; CGraham(+1) is there to put his helmet into the ball and knock it loose. Four yard gain even if caught. (Cover +1)|
|O21||3||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Out|
|Trent(-1) beaten and leaves his man open past the sticks. Bacher finds him but throws it well in front of the guy, he bats it in the air and allows Trent time to close.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 8 min 1st Q. Most of this is on Bacher. He had open guys twice and couldn't hit them.|
|O16||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-3||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor(+1) pushes into the backfield, impeding the course of Conteh and checks on Bacher; Crable(+2) also drives his guy into the backfield, sheds, and tackles for loss.|
|O13||2||13||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||12||Zone read handoff|
|Another instance where we have huge splits between our DT and our DEs; Crable lines up outside the DE and Ezeh is the only guy in the middle. Oh, and guess what? Taylor stunts at the snap. End result: gaping hole up the middle, the center moving to the second level without even having to think about blocking Taylor, and one redshirt freshman linebacker in his first start getting blocked. This is a twelve yard gain and no minuses except to the coaching staff, who begged the Wildcats to run it down their throat.|
|O25||3||1||Shotgun 2-TE||Base 4-3||Pass||3||RB Flat|
|BGraham(+1) cuts through some blockers to pressure Bacher; it's too late as Conteh is open on a little flat route. Can't blame CGraham in coverage since this is a tough route to cover in man and there was a pick that impeded his progress. (Cover -1)|
|This is the second week someone has claimed Morgan Trent is from San Diego. WTF? Bacher misthrows a screen that probably would have worked.|
|O28||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||8||Zone read handoff|
|Major push from Taylor and Crable cuts off the outside; Jamison is cut to the ground and makes an ankle-tackle attempt from his knees. BGraham(-1) ridden out of the play; Ezeh(-1) hesitant and there's a gap. Adams fills competently.|
|Lane runs a little stop route right in front of the sticks and Bacher throws it in. CGraham(+1) in tight coverage; this a nice throw. (Cover +1)|
|Bacher has all day to throw (pressure -2) after a little draw fake that the linebackers bite on; he finds Lane in between Adams and Trent(-1); Adams complains at Trent after the play. (Cover -2)|
|M46||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||-3||Zone read boot|
|Bacher keeps this; Crable(+1) is unblocked and nearly overruns this but manages to track him down for a loss.|
|M49||2||13||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||49||Zone read counter|
|I don't know what Michigan is doing here. They come out in a four-man line, then move around as if confused, eventually shifting into a three-man line much like the one they got gashed on earlier in the drive. We're stunting again, blitzing Chris Graham around the edge as NW pulls a tackle on a zone read counter. I believe John Ferrara(-1) is in the game getting blown off the ball as the lone NT against two blockers â€“ unsurprising â€“ and the stunting Graham gets picked off by the OT. Crable(-1) has run himself out of the play from his DE spot. Big hole. Brandent Englemon sits on the outside -- probably what Carr means by "maintaining leverage" and waits. When he collapses down he fails to tackle(-1). Jamar Adams(-2) overruns the play. Brandon Harrison(-1) overruns the play. It's a touchdown.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 3 min 1st Q. Twice on this drive Michigan finds itself in second and long, lines up in a 3-3-5 with huge gaps between their defenders and personnel ill-suited to defend the run with Obi Ezeh the only linebacker actually playing linebacker, and gets burned. This drive is all on Ron English.|
|O37||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||13 + 15||Zone read boot|
|Sadly, this was going for big yardage either way. Crable(-1) gives up contain on Bacher, though I can't be too hard on him because if he had handed the ball off the only way this doesn't get to the safeties is if he tracks it down from the backside. Bacher, freed, goes zip. Weak, weak late hit on Englemon. Frickin' hate th
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||4||Jailbreak screen|
|This comes paired with a fake RB screen to the other side. Think this is more a screwup by the NU OL than good play from us, but Ezeh(+1) manages to slice through a guy who overran his spot a bit and tackle for a small gain.|
|M32||2||6||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Fuzzy on this because of poor production that misses the start of the play. And as we come back Terrance Taylor is spinning off a guy around the LOS, forcing the RB into CGraham for a minimal gain. This was 3 or 4 if the guy runs N-S.|
|BGraham(+1) works his way to the QB and forces him to throw off his back foot. This allows Adams(+1) to close and get a PBU. (Pressure +1, cover +1)|
|Drive Notes: FG (48), 7-13, 14 min 2nd Q. Can't really blame the D too much here, since there was one first down and a questionable penalty.|
|Sigh. This is actually a great read and play by Brandon Harrison(+1) to jump in front of the slant. Unfortunately, he deflects the ball into the air and it's caught for a first down. 80% of the time this is an interception. (Cover +2)|
|O39||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||3||Option shovel|
|NW shows a speed option and drags a TE across the formation. Crable forms up on the QB until the Bacher pitches it inside; closing after a moderate gain. (Crable +1)|
|O42||2||7||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read counter|
|Same play that went for the TD, this time against a straight nickel. It still finds a huge hole as Ezeh(-1) is late reading it.|
|O47||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||10||RB Flat|
|Depressingly wide open; we blitz Harrison from the weakside and leave the short zone opposite him completely open. (Cover -2) Why are we playing so soft on third and two?|
|M43||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||1||Zone read handoff|
|Horrible production focuses on Lloyd Carr instead of the play on the field and we get a blimp view of this play... hard to tell what happens. I think Taylor(+1) stones two guys to submarine it.|
|M42||2||9||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Out|
|Crable(+1) avoids a chop, forcing an immediate throw; Adams(+1) reads and attacks this, causing a drop. (Cover +1, pressure +1).|
|Will Johnson comes straight up the middle; Crable also applies pressure. Bacher's forced to chuck an out short of the sticks. Harrison(+1) is there for the immediate tackle. (Cover +1, pressure +1_|
|Drive Notes: Punt(!), 7-13, 9 min 2nd Q. Fourth and three from the thirty-six and you punt. We're bailed out by Fitzgerald's idiotic call. Finding a guy who will never do this is a top priority when it comes to a new coach. Fourth downs are the one thing Charlie Weis gets absolutely right.|
|I don't know if this is an intentional underthrow or what, but Trent has this locked down. Unfortunately, he does not adjust to the ball(-1), allows Lane to come back and grab it, and then has serious trouble tackling(-1). Poor play. (Cover -1)|
|M36||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||0||Zone read handoff|
|Taylor(+1) discards his guy; Adams has snuck up to the line before the snap and charges into the hole; the two of them converge at the LOS.|
|M36||2||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||7||Zone read keeper|
|CGraham(-2), unblocked, overruns this and turns it from no gain into a solid play and probably a first down but for Bacher tripping.|
|Adams is an extra guy in the box; we tighten up the coverage. Rush package in. Bacher throws a slant right to Trent, who intercepts (+2, cover +2).|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-13, 6 min 2nd Q. Trent redeems himself.|
|Attempted pump-fake draw like we saw from Penn State a lot. I guess the plan is for Taylor(+1) to chase it or something, as the center sort of discards him and the guard to that side pulls around. This leaves him all alone in the hole. He misses the tackle but Crable is free to finish the play.|
|Harrison lets Lane inside of him for the slant. (-1, cover -1)|
|Blitzing with man behind it; blitz is ill-timed. Warren in good position here but does not get his head around for an available play on the ball, but does force the receiver to stab his foot in while being harrassed and gets a hand on the ball as it comes in... just an excellent play from NW here. (+1, cover +1, pressure -1) Carr challenges this, which I thought was dumb at the time but have come around. More later.|
|Another one of NW's misdirection screens. Bacher pump fakes to the tailback who flails like the ball is coming, then comes back to their TE/H-back guy for a middle screen. Unfortunately for them, he's run into an OL and is not in position to receive the pass. Would have been a big gainer, probably, otherwise.|
|Pretty simple out against man coverage. Harrison beaten (-1, cover -1)|
|Bacher tosses this away, though I'm not sure why as he's got a couple guys looking open. First read was not, though, and pressure was coming. (Cover +1)|
|Michigan is not blitzing and this is not well executed and should be hit for a minimal gain, but Harri
son(-2) overruns this CGraham style.
|M16||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-5||Zone read screwup|
|Bacher and Conteh bump into each other and Bacher ends up with the ball. He seems surprised by this. It does not end well for him.|
|NW decides to take a shot at the endzone. Warren(+1) and Adams(+1) are bracketing the WR; Bacher throws it away. (Cover +2)|
|M21||3||15||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||12||QB Draw|
|This is a give-up-and-kick playcall that's almost disastrous. Englemon manages to make the tackle; NW kicks.|
|Drive Notes: FG (29), EOH.|
|O9||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||11||Zone read handoff|
|Adams comes up to provide an extra man. Not sure who to blame here. Johnson drives his guy into the backfield so easily and so far that I think this might be rope-a-dope to open up a hole. Crable and CGraham close that hole, but Crable(-1) has given up outside contain and Conteh bounces it out for a major gain.|
|O20||1||10||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||5||Zone read handoff|
|More stunting as Taylor slides off onto a guard and CGraham blitzes into the other guard, who picks him up. Crease between Johnson and CGraham with no one behind it. Englemon(+1) makes an open field tackle... barely.|
|O25||2||5||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||9||Speed option|
|BGraham(-1) gives up outside contain, and there's no way CGraham can get off the block of a tackle who didn't even need to look at the DE. We had shifted our linebackers away from the playside here; our rock, their paper.|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun Trips||Nickel||Run||-2||Speed option|
|NW doesn't hurry to the line; Michigan takes the opportunity to get something on not guaranteed to bleed rushing yardage. This time CGraham(+1) is moving outside at the snap and the tackle can get out on him. Crable(+1) is less reckless, forcing the pitch but not taking himself out of the play. The two of them converge to tackle.|
|O32||2||12||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||13||Off tackle|
|Zone blitz! Stunting! Whee! Crable hops inside DE BGraham and gets clocked by the lead blocker. CGraham(-1) caught way too far inside and there's no linebacker support. This is like Appalachian State redux.|
|O45||1||10||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Out|
|Warren(+1) in excellent coverage(+1); Bacher doesn't find a second receiver and throws it away.|
|More stunting; this time miscommunication on the OL sends Renaldo Sagesse in unblocked. Bacher flushes from the pocket and just runs OOB for an unncessary loss. (Pressure +2, cover +1)|
|O43||3||12||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||Inc||Cross|
|Both RBs run upfield and cross. This completely confuses CGraham(-2), who lets the guy in his zone run completely wide open for a sure first down and possibly a very big gain. Bacher throws it behind him. (Cover -3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-16, 9 min 3rd Q. We luck out like whoah. Chris Graham... arrrrgh.|
|Our splits are really improbably wide here. NW flings a little swing pass. Harrison(+1) does a good job tracking it down and tackling. (Cover +1)|
|O25||2||12||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||4||QB Draw|
|Again with the wide splits. Ezeh blitzes into this and gets cut but does fill the hole; Bacher bounces it through the other side. Jamison's hugely wide split has led to a rush upfield and there's a gap you could see coming before the snap. Johnson and Adams close him down after a moderate gain.|
|Warren(-2) lets this inside of him too easily. (Cover -2). We were blitzing late with Adams... what's the point? (Pressure -1)|
|No idea what happens on this play due to crappy production.|
|Bacher pumps and hesitates, apparently staring down Warren's(+1) guy. (Cover +1) Jamison(+2) comes around the end, harrassing Bacher but missing him; his own OL sacks him by running into him. (Pressure +1)|
|We send five as NW max-protects and picks it up. Bacher has time (pressure -2), finding Lane in front of Trent. Pretty good coverage by Trent.|
|Another misdirection screen that goes to their H-back TE guy. CGraham(+1) reads it and closes. It helps that the other RB fell down and could not block him.|
|M34||2||5||Shotgun Trips||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||-1||Zone read keeper|
|More stunting; Crable(+1) loops in from the outside, coming past the pulling tackle and hitting Bacher for a loss. Dangerous; if Crable doesn't make a good play here this is wide open.|
|Corner blitz causes Bacher to hurry a bit; he throws it behind a guy open for the first. (Pressure +1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-16, 1 min 3rd Q. Fitzgerald bails us out with a terrible decision to punt yet again.|
|O1||1||10||I-Form Big||Base 4-3||Run||0||FB Dive|
|Taylor(+1) holds up against a double team.|
|O1||2||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Pass||Inc||TE Seam|
|Play action fake results in CGraham(-1) bite; Englemon(+2) comes up to dislodge the ball with a nice hit. (Cover +1) Graham injured.|
|O1||3||10||Ace||Base 4-3||Pass||20||Out and up|
|So stupid. It's third and ten, but it's from their one-yard-line so we load the box with eight guys and have a base set on third and long. Does it really matter if they run it out to the five? No. Anyway, they playfake it, we have eight guys within two yards of
the LOS three seconds after the snap, and Lane is wide open for the conversion. Awful coaching. (Cover -2.) Just because we would always run it and punt doesn't mean everyone else does.
|We miss this entire play. Whee big ten!|
|O23||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||0||Scramble|
|Bacher delays, first guy covered. (Cover +1) He sees a seam in the line and decides he'll run; Taylor(+1) grabs him as he passes and slows him up. Help comes.|
|O23||3||8||Shotgun 3-wide||3-3-5 Nickel||Pass||-7||Sack|
|BGraham(+3) beats his man plus a potential chip from the RB and swats the ball free from Bacher. Crable(+1) recovers. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-16, 10 min 4th Q.|
|Obviously some sort of three-step drop as two guys go for cut blocks. Crable(+1) avoids his and starts baring down. Bacher throws it to a covered guy on a stop route. Harrison(+1, cover +1) there.|
|O34||2||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||5||Zone read counter|
|Michigan fortuanate this doesn't go for more. Logan(-1) fails to read this and is in no position to stop the ball; Taylor(+1) reaches out and gets a hand on the RB's leg to tackle.|
|Adams a seventh man in the box. We play soft on the corners and they take the easy out. (Cover -2)|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||3-3-5 Nickel||Run||3||Zone read handoff|
|Tim Jamison(+1) beats his blocker and grabs the RB's leg in the backfield.|
|Despite the completion, tough to blame Harrison, who was in tight coverage and made this a difficult throw and catch. (Cover +1) No plus because he failed to tackle. Ah, no, on replay he gets a +1 anyway.|
|Harrison threatens blitz, backs off, and then comes at the snap. The OT does not get out on him and, because this is on the blindside, Bacher does not sidestep him. The ball is ejected as Harrison impacts him; Jamison comes down with it and starts running. (+1 Harrison, +1 Jamison, +3 pressure)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-16, 7 min 4th Q. This is probably Harrison's best game of his career.|
|Bacher wings it wide. Warren(+1, cover +1) all over it.|
|Bacher pumps but decides his guy is covered(+1); Crable(+1) charges through at the same time, disrupting his timing and perhaps contributing to that decision. Bacher rolls out and is collapsed on after a short gain. (Pressure +1)|
|Behind his guy on a crossing route that Logan was going to shut down before the sticks(+1 cover); tipped to Ezeh; interception.|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 21-16, 5 min 4th Q.|
|Patterson(+1) and BGraham(+2) both shred their blockers and come up on Bacher before these deep-ish routes can come to fruition. No chance. (Pressure +2)|
|Miss the entire play.|
|Jamison(+1) discards his guy, as does Crable(+2); Crable gets to Bacher first and does a sack/strip. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 28-16, 4 min 4th Q.|
Aiigh 300 yard first half burn!
We should really look at the chart.
Chchart it is.
|Taylor||9||-||9||Really effective when permitted to drive NW blockers directly backward, but asked to stunt often.|
|Ferrara||-||1||-1||Not really his fault, but he was a major issue on the long touchdown run.|
|Crable||12||4||8||Yeah, five TFLs and a FF and a FR and all that gets you a nice score.|
|B. Graham||8||2||6||Another strong game.|
|Ezeh||1||2||-1||Seemed like a major dropoff to some, but I don't think he's that responsible for any of NW's gashing runs. Sold out by the scheme, he was.|
|C. Graham||4||6||-2||Bailed out by Bacher a couple times.|
|Trent||4||1||3||Quietly pretty solid this year.|
|Harrison||5||5||0||Ok, so it grades out as a zero. But -3 went to him for screwing up running plays. (+1 was for the blindside sack.) His coverage was 4-2-+2, and he jumped a lot of little slant routes. Usually when someone gets targeted a lot he's|
|Warren||5||2||3||Big bounce-back day.|
|Adams||4||2||2||Major culprit on the long run.|
|"Pressure"||17||6||11||Again, a large portion of the positive here came towards the end of the game when Northwestern had to pass.|
|"Coverage"||24||18||6||Any positive coverage number is a very good job; this was a fine performance from the secondary.|
Are you high? We gave up 300 first half yards to a team that lost to Duke and ran for six inches against Ohio State and you hand out pluses like it's ecstasy at a rave?
Uh. Right, this was my impression as things progressed: "why are all these numbers so high?" It's like I'm suddenly dependent on assistant coaches for the information I receive. Some possible explanations:
- 64 of Northwestern's yards (ok, 56, we can give them an eight-yard out there) came on that fluky he's-down-no-he-isn't opening play. I didn't assign blame here.
- Michigan came out in this funky 3-3-5 that was not what reader DanK suggested in that guest post about slowing down the spread running attack. (More on this later.) Then they stunted out of this thing; several times when they did this Northwestern played paper (hey, no fair!) and Michigan was screwed from the snap. Several gashing runs have no minuses, the occasional five-yarder has a plus, etc. This is a sign you got outcoached. Maybe I should start tracking some RPS stats. I should.
- The D forced five turnovers. This tends to inflate numbers.
- Bacher had a weird day where he was either throwing something horribly behind his intended receiver or feathering a beauty sideline pass. A couple completions actually came coupled with pluses: the slant Harrison jumped that he deflected to a Wildcat, the sideline completion against Warren that was hugely difficult for both WR and QB, a few short throws that were snuffed out immediately upon the catch.
So... yeah. I think the defensive line and secondary both had excellent days. The linebackers, no so much, but whatever.
Speaking of that sideline completion late in the first half...
Right, we challenged it, and I'm totally on board with that.
The addition of the challenge has been mostly superfluous in college. Since every play is reviewed (and referees have apparently taken to standing over the ball waiting for the booth to get a look after potentially controversial game-changing plays, a change I am totally in favor of) anyway, the coaches' challenge usually sits unloved on the sideline, deployed as often as Notre Dame scores a touchdown. I believe this is the first time that Michigan has ever deployed a challenge, and it was a good use of the resource. 1) We were highly unlikely to use it in the second half. See the previous couple sentences. 2) We didn't need the timeout for anything else. 3) It was a close play.
So what about this 3-3-5 thing?
That was ugly, especially since this space ran (and endorsed) a guest post claiming that a 3-3-5 would be a more effective run defense against the spread option that shredded us so in the first couple games. A recap: since defensive ends usually run themselves upfield in a 4-2, you're asking both DTs to have two-gap responsibility. This is kind of tough. A formation like this:
...this is a snapshot from the 49-yard touchdown run. Note the splits between the DT and the DEs. In our diagram above, the DEs are lined up between the guard and tackle. This is 3-technique (I believe, correct me if I'm wrong). Here the DEs are lined up outside of the tackles, which is 5-technique. This is basically a 4-2 with one DT lined up over the center. Also one of the DEs is Shawn Crable and the DT is John Ferrara (I think). This is not what is suggested above. We stunt off this, slanting Crable inside and looping Graham around...
...and from there Jamar Adams misses a tackle and he's off. This was the most disastrous instance, but several other times we lined up in this on second and long and got burned by it. You can't have one guy between the tackles and expect to defend anyone's run game.
Yeah, what is the deal with all the stunting and looping and stuff?
I don't know. It seems too cute, especially on downs the offense can run against. We did this frequently against Appalachian State and paid for it. (Oregon, I believe, was more conventional but against a really fantastic trio of runners.) Meanwhile, whenever Taylor is in the game he's playing Gabe Watson and driving someone's ass into Bacher. Like... line up and out-execute them.
You did not just say that.
Well... I was being sort of ironic. What I don't like from the defense is its slight case of Weis-itis. The 3-3-5 with canyon splits on second and long. The third and ten from NW's one on which we assumed they would run and gave up a long conversion. The stunting around an Appalachian State line that should have spent the day eating Taylor's facemask five yards in the backfield.
There is one aspect of this I do like: when Michigan has gotten its opponents in situations that have no threat of a run, they have been deadly. See either NW drive where they trailed late, the final PSU drive, and the entire Notre Dame game. When permitted to tee off on an opponent that can't threaten a run, Crable and Jamison and BGraham have been dominant, often because of the stunting.
My problem with the defensive playcalling is game theory based. Sev
eral times in this game Michigan put Northwestern in a second and long. In this situation you want to lower variance, since most second and longs result in a punt. Michigan frequently deployed that 3-3-5 with huge splits and stunted; this is a high variance strategy that either results in an unblocked guy or two or a gaping hole. Similarly, on third and ten from the one you want a low-variance play call that results in fourth down from the one or the five or the nine... just fourth down. Instead, Michigan puts eight in the box and bites on play action, leaving Ross Lane open for a twenty-yard conversion.
(Note that you want to avoid predictability here, too, so the occasional unexpected/"wrong" sort of call is okay. No one call can be wrong, like no one raise can be wrong in poker, but over time exploitable patterns emerge.)
Adams was the big culprit on the long touchdown run. As per usual, Michigan got little production from the linebackers. Chris Graham is an opponent big play waiting to happen.
Crable, obviously, but also Taylor -- finally as dominant as we expected -- and Harrison. I thought the coverage in the secondary was very good all around; hopefully that signals improvement and not merely "we played Northwestern."
What does it mean for Eastern or, more likely, Purdue?
We will get an immediate check to see whether or not the secondary is actually getting better with the Boilers rolling into town. They're like an upgraded version of Northwestern: scatter-shot QB in a spread offense that's more pass than run. Except Purdue has a better RB with Sutton out, way better receivers, and probably a better offensive line. We'll know lots more after this weekend versus Ohio State.
sorry about the video; had to do it myself this week and it's taken directly from a 480x480 source, so the aspect ratio is a little wonky. if you're viewing in a good player you can change it to 4:3.
|Kickoff OOB. Holy crap, Kraus(-2) just gets his ass kicked by John Gill. He's driven yards into the backfield, directly into Hart's path, and Gill makes the TFL. Awful. Eight in the box. Maybe Gill sort of knew we were going to run zone left because that's what we always do?|
|M35||2||10||I-Form Twins||Pass||Inc||Manningham||Slip Screen|
|"Zac Cuillo" is not our left guard. NW giving our wideouts 12-yard cushions, so we go with the slip screen. Logical enough. Henne throws it in front of Manningham and a bit too hard. It's dropped. (IN, 2)|
|M35||3||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Pass||15||Arrington||Deep out|
|The 15-yard out that you need a gun for, unless you're playing Northwestern. This is looped out a bit, but to a wide open Arrington. He makes a tough-ish diving catch. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)|
|50||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Eight in the box with man on the outside and a single deep safety. Let's run. Ok! Zone block from Schilling and MacAvoy does not go well; MacAvoy(-1) blown back a bit and Schilling(-1) late getting out on the linebacker, so he's right in the hole. Hart bounces it outside, where Massey's guy is set up; he tackles for loss.|
|Manningham comes in motion and runs like a five yard stop. There is no Wildcat within five yards of him as he catches the ball and he heads upfield for the first down. Could not be easier. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Same exact play flipped to the other side of the field. I love it when opposing linebackers step forward at the snap without so much as a play action fake. Anyway, Manningham hit on the stop again. Coverage is a little tighter this time but not much. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|O29||2||2||Ace 3||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Seven in the box as a strongside corner is clearly coming on a run blitz. Michigan runs away from it. I'm not sure what the play design is here but I think Gill crashes into Boren, preventing him from doubling the other DT. So no zone block and thus an unblocked linebacker. Hart stuffed for nothing.|
|Pretty open, this play. Henne throws it a little too far downfield and Manningham sort of short arms it. (CA-, 2, protection 2/2). Only six in the box this time.|
|O30||4||3||Shotgun 3-Wide||Pass||1 (15)||Manningham||Cross|
|Press man from NW. MacAvoy(-1) beaten, forcing Henne to get rid of the ball before he might like to. He hits Manningham on one of those hideous little crossing routes that's a yard past the LOS; he's tackled immediately. (CA, 3, protection 1/2) Fortunate penalty bails us out.|
|O15||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Safety runs up to the line to give an eight-man look late. He ends up shooting into the frontside gap; Hart cuts back. There is actually some room here but Schilling(-1) has merely escorted his man down the line; he tackles.|
|Fake to Arrington and then come back to the other side for the long handoff. Deante Battle just screws this up, allowing Manningham to waltz in unimpeded. (CA, 3)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 9 min 1st Q. Goodbye, passes.|
|M42||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|NW shows zone; a simple combo route on between Arrington and Manningham where Arrington runs a five-yard out and Manningham just runs a fly would be guaranteed to get one open. Instead: run into quasi-eight guys. The safeties attack at the snap; Boren(-1) gets driven into the backfield; Long(-1) gets pushed back a yard; Butler(-1) can't block his man either.|
|M43||2||9||Ace Twins||Run||3||Hart||Zone right|
|Zone again; safety comes up into the box. A play very similar to those against Penn State where the DT goes behind Boren in an attempt to get penetration. This time Hahn dives at Hart's feet but can't reach him. MacAvoy(-1) loses his guy on the second level and he holds this down to a minimal gain despite the vacant area that could be a big gainer.|
|Three wideouts bunched tight to one side. Northwestern sends six guys, then drops one man right into the crossing route we always run. Mallett scrambles up into the pocket, finds an open Arrington, and fires it well behind him. A tough IN to hand out, but... (IN, 1, protection 2/3, team -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 7 min 1st Q. What is going on? Our OL is getting its ass kicked by Northwestern. Is this an S&C problem or just the fact that we're predictable as hell? Meanwhile, this drive is what people are talking about when they accuse the offensive staff of putting Mallett in a position to fail. On first down Mallett had the easiest read in the world as Michigan could have put two guys in a space one Wildcat was trying to cover because they were overcommitting to the run; they run anyway. Then they end up in third and medium and Northwestern sends a blitz that puts Mallett in a tough spot. The best way to protect a young QB is to give him easy throws; Michigan eschews this for predictable ones.|
|M23||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone right|
|Hart misreads; the outside is wide open as the OLB seals himself against Butler. He takes it up inside into a decent hole but since Hart has misread the zone block â€“ Schilling leapt out on the LB and is on the outside of him â€“ that guy can disconnect and tackle. One thing: NW is showing zone here and the safety nominally covering Arrington is actually running forward at the snap to cut off the outside. This might not be as open as it looks if Arrington can get a seal... and God, are you kidding me? Arrington runs a post and this is a 76 yard touchdown. Arrgh.|
|Unbelievable! It's second and six, a potential running down, against a team that is selling out against us. We spread the field a
nd offset Hart, a formation we have never ever run from. It's like we're playing with a handicap. (-ed offensive coordinator.) We run four short routes; Hart(-1) doesn't cut his guy and he leaps to bat it down. (BA, 0, protection 0/1)
|We have a new habit I haven't mentioned: we line up in a four wide and then always motion in Massey to a more conventional TE spot. Kraus(-2) lets Gill right by him and Mallett is sacked. Awful. (PR, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-10, 2 min 1st Q. WTF is wrong with Kraus?|
|M20||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||11||Hart||Zone right|
|NW in a 3-front with four LBs, and a couple DBs creeping towards the LOS. Not quite a nine man front, but not far from one. Again a zone combo route on the near side of the field has to leave one guy open. We run it anyway. This time it works. Three man lines... not so good this game. The DE runs out to the frontside in an attempt to keep contain and is isolated. Boren(+1) gets across the DT and Kraus helps drive him downfield. MacAvoy(+1) gets his second level block and Hart has space. Bet a dollar we don't see a three man line on a run down from NW the rest of the day.|
|M31||1||10||I-Form||Run||-10 (pen)||Hart||Zone left|
|NW undershifted with a linebacker over the TE; we shuffle and run to from it. Kraus(+1) gets a goot cut on the backside DT. MacAvoy has trouble with his guy but Moundros(+1) blasts him back, allowing Hart a seam between that an Schilling's(+1) block on the DE. Boren's downfield block on the LB and Manningham's job on the WR give Hart a lot of room. Aaaand holding. On MacAvoy(-1) and it's relevant to the play. Sigh.|
|A screen on first and twenty, with one blocker, Kraus. Northwestern swarms it. (CA, 3) The announcers think "population" is a tough word to know.|
|M25||2||16||I-Form 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Massey||TE stop|
|Massey spread out as a reciever; he's open for 10-12; Mallett overthrows him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)|
|A zone blitz that sees a NW DE drop 10 yards downfield, right into the path of an Arrington crossing route. Which is where Mallett goes. Sigh. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-13, 12 min 2nd Q.|
|Seven in the box but both safeties charge forward at the snap as the corners bail out into deep please-don't-bomb-me coverage. Moundros goes for a block on the backside DT, who wasn't cut that effectively by MacAvoy. Boren goes out to the second level but because of the charging safety has two players to deal with; they set up on either side of them and Hart slams it up the middle for a few yards.|
|3-4 look from NW. MacAvoy(-1) escorts his man to the hole; Hart has to leap into a mess of bodies.|
|It's really depressing to watch NW get up in our grill on third and short-ish when we played really soft on a third down just before. Anyway, Arrington runs a circle route right into coverage when our traditional cross was going to be wide open. I think these are option routes and this is on Arrington. The ball was catchable if Arrington wasn't double-teamed but also not going for a first down. I love routes short of the sticks! You think maybe NW can get away with this because they know Michigan will run three yard routes on third and four and not attempt to pick up a big chunk of yards? (CA, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-13, 8 min 2nd Q. Oops let's punt.|
|M22||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||5||Hart||Zone left|
|Also depressing: this is against six-ish guys in the box, but Boren(-1) gets plowed into the backfield and MacAvoy(-1) can't seal the DE, leaving Hart to cut back into unblocked guys. He makes two of them miss, turning this from two to five.|
|FB shuffle; we throw. Arrington drives off the DB and gets his hips turned, then runs a simple out. Wide open for a chunk. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Northwestern blitzes; picked up. Mallett pumps and lets one fly downfield to Manningham at the sidelines. He manages to get a foot in, then re-clutches the ball. Very close. (DO, 1, protection 3/3)|
|O32||1||10||Ace Twins||Pass||7||Manningham||Slip Screen|
|Breaston's old play, as Michigan finally takes advantage of having a linebacker lined up over Manningham. Arrington's block on the corner is kind of crappy, but it still picks up seven. (CA, 3) Mallett fumbles the snap, by the way.|
|O25||2||3||Ace Twins||Run||-2||Hart||Zone left|
|Yet another instance of defensive tackles shooting into the backfield against our guards. This time both Kraus(-2) and MacAvoy(-2) get shoved way into the backfield. Hart has absolutely no chance.|
|O27||3||5||I-Form 3-wide||Pass||11||Arrington||Deep out|
|Another zone blitz. Moundros has trouble picking up a blitzer so Hart has to help out. This leaves no one to help when Schilling(-1) loses his guy on a spin move. Mallett rolls out, stiffarms away a sack, and finds Arrington for the first down. (DO, 3, protection 2/3)|
|Thrown at his feet. (IN, 0)|
|Butler gets open for a seven-eight yard gain plus perhaps some YAC; Mallett throws behind and hard. (IN, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Another zone blitz. Hart cuts his guy, who goes flying over him and threatens to get up. This convinces
Mallett to scramble out. This time he runs despite having Arrington open running across the back of the endzone, picking up a few. (TA, protection 2/3, Hart -1)
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(29), 7-13, 2 min 2nd Q. Is it any coincidence that Mallett's most successful drive â€“ and the only one on that lasted more than four plays â€“ features a bunch of throws on non-obvious passing downs?|
|Henne's back. The simple out that the coverage has been begging for all day. It's wide open.(CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Basically the same thing, but a shorter route with the terrified three-deep of NW literally 12 yards away as Manningham hauls it in. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Should not have been thrown, as the DB is still in his panicked cover-three and has great position on Manningham. This could be intercepted; Manningham and the DB fight for the ball; it finally pops free for the incomplete. (BR, 1, protection 3/3) Nice blitz pickup from Long. Actually, on replay I think Manningham caught this. Why no review?|
|M49||2||10||Shotgun 3-Wide||Run||9||Hart||Lead draw|
|NW with six in the box and safeties respecting the deep pass. We have Massey in the kinda-TE-kinda-FB spot we deploy occasionally; he's used as a lead blocker. He screws it up(-1), getting shoved back and away by the only guy who can prevent this from being a 15-yard gain. Hart's shirt is grabbed, he powers through the tackle attempt and nears the first down.|
|Tampa-two from NW (== MLB flying back at the snap to occupy a deep middle zone); Mathews drags across the zone and Henne lays it in a small window caused by Arrington's route. Perfect timing required. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Not a zone L/R but nothing I can identify either. Long sets up to pass block. Both DTs slant past their guys (Boren -1, MacAvoy -1), and an unblocked corner blitz means there are three guys in the backfield. Anyone who can advise me as to what the goal of this play is? (BTW, Hart miraculously turns this into a yard gain.)|
|Butler lines up at FB, then motions out to TE. The reasons behind this shift are mystifying. NW runs a linebacker out to the little flat route Manningham caught earlier on the drive; Henne does not pick this up and throws it to a covered Manningham. LB breaks it up. Should have come down to Mathews on a crossing route for 6-8-ish. (BR, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Yet another zone blitz. Henne throws it behind an open Mathews on a cross that may or may not have picked up the first down (note for potential complainers about routes short of the first down: at this spot on the field I don't mind this on the assumption that picking up 7-8 sets you up to go for it on fourth down.) I can't really tell but I think Henne's arm is hit as he throws, causing the inaccurate throw. (BA, 1, protection 1/2, Long -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-16, 12 min 3rd Q. Zoltan drops it at the eight, where it's fair caught. He has really been excellent this year.|
|Boren(-2) owned by Gill again. WTF is going on? Hart shakes a couple tacklers and tries the other side of the field; no gain. I don't understand how NW is getting PSU-level penetration against us.|
|FB shuffle; we throw. NW runs a linebacker into that same flat zone designed to eliminate the little stop route; Michigan runs an out behind it and Henne floats it in over the LB's head. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Arrington, Manningham, and Mathews all to one side of the field; we toss a little screen out there. NW is not surprised by this and gets a safety up immediately but he comes up too hard and Manningham runs around him, cutting inside Butler for a decent gain. (CA, 3) NW had a linebacker out covering Mathews... they were expecting something like this. Mathews still blocked him out of the play, but you know predictability and all that.|
|M42||2||4||Ace 3-wide||Run||18||Hart||Zone right|
|Gill again in the backfield, this time working on Kraus(-1). With Henne in NW is backing off and only has six in the box here. So when Hart sidesteps around the DT everyone near the LOS is dealing with a blocker. Massey picked up the DE after Long had him initially; Long out on the second level with Boren. Hart is into the secondary.|
|NW zone-blitzing, dropping a DE off into a flat zone over Arrington. Michigan picks it up and Henne has options everywhere. He takes Arrington, as his corner is in a cover three and has turned his hips; Arrington ducks inside on a post and Henne hits him with perfect timing. (DO, 3, protection 3/3)|
|O17||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|Again a DT into the backfield, this time on MacVoy(-2). Hart is forced to cut behind him into unblocked players when the outside was going to be open for a nice gain.|
|This is not a good time to try this as NW is in the three man line that got them burned in the first half. The backside linebacker just drops off into a short zone and is in perfect position when Manningham comes around. The DE had lost contain, so this would have been a good gainer otherwise.|
|Butler shift from FB to TE. Mathews comes on the crossing route and has just enough room to burrow for the first. (CA, 3 protection 2/2)|
|No penetration, but no holes either. I can't make much sense of this.|
|O5||2||G||Ace 3-wide||Pass||5||Butler||TE Out|
|Manningham drawing attention on a flag route; a guy in NW's picket fence zone hops back a second in case it's a post. Henne takes the opportunity to toss it to Butler, who makes it in. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-16, 5 min 3rd Q.|
|M6||1||10||Ace Twins||Pass||3||Manningham||Slip Screen|
|NW expecting this; a LB and safety get out on it immediately. (CA, 3) Martin calls it a bubble screen? Terminology check?|
|Simple throw to a wide open guy against NW's three-deep. Henne throws it quick enough to give Manningham an opportunity to turn it upfield. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)|
|NW stacks the box; this throw is a little behind Arrington and slows him down a bit. Two NW guys converge. (CA-, 3)|
|M30||2||6||Ace 3-wide||Penalty||-5||Schilling||False start|
|Hart offset. NW drops a DT off right into Manningham's crossing route, who bumps him and disrupts the timing of the play. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|Definitely open for the first; Henne makes this tough for Mathews by throwing it a little outside. He manages to stretch the ball out and get it, barely. (CA-, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Moundros(-2) is plowed over by a Northwestern blitzer, who falls at Henne's feet and causes this ball to sail. Arrington hit before the ball gets there, but no call... they haven't seen Adrian leap, I guess. (very harsh IN, 0, protection 1/3, Moundros -2)|
|3-4 look for NW. Safety walks up for an extra guy. Hart decides not to follow the fullback, cutting it back into Gill, who's stalemated and controlled Kraus(-1).|
|Henne has plenty of time; we max protect. Arrington is covered; Manningham bracketed. The only guy left is Mathews on a crossing route that's pretty well covered. Henne throws it wide. (IN, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-16, 13 min 4th Q. Mesko uses MIND BULLETS to make Ward fumble is 50+ yard punt.|
|Boren(-2) owned again. Hart has to deal with a guy in the backfield immediately. Long and Butler give him no options on the frontside.|
|Second and ten and we have one wideout in the game. Uh... okay. Henne can't find anyone and steps up past the pressure. As he does this, Gill sticks out his leg and trips him. Isn't that a penalty? Henne flips it in the general direction of Hart but just to prevent a loss. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|A dart between two defenders reminiscent of the Penn State stuff from last year. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-16, 9 min 4th Q. We take timeout... then kick an extra point. Woo.|
|Run blitz from the NW linebacker gets him in between the backside guard and tackle before anyone can react. He grabs Hart in the backfield and is dragged for a couple yards.|
|Or at least it was going to be. Henne fumbles the snap.|
|Sailed; Arrington wide open for the TD otherwise. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(39), 6 min 4th Q.|
|Hart heads outside but the safety is coming up Hart and makes it to the corner just as Hart reaches it.|
|Nowhere to go at all; Hart decides to cut back behind the charging end. Ok. Now there's a corner coming at him; he induces him to overpursue and slip to the turf. Then he's into the secondary and down to the one.|
|O1||1||G||Goal line||Goal line||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Key block is MacAvoy(+1) cutting the backside DE, allowing Hart space when he cuts behind a meh Kraus effort. Good job by Boren, too.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-16, 4 min 4th Q. Ballgame.|
|This is a situation in which it makes sense to pound the ball and try to pick up a first down along the way, so I'm ok with it. The difference between a one score lead here and a two score lead is large.|
|Lather, rinse, repeat.|
|Looks like Mathews will be stopped short here; he pulls a Breaston-vs-Oregon, except in slo-mo, and picks up the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Manages to slip through a crack past two NW defenders and squeezes into the second level despite it being stacked up.|
|Yeah... that stacked up thing.|
|Drive Notes: EOG, 28-16.|
Can you express my seething rage via the medium of embeddable flash video?
Can you express my seething rage in a numerical fashion?
- Average yards on first down passes: 8.7.
- Average yards on first down runs: 1.6.
- Number of first down passes: 14.
- Number of first down runs: 16.
(Note that a holding penalty against Tim MacAvoy was counted against the runs; remove that and the average skyrockets to 2.4. The last drive was not included in these numbers; they are not distorted by time considerations.) For the record, Mallett's average yards on first down: 10.5.
So is Mike Debord retarded or what?
Basically. Mallett's one successful drive was the one in which they gave him multiple shots at testing the Northwestern secondary. The thing about Mallett's performance so far is that, while it's not good, he will blow a down doing general freshman things and then do something badass. If you run it for four yards the first two downs, his freshman down means punt. If you give him some margin for error against possibly the worst secondary on the planet, he moves the team. Not as effectively or efficiently as Henne, but better than one first down in four drives.
But the most frustrating thing is that Debord has shown the ability to be at least average and maybe even good at his job. Against Penn State last year we opened up with something like 17 of 21 passes. Against OSU our first drive was a beautifully executed touchdown march; we broke out a couple of successful Arrington wheel routes; we scored 39 points. There is a clear indication that when Debord/Carr/Michigan respects and fears an opponent we get the full toolkit. When we don't we get the first half against Northwestern. And usually this leads to a win. But the arrogance behind the strategy was a major reason for The Horror ending up a loss instead of an uncomfortably close game we win 45-34. And as they say, we must Never Forget. Whenever you see someone wearing an Appalachian State shirt, think back to our two-deep zone against a team we didn't even bother to scout. Think back to Hart riding a bike through most of the second and third quarters. All vestiges of the mentality that permitted The Horror must be seen for what they are and purged.
This game could easily have become The Horror II; no forgiveness is offered to the coaching staff that learned nothing from the most humiliating loss in NCAA history.
Why are we so predictable?
This is not noted above, but the return of Laterryal Savoy has also brought with it the return of the Jermaine Gonzalez/Carl Tabb Memorial Wide Nonreceiver Package. Several times in the game Michigan lifted the actual receivers for Savoy and Hemingway. Every time this was a run. There is, of course, the run left on every starting play of every game. There is the mindboggling decision to offset Mike Hart on second and six on Mallett's second drive. We're running except when we have no other option, it's a potential run down, and we come out and tell them we're passing. We spit on you, deception.
A quick review of the plays above should reveal one startling thing: the letters "PA" appear nowhere. Michigan ran play action zero times. (They attempted to run a waggle once; Henne fumbled the snap.) Hell, we ran exactly one misdirection play, an end-around to Manningham, the entire game. Whenever our offensive line starts moving to one side or the other, defenders can sell out to stop a zone play and be right 95% of the time.
There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of it is truly the coaches being arrogant/stupid/whatever, like the WR package thing. There is no possible justification for it. Other things appear to be systemic flaws in the zone running game we've adopted. For whatever reason, the only play action we can run off of it is the waggle, which exposes the quarterback to a charging defensive end and is ill-suited for deep balls, at least as it is currently conceived. And our counter options are limited, I guess, though we do have a couple that just aren't being deployed. But the primary motivation goes back to Bo. This is the mentality of the program:
"Now I have to admit â€“ since I'm being as honest as I can be here â€“ there was a time when I doubted if fundamentals were still enough to produce top-notch football teams. I even wondered if the game had passed me by.
This crisis of confidence occurred after our infamous 1984 season, when we finished 6-6. In the off-season I went to one of these national coaching conferences with a few hundred other coaches, and they had some hotshot young high school coach from California explain his new whiz-bang system of defense.
He had zones two deep, three deep, man-to-man, and combinations of the two. That really caught my eye. I'm thinking, Maybe you've got to do all those things to win these days. Maybe our approach at Michigan is just too simple too succeed in the modern eara. Boy, that was an awful feeling.
But after this guys finishes his slide show, someone in the audience raises his hand asks, "If your defensive schemes are so great, then why did your team give up 400 yards a game last season?"
Well I wanted to hear this! The hotshot replied â€“ and I will never forgot this â€“ "We were just a poor tackling team."
Well, hell! That tells you all you need to know! Throw out 50 percent of that fancy stuff and spend fifeeen more minutes every day practicing the most basic thing in football: TACKLING, that's all...I walked out of that auditorium and I knew what were going to do: Get back to basics! Get back to Michigan football! And I was determined we were going to do it better than anyone else...
Want the whole thing in a nutshell? Just talk to Bubba Paris. It's midseason, 1981, we're ranked sixth in the nation and we're playing an unranked Michigan State squad. We're ahead maybe 14-0, and we drive down the field again, bang, bang, bang â€“ until we're looking at first-and-goal on their three-yard line.
We get in the huddle and call our play â€“ but Smiley Creswell, State's defensive tackle, thinks he's got our signals figured out, so he starts yelling to his teammates "Off-tackle right! Off-tackle right!"
Now, on this 1981 team we have a front line of Ed Muransky, Kurt Becker, George Lilja, and Bubba Paris â€“ every one of them an All-American. This is not a line you want to be messing with. Bubba hears all this commotion coming from the Spartans, but he just saunters up to the line as only Bubba could do â€“ he was 6-5, 310 â€“ and calmly gets down in his stance. Then he looks across the line at Smiley Creswell and says, "That's right. It's an off-tackle play. It's coming right over you. And there's nothing you can do about it."
Three seconds later Bubba flattens Creswell. Our tailback just walks through the hole Bubba made, and he's in the Spartan end zone, untouched
, handing the ball to the referee, Michigan-style. Touchdown!
We didn't fool 'em. We just beat em!
Now that is execution! That is confidence! THAT IS MICHIGAN FOOTBALL."
That's from Bo's Lasting Lessons, and it definitely worked in 1969 and 1979 and 1985. Obviously, it no longer does in an era of 85 scholarships and transfers and the increased profile and desire to win across the country. No longer can Michigan expect to out-work and out-execute its foes without getting any help from the men calling the plays.
|Oregon - Henne||1||13||6||3||1||0||3|
|Oregon - Mallett||3||7||2||3||1||1||2|
|ND - Mallett||2||7||4||1||0||2||0|
|PSU - Mallett||3||12||6||3||6||1||2|
|NW - Mallett||2||5||4||1||1||1||1|
|NW - Henne||1||19||4||1||1||1||0|
(Legend for this one.)
Henne outperformed the freshman, as you might expect. But the thing is to look at the negative categories forced by the opponent: just seven instances against 35 plays that the NW defense did not seriously impact. Compare that to Penn State: 12 instances against 21 other plays. Clearly, the NW pass defense is way behind just about everyone on the schedule, and there's no reason the coaching staff wouldn't see that coming -- see the Duke QB's numbers -- and no reason not to start off exploiting the big flashing weakness, especially when NW was loading up against the run.
- 0 == totally uncatchable.
- 1 == very difficult catch requiring circus-like propeties.
- 2 == tough but makable
- 3 == routine.
Another fine day for the receivers. I am thinking about softening my expectations here, since it doesn't make much sense to have one category that's "impossible to catch" and another that is being caught at a 4% rate.
Aaand Genuinely Sarcastic has your Hart Chart. Not nearly as negative as I thought it would be, though it grades out at a +3 overall, down from +14 against Penn State. It does reflect my opinions of Boren (second straight tough game) and Massey (can't block).
Henne. QB controversy that did not exist in the first place is over. And Manningham had an excellent day that should have put those "he's a sulky baby" rumors to rest, except now he's suspended for EMU. w00t.
Boren has an excuse as a first year starter. MacAvoy has an excuse as the third-string right guard. But how can Adam Kraus justify getting his ass kicked all day by Northwestern defensive tackles? The interior OL was awful all day against a NW defense that has been sliced like ginsu. Our penetration problems can no longer be chalked up to Penn State being this run-stopping machine. (By the way, Illinois had 216 yards rushing against Penn State despite having the infinite suck of Juice Williams as their quarterback.)
Oh, and whoever thought spending the entire first half running into the line against the nation's 114th-ranked pass efficiency defense was a good idea. Hmmmmm.
What does it mean for Eastern or, more likely, Purdue?
Purdue's defense might be totally horrendous, but it m
ight just be prone to packing it in with seemingly safe leads in the second half. Purdue led Minnesota 24-3 at the half and 38-17 after three quarters and ceded two meaningless fourth quarter touchdowns; the Boilers were up 23-0 on ND before letting the Irish back into the game, or at least as "back into the game" a team as bad as Notre Dame can be. The preseason prognostication on this team was much better against the pass, crappy linebackers, and wildcard defensive line... initial returns should be downgraded a bit. We'll see what happens against Ohio State. Henne's back and the full playbook should be available.
When Mike Debord plays rock-paper-scissors, he always picks rock.
Rock totally beats scissors. Why would anyone pick anything else? Sure, occasionally someone will throw his own rock, but this is Michigan. We can out-execute their rock. And there are rumors of this thing called "paper". Apparently it beats rock, which seems darned unsporting, but Mike Debord will believe that when Mike Debord sees it. We can probably out-execute paper, too. Some people will hypothesize that the potential existence of paper warrants the occasional scissors throw, but only three things can happen when you throw scissors and two of them are bad. The idea of throwing "paper" is to be regarded with naught but scorn. Oooh, a Snickers bar! Mike Debord likes Snickers and will let pet monkey Bonzo call a series as he enjoys a candy bar.
Hey, Bonzo scored a touchdown. Now we're ahead. Let's go back to rock. Rock beats scissors.
Rock, rock. Definitely rock. Rock. Judge Wapner's on at ten.
I had a dream literally moments ago that jolted me awake at 8:30 -- this is early for me -- after a weekend of getting up insanely early to drive to or from Chicago and drinking heavily. In this dream, Michigan was playing some team. It might have been Eastern, it might have been Washington. After an impressive opening touchdown drive, Michigan sent walk-on Nick Sheridan out to play quarterback. He completed a third down post. Then Michigan sent out four offensive linemen -- no right guard -- as the PA announcer said that today they were honoring the Bellevue Wolverines, singled out Steve Schilling as Michigan's lone Bellevue-ian, and ran behind him. Schilling could not out-execute three defenders and the play went for a loss. Oops let's punt.
This proceeded, as Michigan clung to a 7-0 lead whilst rotating in a vast cast of characters that had no business on the field and calling ridiculous plays that were destined to fail. Perhaps the best exemplar of the ridiculous things Michigan was doing came when yet another walk-on quarterback entered the game -- Michigan's fifth or something -- without even so much as a jersey. Instead, the new quarterback wore a Judd-Nelson style 80s jean jacket with The Realests spray-painted on it sort of where a name would go if this was an actual jersey and not an item of clothing ripped directly from The Breakfast Club. Also spray-painted on the jean jacket was the number seven.
It was at this point that I lost it. (This didn't seem like the trigger at the time, but the Michigan coaching staff inserting bloggers into the game and not picking me must have been intolerable.) Finding myself standing on the sidelines, I ran across the field between plays with the intent of finding Mike Debord and berating him or headbutting him so that his nose bled and bled and bled and Bonzo had to take over (note: don't try this, kids! MGoBlog does not advocate acting on the crazy id impulses of your dreams!) and that Michigan would yank The Realests and put in its actual starting quarterback and run actual plays. But all I found over there was my father. We crabbed about the playcalling and looked on dolorously, waiting for lightning to strike and for Michigan to blow it.
Eventually it rained.
If respected Rocky Mountain News columnist Paul Campos can let our mutual acquaintance JJ write entire columns, I can yank the most perfect metaphor ever for what Michigan football seems to be in 2007: a unit of Redcoats in the Revolutionary war walking down the road in a block, getting picked off on all sides by guerrilla fighters. They drink tea and think "by crumbs, these chaps will never make it in a real war" and feel superior to the elusive guys who are cutting them down by the dozens.
And, of course, we won. By a seemingly comfortable score, even. No doubt this will be chalked up in certain Pravda-esque circles as grumble grumble BLOGS(!) grumble downfall of public politeness grumble internets bleah. Michigan won by twelve points and the nuts on the internet are livid. See how unreasonable they are. But it's not the nuts on the internet who inserted Chad Henne for the first drive of the game, watched him score a touchdown -- albeit one aided by a fortunate fourth-down facemask call not relevant to the play -- then sat him on the bench and ran Mike Hart zone left for two yards for the rest of the first half. Against a team that let Duke's quarterback -- who plays for Duke, which is Duke, people, friggin' goddamned Duke -- do this:
Northwestern stacked the line, leaving its corners on an island the entire first half, and Michigan called rock. Because eff you, that's why. The results: oops let's punt. Or miss chip shot field goals. They did this because they were playing Northwestern, nevermind that the Wildcats were clearly moving the ball up and down the field against Michigan -- over 300 yards in the first half alone -- and that Michigan had proven quite thoroughly that it couldn't stop the spread attack of a I-AA team. Nevermind that a play here and there and Michigan would have been facing a truly formidable halftime deficit against a team that lost to the above-mentioned Duke team. Nevermind that every time Ohio State threw it deep they scored a touchdown. Nevermind all that: throw rock. We will out-execute their paper.
We might forgive this outburst of stupidity if it was a one time thing, or something that Michigan might learn from. Obviously, it is not. Michigan arrogantly assumed its front six could stop a zone read play and sat in a cover two as Appalachian State shredded them for four first-half touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, a slightly dinged Mike Hart watched Brandon Minor take 13 handoffs for 3.8 yards per carry -- Hart would finish at 6.2 even if you completely remove his 54-yard touchdown run that briefly gave Michigan the lead -- and lose a fumble despite Michigan still trailing a I-AA team. The vast stubbornness, arrogance, and outright stupidity of Michigan's coaching staff led to the most embarrassing loss in college football history... and three weeks later they let a virtually identical script play out. They will never learn. They will always play football like it's 1978 and Northwestern's starting a 190 pound defensive tackle. And it will cost us. It already has, dearly.
To reiterate, to be as clear as possible: there is no excuse for what happened yesterday. Pulling Chad Henne when he was clearly healthy enough to play and telling Ryan Mallett to hand it off time and again into a stacked line -- no, I don't buy that Mallett's just failing to check off into pass plays; even a freshman can count to eight (or nine) -- when that was clearly not working turned a game that Michigan should
win 90% of the time into a game it wins 50% of the time. Michigan's failure to take advantage of the nation's 114th-ranked pass defense is criminally negligent coaching of the sort that led to Michigan's loss to Appalachian State. The historical record is clear: Michigan does this all the time. Lloyd Carr should be extended a hearty handshake at the end of the year and given a gold watch whether he wants it or not, and Mike Debord should be the next head coach of a North Korean Pop Warner team because it's still 1972 in North Korea.
Bullets that we are specifically not aiming at anyone in particular because violence is wrong, man.
- This was my first trip to a Northwestern game; it was worth returning. We drove to a lot maybe ten minutes from the stadium on Lake Michigan, parked there for free, and were surrounded by Michigan fans, some of whom were making bratwurst wrapped in bacon. Nice. Also, Tyler Ecker was there, as was Hot Dog Man. (Hot Dog Man? Hot Dog Man.) I managed to not spend the hour before the game screaming "why didn't you pitch the ball?" until I got cold-cocked, so I've got that going for me.
- Everything at Northwestern is named: the press box, the locker rooms, the weight room, the ring of honor, some terrace. I was busy looking for Stewart F. Mandel Pole, but there doesn't appear to be one.
- It must be really frustrating to be a Northwestern fan and to have fewer than half the fans at "home" games against Michigan.
- Did Michigan miss either of its starting linebackers at all? Maybe Thompson, as there were a lot of gashing runs in the first half, but there didn't appear to be a dropoff from Graham. And where is Jonas Mouton? This has gone on too long for a little ankle sprain. Brandon Logan was his replacement.
- A Brandon Harrison blitz worked. Me == stunned. It came from the backside, so Bacher couldn't side-step it.
- Yeah, Jason Gingell is officially not a good kicker. What happened to KC Lopata?
- Another hideously frustrating thing: as soon as it looked like there was even a chance at a field goal for the lead, Michigan went back into its caveman offense. Third and long after two running plays led to a bullet Henne post for a touchdown. We scored almost in spite of ourselves.
- The zone game is showing serious flaws in year two. We have no play action that isn't a waggle and precious little in the way of available misdirection.
- We do have some, though. Where was the TE-pull thing?
- This was another log for the "Lloyd Carr always coaches like he has a killer defense and a pounding ground game no matter the facts on the ground" theory.
- Pregame prediction: 27-17. Final score: 28-16. Oh, how I wish I wasn't right about that.
- Maybe we could cut down on the spleen in the comments? There was righteous complaining all weekend, which is fine and something heavily featured above, but we can just assume that anyone defending the coaching staff is an Ohio State plant, ignore them, and keep it constructive... maybe?
Hopefully this goes better than The Horror.
Re: sopcast. Sorry, guys. I could not find one already listed. Maybe someone in the comments can help.
I will be attending the game, then crashing in Chicago for the night, so content this weekend is unlikely.