"He makes it really easy on you as a coach because he has tremendous football instincts," Michigan tight ends coach Jay Harbaugh said. "Things come really naturally to him. He doesn't have to see things too many times. He has a good sense for how things should look and feel, and he's a tough, physical guy."
Note: I finally gave in and decided to make UFR even more complicated. I've added a passing category: "MA". MA stands for "marginal" and fills what I've always thought was a vacancy between "catchable" balls that are decent, routine throws, and "inaccurate" throws that are just no-hopers. Sometimes you can throw a ball that's caught and still have performed sub-optimally.
Also, a note: Penn State will use a formation with two linebackers, two sort of wing players who are S or LB or hybrids over inside receivers, and then two corners with a deep safety for much of the game. I dubbed this their nickel package even though most of the time one of the "safeties" was actually a linebacker. I probably need to work on distinguishing between formations and packages.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Michigan will go with this formation for much of the game: slot receivers on the LOS and the outside ones off the line with Minor in the backfield next to Threet. On the first play, Threet hits Odoms on a hitch for about four yards plus whatever Odoms can get after the catch; Odoms tries to get around the corner over Mathews—also running a hitch—and to the outside but is run down after giving back three yards. Actually a good idea; Mathews took a crappy angle, stepping upfield and allowing the guy right past him. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)|
|M15||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Minor||20|
|The other formation they used a lot is a formation with the slots off the line nearly stacked over the outside WRs, obviously an attempt to combat the Illinois-style bubble defense employed earlier this year. There's no special trick to this play: it's the same zone read veer they've run a lot so far; the weakside defensive end stumbles and Minor shoots into the secondary. Poor play from the PSU LBs; good blocks by Ortmann (out at tackle again; McAvoy is back at guard) and Molk. Minor(+1) then clocks the safety after 11 yards and runs through a linebacker, picking up another ten.|
|M35||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||Bubble screen||Mathews||6|
|Or whatever: Mathews doesn't actually go anywhere; he does have Koger as a lead blocker. Safety fills pretty quickly but still a decent gain. (CA, 3, screen)|
|M41||2||6||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet||5|
|Exact same play Minor took for 20 but Threet keeps it this time; the DE crashes down and Threet can meander for a few yards and the first down.|
|This is only vaguely a wheel, but the idea is the same, with Koger moving up the sideline as Mathews draws coverage to a short post. Threet's pass is well behind Koger, forcing him to come up short and make a sliding catch. Thrown in stride, this could have gone for 10, 20 more yards. (MA, 2, protection 1/2, team -1). Real late blitz recognition and pickup from the line on this, BTW.|
|This is not zone blocked, it's gap blocked, with Moosman pulling around Molk and into a hypothetical gap between McAvoy and Molk. This gap doesn't really exist as Molk(-1) lets his guy get to the spot. Minor(+1) does a good job of making two yards after contact.|
|O35||2||7||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||5|
|Same play we saw Sheridan run a few times last week. Michigan gets a major gap as the playside DT steps upfield, expecting a Minor run that would go to the other side of the line, and gets himself sealed. Unfortunately, McAvoy(-1) completely whiffs on the linebacker; he closes and tackles after just five yards.|
|O30||3||2||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet||1|
|Veer action this time; DE crashes down and Threet keeps it; S Scirotto shoots up, however, chopping Threet down a yard from the sticks. If Threet isn't a gimpy gumpy guy probably a first down.|
|O29||4||1||I-Form 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Minor||1|
|Man press with one deep safety; Minor(+2) gets met two yards in the backfield by two tacklers... and bounces out of it, making the first down by half a length of the ball. On replay it's clear a slant from PSU's D beats McAvoy and Moosman, maybe Molk too, and gets a DL and a blitzing linebacker into Minor.|
|O28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||5|
|Looks like the same playcall from PSU, as the line slants left and there's a linebacker shooting to backside; Michigan runs right at it. The the slant gives easy angles to block the DE and DT; Schilling reads the play correctly and picks up the blitzing OLB; Minor punches the MLB back. Scirroto again charges up, tackling too soon; Threet did slip as he attempted a cut.|
|O23||2||5||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Minor||9|
|Same thing—DL slant plus backside blitz—on this play but the other direction, as Minor is lined up to the other side. Michigan runs the veer at it, which holds the OLB outside just long enough for Minor to shoot through the hole; with the blitz/slant there's no one until the second level.|
|O14||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||5|
|Flooding the wide side of the field here with three WRs and Koger; Koger is covered up and can't go downfield. They back off on this snap but still are shooting the DTs right upfield in anticipation of a stretch or something, and sealing themselves right out of the play. The DE isn't handled very well, as he drives into the backfield against two players and delays McAvoy's downfield release but the DT's cooperation has made that moot. Koger(+1) has gotten a great block on the MLB; McAvoy gets an OLB, but Minor peels off because he thinks the OLB is going to get through and ends up blocking no one; the safety comes up to tackle.|
|O9||2||5||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||4|
|Same gap-blocked dive from earlier; Moosman(-1) is beaten by his guy to the outside; Minor(+1) runs through his diving tackle attempt and picks up four.|
|O5||3||1||I-Form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Off tackle||Minor||5|
|They again get the jump on the PSU DL, hopping outside—away from where Koger is lined up, this breaks a tendency—and getting McAvoy(+1) to seal the weakside DE. Ortmann blocks off the OLB—who must contain to the outside and does—and Moundros shoots up into the hole, chopping the safety. The MLB can't quite get there in time—I think Moosman got a tug on him that went uncalled—and Minor leaps into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 6 min 1st Q. 14 play, 86 yard touchdown drive. Jebus.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|Poor snap from Molk delays Threet's rollout here; Odoms runs a short out, then wheels upfield against the safety. He's open by a good step or two; Threet, unset, chucks it at him. The ball is dangerously short and inside, falling incomplete. Threet had time to get his body moving to the LOS and could have taken another second, then taken the shot deep. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|M45||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||36|
|Zone blocked here and not the veer; Minor takes the handoff headed upfield and Penn State's defensive tackles fight inside. This provides a major hole between Molk and Ortmann. Meanwhile, the MLB has started heading backside to contain Threet as the DE is selling out on Minor; the SLB is ably blocked by McAvoy. We actually get a hat on a safety—Koger this time—and Minor shoots into the secondary, running over the linebacker in the process.|
|O19||1||10||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Pass||Long handoff||Stonum||3|
|Pretty quick reaction here by the CB holds it down. (CA, 3, screen)|
|O16||2||7||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||3|
|Crease here is considerably smaller but still exists as Molk gets to the correct side of the DT and manages to hold his ground just well enough. McAvoy and Minor, however, both run past the SLB; he comes in and tackles from an angle.|
|O13||3||4||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||McGuffie||-1|
|Think this playcall might be a little too obvious? They've seen quite a bit of McGuffie on the zone stretch and this is the first play he's seen. Penn State freaks out as soon as they see the action of the play. With the WLB shooting playside and the DE's shoulders turned, Threet really needs to keep this. If he does, first down easy. Instead he hands off. The WLB's quick reaction gives Schilling little chance to cut him and there's no frontside crease with Molk losing the battle against the DT this time. He's forced to try, though, and ends up losing a yard.|
|Drive Notes: Field Goal(26), 10-0, 4 min 1st Q. Penn State gets an illegal substitution penalty, taking the ball down to the nine, and Rodriguez still kicks. Error, IMO.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M22||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||3|
|Molk(-1) does not get the DT sealed this time, causing a lead-blocking McGuffie to try to help out on that instead of blocking the crashing safety; McAvoy's downfield block is a poor one and the two LBs converge.|
|M25||2||7||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Pass||Skinny post||Rogers||23|
|James Rogers? Okay. Penn State blitzes two; the line picks it up. Threet waits for a moment, finding Rogers coming open as he clears the short zone. Good throw and catch. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)|
|M48||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read veer||Min||-1|
|Again, Threet needs to keep this as the DE has given up contain. He doesn't and Minor tries to find a path more up the middle. No dice, as the DT has beaten Molk(-1) and the other one has blown back Moosman(-1).|
|M47||2||11||Shotgun 2-back||Nickel||Pass||PA wheel||Odoms||27|
|They do triple option action, faking the dive and sending McGuffie into the flat. By the time the safety-LB guy on Odoms recognizes it Odoms is already to him and he's reduced to chasing; Threet hits him for major yards. (DO, 3, protection 2/2.) They love Odoms on this route, especially against these LB/safety types, and you can see why: dude is open all day.|
|O26||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||1|
|Ortmann(-1) beaten by the linebacker who comes up tight to the LOS; the other LB is attacking the hole from the snap and delivers a blow to Minor instead of the other way around.|
|O25||2||9||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Threet||6|
|Slightly different variation here as the backside DE does get blocked; the MLB bites heavily on the dive action, allowing Threet outside of him. If Threet's faster, blah blah you know the drill.|
|O19||3||3||Shotgun empty||Nickel||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||14|
|Great block by Molk(+2) here, getting playside of a DT lined up a foot outside of him and holding him off long enough for a crease to form. McAvoy's excellent cut block on the MLB is almost unnecessary since Moosman is out there with a great angle to block the same guy; Minor(+1) does an excellent job on the safety-type object.|
|O5||1||G||Shotgun 2-back trips||Nickel||Run||Busted play||Threet||2|
|The formation in which Mathews is covered up. Shaw is in on this and I think he's supposed to take a dive handoff but instead just shoots forward looking to block someone. Threet follows for a couple yards.|
|O3||2||G||I-Form twins||Base 4-3||Run||Iso||Minor||2|
|Koger covered. Molk sort of beaten on this one but manages to recover okay and get the DT's motion stalled, at which point Moundros(+1) blows into the pair of them, shoving them backwards. That provides enough of a crease for Minor to thump up into the hole; he falls just short of the goal line.|
|O1||3||G||I-Form twins||Goal line||Run||Iso||Minor||1|
|DT shooting forward and falling in an attempt to get instant penetration; Michigan is running off the guard so this is an advantage. Big crease, but an unblocked linebacker in the hole. Minor hammers him, falling into the endzone.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-7, 13 min 2nd Q. It was fun while it lasted. Goodbye, offense.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||Hitch and go||Stonum||Inc|
|Straight dropback with good protection; Threet is staring it down all the way, but there's a reason: he pumps. Double move coming. It comes, and... it's blanketed. Threet throws it anyway, and it's long and OOB. Should have come down to someone else, IMO. This could be IN, TA, or BR. Uh. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|M24||2||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||4|
|This isn't actually a veer but ends up turning into one, basically, as the backside DE gets blocked but is replaced by the weakside LB, held outside by Threet. Schilling(+1) gets an excellent, driving block on the DE, providing the space and momentum for the yardage here; the frontside was jammed up.|
|Threet has decent protection, decides to throw... and changes his mind a the last second, awkwardly bringing the ball down. After some scrambling around he's sacked; he tries one of those crazy Mallett plays, flipping the ball to Minor, but it's after his knee is down. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 10 min 2nd Q. McDonough says “that's the kind of risky play this young offense might want to avoid,” which is about as gently as you can put it.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M28||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||1|
|We're back to the stuff we did a lot against Notre Dame with a scoop on the playside DT effectively sealing him. The playside DE runs right out of the play, opening up a big hole, but Koger(-1) gets owned by the LB to this side, shucked and destroyed, and Minor's cut(-1) is pretty stiff, allowing the guy to close and tackle near the LOS. Minor's done a lot of things McGuffie can't do in this game but this is a play on which we'd be better off with the little slasher (and even better off with, say, a junior TE who will hold this block and turn it into a big gainer).|
|M29||2||9||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Pass||Miscommunication||Odoms||Inc|
|Threet thinks Odoms is running the wheel again; he pulls up on a hitch. Uh... (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Ortmann(-2) smoked one on one by the DE, forcing an early throw from Threet. Hit as he throws, the ball sails. (PR, 0, protection 0/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 5 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M24||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||5|
|Another good hole as Molk seals off the PSU DT. Koger gets beat, though, forcing Minor upfield into the hole and away from the attempted downfield blocks of McAvoy and Schilling.|
|M29||2||5||Shotgun trips||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||1|
|Penn State just smokes this play. Molk beat, no downfield release, Schilling beaten too. Four PSU defenders meet Minor at the LOS.|
|M30||3||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Draw||Minor||-2|
|Penn State blitzes right into this; not a big fan of this on a third and short-ish when you've been running it all day.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 2 min 2nd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M17||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Busted play||Threet||2|
|Possibly the worst two yard gain in history: Threet fumbles a bad snap, rolls out as a blitzing linebacker overruns him, fumbles the ball again, and then falls on it.|
|M19||2||8||Shotgun 4-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||12|
|Penn State caught slanting away from the play; the playside DT helpfully shoots past Molk going the wrong way. Gaping hole on the frontside, then, and easy blocks downfield for Koger and McAvoy that they actually make; I'll even provide McAvoy a +1 for his. Minor into the secondary.|
|M32||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Pass||PA Hitch||Stonum||6|
|Almost a long handoff except Stonum actually runs like three yards downfield. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|M38||2||4||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Threet||13|
|Molk(+1) gets the reach block again, sealing the DT well enough to crease the line. Blitzing WLB falls down and takes himself out of the play; Minor(+1) pops the MLB good, and I really wish we had some fast dude at QB as Threet lopes into the secondary.|
|O49||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||3|
|This is kind of a similar play to the stretch except Minor is lined up on the other side of Threet and just dives straight up the field. This time the PSU DT guesses right and there's no help from McAvoy on the guy; Minor avoids the tackle, but he's been slowed by the avoidance and is closed in on by the unblocked guy on the backside and the DE, who beat Ortmann.|
|Protection is actually decent, but Threet pulls the ball down for the second time. He had room to roll around, maybe, but since he was trying to throw he didn't take it; he gets sacked. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Koger(-1) completely whiffs his block, which convinces Moosman to try to take the same guy, I guess, and leaves another defensive back totally unfettered as he attacks the ballcarrier.(CA, 3, screen.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-14, 11 min 3rd Q. This is actually a pretty respectable drive right here but it's killed by the opening field position: Avery Horn's crappy return set Michigan back. He gets out to the 28 or wherever the average is—it's around there—and Michigan has fourth and eight from the opponent 36 and should go for it. Note that Horn fields a kick six yards in his own endzone on the next KO, fumbles it, and STILL BRINGS IT OUT.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M15||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||15 (Pen-8)|
|Sheridan. Dammit. Molk beaten on this one, driven back such that there will be no crease; Minor tries to hop outside and does, but only because Ortmann(-1) tackled the DE. Holding is called.|
|M8||1||18||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||QB off tackle||Sheridan||0|
|DT again beats Molk. This can't be a halftime adjustment, because it likely would have happened at halftime. I guess PSU is just guessing right.|
|M8||2||18||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel||Run||Zone read keeper||Sheridan||-2|
|DB/LB lined up over Koger shoots forward at the snap because it's Nick Sheridan, right, and he's not going to throw, and thus gets in on Sheridan's keeper immediately.|
|They slide the protection, leaving both backs in against a four-man rush; Ortmann(-1) loses a stunting DE and McGuffie(-1) uselessly piles on a cut DT, leaving him an avenue up the middle. Sheridan does his part by standing around waiting to get crushed. (I'm not charting this guy anymore... what's the point?)|
|Drive Notes: Safety, 17-19, 4 min 3rd Q. Sheridammit.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M20||1||10||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||-3|
|Penn State now in soft man with one deep, keying three LBs on the run. Both Moosman and McAvoy(-1 each) get driven back and there's no crease up the middle; Minor attempts to cut back and is swarmed.|
|We miss much of this play for a reply; when we come back Sheridan is tossing a one-yard hitch to Stonum; Stonum squeezes up the sideline for a few more (no damn charts)|
|This is way inaccurate but I don't know what Mathews is doing on this play either; he doesn't even look for the ball.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 17-26, 2 min 3rd Q.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Play||Player||Yards|
|M21||1||10||Shotgun 2-back||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read dive||Minor||7|
|Threet back in. As soon as he goes out again charting is over. Grady the second back in the game this time and used as a blocker. Slightly different scheme on this play with the backside DT getting doubled by the RT and RG and blown back; the frontside guy is expecting a stretch and hops to the other side of Molk. Grady shoots backside to block the DE who's normally given the zone read threat. WLB is held outside by the keeper threat, and the MLB, also expecting a stretch, runs himself out of the play. Minor has a crease and uses it.|
|M28||2||3||Shotgun 3-wide||Base 4-3||Run||Zone read stretch||Minor||-2|
|Molk(-1) beaten badly by the DT, ceding ground directly into Minor's path; Minor doesn't have a cutback with the backside DE selling out and unwisely tries to go around Molk instead of slamming it up the middle in an attempt to get like a yard or two. Threet could have kept this, too, I guess, though he's banged up. The announcers keep going on as if anyone would ever put Sheridan in the game by choice.|
|Ortmann(-3) smoked around the corner; Threet gets it stripped from the blindside; Penn State recovers. (PR, 0, protection 0/3)|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 17-26, 13 min 3rd. Sheridan returns with Penn State holding a three-score lead; game over, who cares, I'm not doing the rest of this.|
Well, that fell apart.
Yeah, yeah it did. But I'm actually pretty encouraged. As I mentioned in the preview, Penn State's stats are a little hard to take seriously given the competition they've faced but that's still going to be a substantially above-average defense when the season's over. And, sure, Michigan stalled out after those glorious three opening drives but how much of that was Sheridan being generally overwhelmed? Here's the M offense as led by Threet:
- 86-yard touchdown drive
- 49-yard field goal drive
- 78-yard touchdown drive
- 36 yard drive to midfield
- three-and-out punctuated by blindside fumble.
This is not exactly Tulsa, but it is 253 yards and 17 points (with terrible field position) in just over a half of work. He stays in the game and Michigan could approach 30 and 400 yards against a good D.
Now… I think that's a little optimistic since Penn State adapted to Michigan's newly newfangled MINOR RAGE rushing attack, but that was actually pretty encouraging given the opponent, venue, and situation.
Speaking of Threet: Chart?
There's not a lot of it, with Michigan running successfully much of the day and Sheridan seeing the bulk of the second half. I'm not charting Sheridan anymore, by the way, as there's no point. We're very clear on his deficiencies by now and he won't see the field again after this year unless he's the last survivor of a meteor impact.
As always, the Threetsheridammit chart legend.
That's not a bad day, especially on the road against a good defense, but it's also not a huge sample size. Two of those "TAs" were drive killers where Threet cocked to throw, then decided against it and got sacked.
For guidance on what I mean by "MA": the MA in this game was the Koger wheel route that was well behind the receiver. Koger adjusted to it and dug it out, but Threet's throw took Koger off his feet, made it a difficult catch, and robbed Michigan of the opportunity for 10 yards of YAC. So it's not so bad that it's inaccurate, but it's not a run of the mill CA, either. Sometimes I would annotate CAs with a + or –; these are going to be the CA- events.
Here's your PROTECTION METRIC: 15/21, Team –1, Ortmann -5.
That might look ugly, but –5 of that game on two plays where Ortmann was beaten badly by Evans, one of which resulted in the game-killing sack/fumble. Everyone else was actually pretty decent.
(remember: 0 is uncatchable, 1 is a circus catch, 2 is a somewhat difficult one, and 3 is a routine one)
No drops; few opportunities to do so. One good catch from Koger.
Okay, and all that…
Is basically irrelevant for this game, as Michigan was heavily ground-based.
Does it worry you we're getting shut down after initial success?
This was similar to the Illinois game, where Michigan ripped off a couple of touchdown drives and then picked up bupkis the rest of the game. Trend? Coincidence? What?
My theory: Michigan is implementing portions of a whole gameplan trying to find something that works. They then practice the hell out of their plan and break it out, finding early success.
However, I, and I think a lot of other Michigan fans, thought "I really hope they have a curveball coming up" in the second quarter; they did not. Once you get past the game plan, Michigan has no backup. So we've seen teams adjust to the offense and have success stopping it.
When does the backup plan come in? Well, 1) when Threet's elbow gremlins step off, and 2) when these guys get past the training wheels stage and have a base they can fall back on. We've seen the offense expand, or at least move, as the season has progressed, but when they go back to the old stuff they haven't repped over the past few weeks they're not sharp. That sharpness will only come with time.
My hope is that this MINOR RAGE offense is something they can work from as a baseline. I think they've found an effective rushing offense that's going to move forward most of the time—even when rushing plays didn't work that well against PSU the result was usually a 2 or 3 yard gain, not the epic losses from previous games—and must be defended foremost. From there Michigan can add in racing stripes and a spoiler and maybe move away from the basement of total offense rankings.
I think they've got something to build on now. As long as the gremlins cooporate.
Minor leapt from fumblebot to likely starter from here on out. I thought Molk had a largely excellent day against a good opponent, and this was one of Threet's better days.
Threet's elbow gremlin. You're a dick, elbow gremlin! Hear me? You're a dick! Also, Ortmann got smoked on that last killer sack.
What does this mean for MSU and beyond?
I think I blew my wad on this already, but I think the ability of Michigan to run right at Penn State with pretty good success can be the foundation of a solid offense. If Michigan can force a seventh guy in the box opponents will have to run a man free, which Michigan should try to exploit deep with Stonum or Odoms, or run a two-deep zone with linebackers in the box, which should be bubble screen party time.
Before opponents other than Notre Dame could sell out on the bubble screen, keep two deep safeties, and hurt the running game. That's no way to win football games. Now we might have a basis for a real offense.
It is for quiz. Clay Travis throws down the gauntlet to blog-bashers in his latest CBS Sportsline piece:
Five bloggers that have agreed to participate will take on a team of five of the most talented, educated and intelligent mainstream sportswriters that are willing to compete against them. Hopefully the roster will feature at least a few of the recent blogger insulters (Bob Costas, Buzz Bissinger, Rick Reilly, Michael Wilbon) you name the mainstream media members who are willing and there's a blogging team ready to play them for charity.
And, as a bonus, we'll let the captain of the mainstream media team select a charity they would like to raise money for. So, for example, if he's willing to participate, we would be happy to send all the proceeds to fund more of Reilly's mosquito nets in Africa. In fact it would be ideal if Reilly, given his frequent and vituperative criticism of sports bloggers and his new boffo column deal, was willing to put together his own team. Even if Reilly's not a member of the mainstream media we'll be willing to let him join.
There's more, including a brief section on yrs truly, one of the distinguished panelists. If anyone who's taken a shot at blogs is reading this, 1) your father was a hamster and your mother smells of elderberries and 2) seriously, step up to the plate. Money goes to a good cause and I can't answer any questions except those about my mother's basement. (Example Q: who did you cut open during the Great Lego Battle of Thanksgiving 2005? A: Tom.) You will wipe the floor with us. I can barely spell.
O ZOMBIE RLY? Penn State fans are super-excited that they've raided Maryland something wicked in this recruiting cycle, but, uh...
|Eric Shrive||OL||6-7||285||5.1||6.0||Scranton, PA|
|Darrell Givens||DB||6-0||170||4.46||5.8||Indian Head, MD|
|Sean Stanley||DE||6-2||250||4.7||5.8||Gaithersburg, MD|
|Brandon Felder||WR||6-2||167||4.43||5.7||Oxon Hill, MD|
|Ty Howle||OL||6-2||290||-||5.7||Bunn, NC|
|Derrick Thomas||DB||6-0||176||4.49||5.7||Greenbelt, MD|
|Mark Arcidiacono||OL||6-4||289||-||5.5||Philadelphia, PA|
|Stephon Morris||DB||5-8||172||4.48||5.5||Greenbelt, MD|
|Stephen Obeng-Agyapong||DB||5-10||174||4.5||5.5||Bronx, NY|
|Malcolm Willis||DB||5-11||201||4.64||5.5||Indian Head, MD|
|Curtis Drake||QB||6-0||175||4.49||-||Philadelphia, PA|
|Frank Figueroa||OL||6-4||282||5.2||-||Alexandria, VA|
...is this recruiting to be excited about? Dominating Maryland football recruiting is like doing a killer job finding hockey players in Ohio.
Shrive's their only top 100 recruit and of their 12 commits only three have four stars. This looks exactly like 2008, when they had one non-linebacker pick up four stars, or 2005, when the Justin King-Derrick Williams duo overshadowed a class long on signees (19) but short on talent (only four of them got more than three stars. Penn State has gone back to its recruiting style from the early portion of the decade, when they would lock up a host of marginal prospects -- "QB" recruit Curtis Drake's only other offer was from Northwestern -- early.
You can get away with that stuff here and there when you uncover a diamond in the rough -- talented if somewhat asshatted DT Chris Baker was a two-star, Braylon Edwards, all those anonymous guys from Ohio State's secondary -- but in general you either recruit like a national contender or you don't, and Penn State isn't.
If you believe recruiting rankings matter (and you should), Penn State's lining itself up for more of the same. This is a complete list of offensive skill position players with more than three stars acquired since 2006:
Chris Bell(off the team after machete incident)
- Pat Devlin
- Andrew Quarless (hanging by a thread, their Carson Butler)
- Brent Carter
- Brandon Beachum
Michael Shaw(snake oil enthusiast)
That's one QB, one TE, and two RBs in three and a half classes; Michigan has locked down that many four star skill position recruits in the 2009 class. I think I might harp on this a bit more than I should, but this article in the Inquirer set me off. It unrealistically portrays everything as hunky-dory in Penn State land, when I, and most other Michigan fans, would be freaking out given the last four years of results on the field and in the star realm. Hell, I'm still a little freaked out about this year's class, and it features seven four-stars amongst nine recruits so far.
Ohio State? Killing it. They are not going away, not like you expected them to.
Assistant to the. Fluff on Mike Debord has this paragraph embedded:
DeBord was a candidate to replace Lloyd Carr as the head coach at the University of Michigan, and when that did not pan out, he opted to take a job as assistant offensive line coach for the Seattle Seahawks.
I was also a candidate to replace Lloyd Carr but opted to not wear pants.
I drive a Benzing. Spectacularly named new MLive author "Philip Zaroo" provides a post detailing John Beilein's latest appearance on WTKA:
"Robin would only be an emergency center/big man type of kid," Beilein said. "He's a straight-out forward. He could play either the three or the four at 6-10 1/2.
The comparison always made is Dirk Nowitski, so expect him to hang out on the perimeter a bunch. Most expect Benzing will have to sit out 2008 after playing on a professional team (but not getting paid) in Germany.
Dude. Sporting News is re
launching, and amongst their new contributors:
Lloyd Carr and the Legends Football Coaching Association
See a different game with Michigan's Lloyd Carr, UCLA's Terry Donahue, Alabama's Gene Stallings and dozens of famous college football contributors.
Hopefully he writes a media-crit column.
Etc: UMTailgate takes a look back at Moellergate; Tim from VB 1) fell four stories, 2) isn't dead, 3) has a broken spine. But he's answering mailbag questions. Hardcore. (FYI: this QB we've offered is 2010.) Michigan has not one top 25 vote across ten preseason polls.
In the latest edition of "this ain't your father's Michigan football program," ESPN did their all-access thingy with a spring practice:
The segment goes downhill once Captain Platitude Kirk Herbstreit declares that Michigan is adopting an "us versus them" mentality, instead of, like, the "some of us versus them and the rest of us" adopted by Notre Dame last year.
(Via the Diag.)
Speaking of, nobody cares about Charlie Weis using H E double hockey sticks to describe where Michigan can go; we have heard the word deployed and, yes, do know that Bo basically said the same thing about ND. We're just laughing at Weis E Coyote preemptively mocking Michigan's "excuses" mere days after muttering about thugs and hooligans. Unlike Notre Dame fans, we do not think a not-for-public-consumption statement that expresses disdain for an institution via bad words is particularly noteworthy or horrible.
There is funny news about the basketball program. It is not bad news, nor indifferent news. It is an entirely new basketball-related sort of news. I think it is called "good"?
The NCAA has granted Arizona transfer Laval Lucas-Perry's appeal to be granted an extra year of eligibility, meaning the guard will be eligible to play three and a half seasons at Michigan
Lucas-Perry still has to sit out until the winter semester, but will be considered a freshman by the NCAA instead of a sophomore.
Hostybits. The baseball season is winding to its end, and the newly renovated Fish is likely going to see a heavy dose of postseason action. Michigan has won the Big Ten for the third straight year and will host the conference tournament, and with a few smaller schools who will not bid for regionals poised for #1 seeds, the general opinion is the committee will attempt to provide Michigan a regional. Baseball America:
San Diego and Coastal Carolina look like strong contenders to earn No. 1 seeds for the second straight year, but neither team is likely to submit a bid to host a regional as they did a year ago. USD coach Rich Hill said San Diego State's Tony Gwynn Stadium played like a neutral site a year ago, rather than a home environment, so the Toreros don't plan to bid again. And the Myrtle Beach Pelicans have said their stadium is unlikely to be available again for Coastal, meaning the Chanticleers would have to bring in temporary seating to Charles L. Watson Stadiumâ€”a scenario that also seems unlikely. So USD gets shipped to Michigan as the top seed, and Coastal is the No. 1 seed at East Carolina, which is 10th in the RPI and would give Conference USA a second host.
Michigan is a #2 seed in San Diego's regional; #3 LSU and #4 Wright State are the other teams. Michigan, by the way, is the only Big Ten team in the field.
This could be a significant advantage for Michigan going forward. With the fancy new stadium and college baseball's desire to have hosts in the midwest more often than not, Michigan is in line to host more than their fair share of regionals.
History! I haven't actually embedded a WolverineHistorian video in a while:
West Virginia newspaper columnists are awesome. This contretemps about the #1 jersey and Braylon being ticked is highly likely to be resolved satisfactorily in the near future, but don't tell that to West Virginians:
For a sports writer in this neck of the woods, Rich Rodriguez has become the gift that keeps on giving.
This is the slow time of the year around here, finals week, graduation, a time when a sports columnist has to wrack his brain â€” or what's left of it after dealing with the likes of Pacman Jones and Chris Henry â€” to come up with a story idea.
This is Bob Hertzel, and he is correct to warn the reader that he is brain dead.
The No. 1 uniform meant a lot to Edwards. It has belonged exclusively to a wide receiver since 1979, dating back to Chris Carter.
There's something wrong with this sentence: his name is "Cris Carter." Oh, and uh... here's a photo of Wolverine legend Cris Carter in his precious #1 jersey:
Little known fact: in 1979, Michigan and Ohio State were sent the wrong jerseys. With the nation at war with Cuba, all horses were diverted to Teddy Roosevelt's unit so they could be heroically and futilely shot. The two rivals had no choice but to don the other's silks.
Also, one equaled two for a brief period in the fall.
Please. You'd think Penn State fans' righteous indignation about Rich Rodriguez's recruiting would be severely blunted by the fact that PSU just yoinked Maryland cornerback Darrell Givens out from underneath Ohio State's nose. Not so much. Black Shoe Diaries:
I'm sure that certain people who swear there is no gentleman's agreement between Big Ten coaches will claim that we just violated it. Whatever. It's pretty obvious since Rodriguez joined the conference that anything goes, so when in Rome...
Weak, man. A little rhetorical flourish to preemptively dismiss the obvious: there never was any "gentleman's agreement" and Penn State fans are full of crap. Yeah, "anything goes" since Rodriguez showed up, which is why the very post BSD linked has no fewer than four examples of intraconference poaching the year before Rodriguez showed up.
Give it up, guys. This, like JayPa's efforts to recruit skill position players, is getting pathetic.
Recruiting summaries start tomorrow.
Braylon's going to shoot you. No. Seriously.
Don't make Shegos joke... don't make Shegos joke... check.
Gentleman Joe. Joe Tiller's just pissed because he can't move snake oil:
According to coach Brady Hoke, [Ball State commitment] Briggs Orsbon was offered a scholarship by Purdue Wednesday morning after Michigan stole WR Roy Roundtree from Purdue. However, Orsbon had already sent in his LOI.
Oh, so ethical, Joe.
Meathead, strike! I neglected to put Bret Bielema on the list of Big Ten coaches who had gone "avast!" and pirated recruits away from conference foes. Also, helpful readers pointed out Zook's fevered recruitment of cornerback Boubacar Cissoko before and after Carr's retirement and his boarding of the SS Hawkeye to plunder RB Jason Ford. This brings the total count of Big Ten coaches who know nothing of any "gentleman's agreement" in the Big Ten to nine, and essentially ten since Indiana temporarily picked off Jerimy Finch from Michigan.
Congratulations, Lake The Posts: if anyone picks off a Northwestern recruit your indignation can be righteous. Everyone else should probably check themselves.
What was I talking about? Oh, yeah. It's frickin' amazing the sort of rationalizations people will go through when it comes to Most Favored Team. For an example, see this morning's post where I'm like "we can still get Pryor!" Also:
We've seen how University of Wisconsin football coach Bret Bielema doesn't take no for an answer in recruiting by the way he's convinced prospects who had committed to other schools to change their mind and play for the Badgers.
That persistence apparently also works when it comes to assistant coaches.
Herein Bielema's "persistence" in continuing to recruit committed players is framed as a positive character trait! This is the same paper -- based in Wisconsin, natch -- that published the thousand-year-old man's silly thing about how Rodriguez is going to get run out of the conference on a rail because of his swashbuckling ways.
It's a coach's responsibility to do right by the kids he recruits; opposing coaches can go swing.
Re-rebuttal. Black Shoe Diaries' response to this blog's Friday post on the recruiting ethics, or lack thereof, at Penn State already got smoked in its own comments by an alert Michigan fan:
The small lie: "While his former team was playing in their bowl game he was sneaking into the office to shred documents."
The truth: While Rodriguez was discarding documents, it was a workday about a week before Christmas, and he was cleaning out his office in full view of an office full of people, none of whom found anything unusual in what he was doing.
If you tell a small lie like like that to bolster your story, what else might be false?
An excellent question. Ironic, then, that BSD's post is titled "Success With Honor." It individually debunks each of the questionable recruiting hijinks cited here earlier, none of which I think is particularly compelling. It amounts to empty public relations, something JoePa specializes in.
The prime Shaw complaint:
I can't hold it against a kid for changing his mind, but I can hold it against him for the manner in which he does so. All indications were that Mike Shaw was going to Penn State right up until signing day.
Even after he made an official trip to Michigan the Penn State insiders didn't seem worried.
"I am visiting another school" is an indication the kid's verbal is less than solid. Heck, Penn State should have known for a solid month that Shaw's verbal was shaky, as he announced($) he would visit Tennessee and Michigan on January second. Solid verbals do not visit other campuses. The Penn State "insiders" lack of worry is the only data point to offset the fact that Shaw made an official to another school that had a scholarship offer out to him and then immediately went off the grid, refusing to speak to anyone from reporters to coaches.
I know JoePa is old and addled (and JayPa is young and addled) but this is not a solid verbal even to applesauce eaters, and Penn State should have been making other plans. Hell, Penn State ended up three commits short of a full class and had a crying need for RBs and WRs, they should have been looking for kids anyway. Applesauce is delicious, though.
The main point: Black Shoe Diaries has no goddamn idea what went on in the Shaw recruitment, because no one did. Shaw didn't say anything to the media for the last month of his recruitment. We do know that Penn State was directly informed on January second that Shaw's verbal was not secure (yes, even if he said "I'm 100% to Penn State" or whatever empty boilerplate he provided). If Shaw announced his decommit in a dickish fashion (which he did, for the record), that reflects on Shaw, not Rodriguez. Michigan called the kid and asked if he would like to be recruited. He obviously said yes, and found a place he'd rather go to school.
Suggestion: deal, because this guy...
The best idea. I referenced this in my Fanhouse post on the wizard hat thing, and now Vijay has fleshed out what may be the best idea ever for an early signing period. The issue at hand through the lens of the Roundtree commitment:
this is exactly why we shouldn't have an early signing period. Roundtree described a Michigan offer as a dream come true. He said he always wanted to play for Michigan. He got the offer, he gets his chance, and that's a happy ending for Roundtree. If he committed to Purdue, changed his mind and then decided to play for Michigan, it's the original commitment to Purdue that was a mistake, not his change of destination. Put Michigan's and Purdue's views aside, what Roundtree wants is to be at Michigan.
An early signing period does not prevent kids from making mistakes, it locks them into their mistakes. Instituting an early signing period to prevent kids from changing their minds is like keeping families together by outlawing divorce.
Word. Vijay's s
olution is an early signing period, as many coaches are advocating these days, but with a twist:
Allow recruits to sing a non-binding LOI any time from, say, July 1st leading into the senior year. Once they file the letter, their scholarship to that school is secure, and in return for that guarantee, the recruit agrees to have no contact with coaches or recruiters from other schools and not to make any official visits to other campuses. It also has the benefit of preventing other coaches from calling recruits who filed these papers (contacting them would be a violation). But, if a kid were to change his mind, he could simply file paperwork to rescind the NBLOI, at which point it's like he never filed one, and recruiting is back on.
He explains the advantages of such a system in further detail at IBFC; I am 100% sold. The NBLOI solves most issues with persistent recruitment of kids without restricting their ability to change their minds. The only change I would make is to forgo the idea of an early signing period entirely and just allow any recruit to sign a NBLOI after, say, June.
Explication. Kevin Quick was dismissed from the hockey team suddenly; we now have an explanation:
Sources said the defenseman stole a credit card, used it as a personal piggy bank and spent thousands of dollars.
I read somewhere -- where, I don't remember -- that his roommate, Carl "Bork" Hagelin, was pretty upset about the situation, so it was probably his credit card. (Via Kukla's Corner.)
Quick's dismissal, though unfortunate, isn't that damaging as long as the rest of Michigan's defensemen remain healthy. Michigan planned on bringing in potential first-round pick Brandon Burlon from the St. Mike's program that's provided Andrew Cogliano and Louie Caporusso in recent years, but didn't have any money available and thus couldn't sign Burlon to a LOI. Now they've got a slot for him even if Mark Mitera decides to return for his senior year. If Mitera leaves Michigan will bring in near-walkon Greg Pateryn, who's had an excellent year in the USHL and finds himself ranked 162nd in the CSB rankings. Either way Michigan should be seven-deep again on D in 2008, a welcome change from poor JJ Swistak and Danny Fardig taking shifts.
Yost Built has your Saturday recap, a frustrating 5-5 tie against the Redhawks. Michigan fans are paranoid about the refereeing when linesmen aren't setting up 2-on-1s by tripping Mark Mitera.
The three-point weekend still moved Michigan into first place in the CCHA, RPI, and Pairwise with three weeks left in the regular season. Michigan has a one-point edge in the standings but is going to have to finish with a blaze of wins if they expect to hold on:
- Idiotically, the first tiebreaker is league wins instead of head-to-head.
- Both teams have two games against mediocre Ferris State left and two games against one of the CCHA's three terrible teams (10th place Lake State in M's case, 11th place Ohio State in Miami's), but...
- Michigan's other two games are against Michigan State. Miami's are against last-place Western.
It's hard to see Miami dropping more than a point or two the rest of the year. Michigan may have to sweep State in a Munn-Joe weekend to lock down a banner.
Yeesh. A further blast of sour grapes from Penn State fans:
Now Penn State has been known to take a defection or two in their day, but to my knowledge Penn State has never heavily recruited a kid after he verballed to another Big Ten school. Maybe they call them up and ask them if they're sure about their decision, but they don't visit the kid and harass him over the phone every week. It's up to the recruit to contact them first. I'm probably sounding Holier Than Thou, but from what I've read and what I've heard I honestly believe that's how Penn State does business.
1) Except this year, when they were going after an Illinois commit. 2) Why is it any more or less ethical to do it to Maryland or Notre Dame? Morality doesn't stop at the conference boundaries. 3) You have no idea how the Shaw recruitment played out. He picked Michigan; chances are he wanted to hear from them.
Even more off-kilter:
what you get when you implant in-bred trash from the backwards state of West Virginia into what used to be a honor thy opponent but beat their asses when you play them conference, you get an astounding 4 de-commits running to Michigan. Stealing recruits from your own conference members was something of the Big 12 or SEC, apparently Rich Rod sees no problem in going after recruits that had an understanding with their originally schools. Wolverine fans might laugh and say "Whats the big deal, coaches chase recruits all the time before LOI day."
Yes, like your coach.
And you know what's awesome that I forgot? In 2003, Purdue stole TE Garrett Bushong away from Michigan State. Add in Tim Brewster's persistent recruitment of OSU commit Willie Mobley and I present a list of coaches who have gone after other Big Ten schools' verbal commitments:
- Rich Rodriguez
- Joe Paterno
- Mike Brewster
- Mark Dantonio
- Jim Tressel
- Kirk Ferentz
- Joe Tiller
The only ones not on the list are Pat Fitzgerald, Bill Lynch, and Ron Zook. I'm 100% sure Zook has gone after other Big Ten team's verbal commitments because Ron Zook lives to recruit; the other two have probably tried and failed.
|O42||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||Run||1||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State in their base set here and in man cover one. Corners are playing soft... this is an opportunity for an easy slant or something. Instead, run it into a stacked front. We shuffle the fullback; Dan Connor immediately steps over and starts towards the LOS even before the ball is snapped. Boren(-1) is the main problem here, getting blown back by the DT over him. With a guy in the backfield and linebackers all over the second level there's nowhere to go.|
|O41||2||9||Ace Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State showing a two-deep zone with soft coverage. Mike Massey(-1) is shoved two yards backwards by one of PSU's undersized DEs, forcing Hart to cut up behind him. The rest of the blocking is actually pretty good; I think Hart screws up his cut here. If he wanted to dart outside he could have probably outrun a defensive tackle and maybe picked up a nice gain. As it is he burrows for four behind his linemen.|
|Embarrassing whiff on a blitz pickup by Massey(-2) leaves Hart attempting to block two guys. This does not work. Mallett's real short read, Matthews, has run himself into coverage and there's nowhere to go; sack. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Massey.)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min 1st Q. Mesko drops this inside the ten; Stevie Brown misjudges it badly. Oh... and can we make Carson Butler the starting tight end, please? What is it with Lloyd and guys named Massey?|
|O10||1||G||I-Form Twins||Pass||0||Manningham||Slip screen|
|Mallett throws this behind Manningham slightly, forcing him to delay and robbing this play of the timing it needs to succeed. (IN, 3, protection N/A).|
|Well, it's a touchdown. Mallett said he should have thrown this in the postgame, so... (BR, 0, protection 2/2). I am so mean. Should be noted that Massey(+1) gets a key block here.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q.|
|Boren and Mitchell cannot move the DT â€“ think it's Ogbu â€“ and there is no second-level block. Hart cuts behind here and up unto a couple of unblocked linebackers. Excellent job by Mitchell(+1) to seal the other DT, giving Hart enough of a crease to pick up a few.|
|M6||2||7||Ace Twins||Run||11||Minor||Zone left|
|Excellent job by Butler to turn the DE out â€“ PSU is undershifted here for more of a 5-2 look. Kraus does a great job on the DT, getting a little help from Boren late, and Long is free to go out and engulf Lee. Minor darts through an open left side.|
|Motion into a twins look. Butler is wide open off the waggle action, catches it a few yards downfield, and turns it up, making a tackler miss in the process. (CA, 3, protection N/A)|
|Neither Boren(-1) nor Schilling(-1) can get his guy blocked here; they meet Hart in the backfield and snow him under in tandem. Massey's block is also pretty crappy.|
|Thrown well behind Manningham, so much so that it actually hits King in the chest. Was there if accurate. (IN, 0, protection 2/2). This route had all of two guys in it, BTW.|
|Excellent blitz pickup from Hart. Mallet has plenty of time, can't find anyone, and scrambles out of the pocket. (TA, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 2 min 1st Q. An important couple of first downs on this drive, one of them on a wide open first down pass that we don't even bother trying again all day. But Mallett is pretty shaky so far. I think I am reconsidering my playcalling complaints.|
|We start with Arrington in the backfield; he motions out. I wonder what the point of this is? Mallett throws a slant; King interferes. (CA, 0, protection 1/1) Toney Clemons(-1) lines up on the line, making Massey an ineligible receiver. Also he is wide, wide open on a simple stop route.|
|M31||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||13||Hart||Zone left|
|Overshift from Penn State has an extra linebacker to the playside, but for some reason he darts inside the defensive end, allowiing Butler to ignore him and block Lee; the outside is wide open. Nice downfield block from Arrington. Long(+1) seals with authority.|
|M44||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||0||Hart||Zone right|
|Ogbu, slanting hard, splits Mitchell(-1) and Boren(-1). He ends up falling all over himself but Hart runs right into him and goes down. Play is otherwise well blocked and would have been a good gain.|
|Again with the Arrington motioning out of the backfield. The pass is batted down by a blitzer; it wasn't going for anything anyway as Mallett stared the route down. Three or four even if completed. (BA, 0, protection 0/1). Manningham open on a slant on the other side of the field.|
|A badass throw on a rope between two guys that Brett Favre would be pleased with. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Buried in the backfield as seemingly no one gets a block. Boren and Mitchell most prominently, Butler as well. I have always hated this playcall, even when it works.|
atted away; dangerously close to a pick. Mallett starts off by looking at Manningham but I get the feeling this is a decoy and not a real read for him. He comes off to Butler, who ran down the sideline for seven or so yards, then cut into zone coverage. The trick: Arrington ran right into the DB, kinda-sorta-blocking him momentarily, then released. Mallett was probably late with this ball. (BR, 1, protection 2/2)
|O42||3||14||Ace 3-wide||Pass||Inc||Hart||Insane flip thing|
|Blitz is momentarily picked up very well until Kraus(-1) lets Connor spin free and nearly sack Mallett. The only thing preventing said sack: Mallett sort of insanely flipping the ball towards Hart to avoid the sack. (TA, 0, protection 2/3, Kraus -1)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 14 min 2nd Q. Maguire says he'd be shocked if there weren't twice as many passes in this game as there are runs, which is insane if you consider who the coaches are.|
|Mallett has his pick of open tight ends and goes for the deeper one. This one is to Tacopants, who just caught a fairy touchdown for Penn State. Busy guy. (IN, 0, protection N/A)|
|Kraus flattens his guy and Boren stands up Connor; Hart splits the two linebackers and plows through for a nice gain.|
|M26||3||2||I-Form Big||Run||6||Hart||The Impossible|
|FB shuffle... we run away from it! Connor's so shocked that he falls down on the ground. Massey and Kraus seal a bunch of guys slanting the other way and Hart picks up a first down easily. Now debate amongst yourselves whether this play is worth tipping 20 others.|
|Pump fakes, then fires it in to Manningham past the sticks. (CA, 2, protection 2/2).|
|M44||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||4||Hart||Zone left|
|No creases but excellent push from Kraus and Long turns this into a standard wad play for a few. Didn't see the start because of poor production.|
|Penn State slants opposide the direction of this play, shooting a defensive end past Schilling(-1) and screwing up the blocking such that Hart has to deal with the DE and an unblocked Connor two yadrs in the backfield. He manages to make this a positive two instead of a negative two.|
|Bump and run for the other two corners; Arringtons guy much softer. He just runs a little in route after Butler drives off the coverage. No reason for PSU to be playing this soft on third and short-ish, IMO. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O43||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||10||Hart||Zone left|
|Kraus(+1) in a tough position here, asked to block a DT lined up slightly playside of him. He's driven back a yard or two but manages to get his helmet across him and seal him before Hart gets to him. Butler kicks out the DE. Boren and Long are on the second level shoving linebackers back.|
|Mitchell(+1) impedes the backside DT, opening up a hole up the gut that could be a nice gainer except that Long's(-1) second level block is tetchy, defeated by Lee, and Hart ends up submarined after a few.|
|O30||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Minor||Zone right|
|Again PSU slants against the playside. This completely screws up any chance we have of getting a second level block; Connor fills unmolested. Mitchell is hurt on this play. Cuilla comes in.|
|Same playcall from PSU with DL slanting hard to one side as Connor comes around the backside on a blitz. This time they're caught out, though, as the draw allows the DL to run themselves out of the play and Connor gets picked out by Moudros. Result is gaping hole for Hart. (This is how hard PSU slanted: Jake Long ends up blocking the PSU DE where Boren started the play.)|
|Overshift to the pay side and PSU defends this more conventionally. Boren seals his guy to the inside but lets him slip past; he takes a dive at Hart's legs and nearly takes them out. But he doesn't and there's a hole. Zone block from Long and Kraus blows out the other DT; Butler(-1) completely whiffs his cut against the DE, who tracks Hart through the hole and brings him down from behind.|
|Minor heads right up the middle into an unblocked Connor. I have a major problem with this playcall. It's second and a yard and you're on the 11; this is a down on which you can take a shot at the endzone on a really safe route like a fade or try to pick up five or six so your first and goal is from the five and you can plausibly batter your way in.|
|O10||1||G||Ace Twins||Run||-2||Hart||Zone left|
|Arrington brought in motion to be an extra blocker; all he does is bring another defender, who he whiffs on, basically, as Ogbu gets serious penetration from behind and Hart is snowed under. Cuilla goes down; Mitchell comes back in.|
|Penn State is all over this one; Mallett just gets rid of it. (TA, 0)|
|Overthrown, possibly intentionally because Mathews had guys all around him. Could file his as BR, IN, or TA... uh. I'm sure the message was don't turn it over. A generous TA. (O, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(29), 7-3, 2 min 2nd Q. Ugh.|
|M27||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Just before the snap PSU rushes a linebacker to the line outside of the tackle on the the playside; he's totally unblocked and in the backfield already. Meanwhile, the heavy slanting has gotten more PSU guys in the backfield; Hart has no chance.|
|Yeah... it's kind of sad that it's second and eleven with two minutes left in the first half and 1) Penn State still has seven guys in the box against this spread formation, 2) we still run against it, an
d 3) we run a freakin' draw when they're obviously expecting run. Connor is unblocked and ends the play near the LOS.
|Mallett rolls out past a crashing PSU DE, then finds Manningham wide open between levels in a zone. Excellent poise. (DO... for the scramble and playmaking, 3, protection 1/2, Schilling)|
|Batted at the line. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Arrington comes underneath zone coverage driven off by a deeper route, then fights for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|This is a much better place to run the draw. Six guys in the box, linebackers preparing zone drops and soft coverage behind it. Hart doesn't meet opposition until he's four yards downfield. Boren(+1) with an excellent block in the center of things.|
|Missed blitz pickup leads to a throw into the stands. (PR, 0, protection 1/3)|
|Hart stones Connor on a blitz; Mallett waits for Arrington to clear the DB in zone and rifles it in a small window. A little behind but catchable. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)|
|Excellent blitz pickup; Mallett finds an open Arrington... and misses him by a million yards. (IN, 0, protection 3/3)|
|Undercut by Seargeant; very nice play from him. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Interception, 7-3, EOH.|
|M33||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||9||Hart||Zone left|
|You can just see this is going to work on the snap. Penn State is in a base 4-3 that's actually shifted to the side away from the WRs; Michigan motions Butler over to them, balancing the TEs, and there's precious little adjustment from Penn State. Boren gets his head across the DT, allowing Kraus to get out to the second level immediately; Hart has a crease and space and a nice gain.|
|PSU more aggressive this time; Michigan can't seal the DT like on the last play. Hart cuts back behind the mess of the Boren/Mitchell double and a cut backside DE for three and the first down.|
|M46||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||-3||Hart||Zone right|
|Ogbu shoots into the backfield past Boren(-1), and behind him. He should stop to wall him off but he's still doing that "I'm going to run next to you" block as Ogbu gets into the backfield for a TFL. Rest of the frontside was blocked very well.|
|M43||2||13||Ace Empty||Pass||Inc||Manningham||WR screen|
|Michigan does its usual thing where it motions a TE out to a pair of receivers on one side with an empty backfield; this is pretty much always a screen. Mallett short-hops it. (IN, 0) Butler(-1) was moving forward at the snap; declined.|
|PSU blitzes; Hart stones Connor again, but Schilling(-1) whiffs on his guy; Mallett scrambles out of big trouble and dumps it off to Massey. About as well as he could have done given the situation. (CA, 3, protection 1/3, Schilling -2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 13 min 3rd Q.|
|Near identical setup to the first, successful run on the previous series, but #91 for PSU dominates his Boren-Kraus double team(-1 each) and blows this play up before it can even get started. I checked: this is Jared Odrick. (NOT Dan Connor, TV persons.)|
|M35||2||12||Ace Twins||Run||-1||Hart||Zone right|
|Schilling(-2) gets beaten badly, badly by the defensive end.|
|Mallett right on the money a yard or two short of the sticks. Arrington hesitates and cannot stretch for the first down; punty time. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 10 min 3rd Q.|
|So, this is one of the playcalls that really bothers me. Penn State has a true, no BS eight in the box with one deep safety and the corners playing eight yards off the LOS. A quick hitch or an out to Arrington or even a long handoff is open here, simple throws against this sort of stuff. We go with the day's first zone counter play, but there's no fricking way Hart can get to the backside because Ogbu has blown past MacAvoy(-1) and well into the backfield. So he goes up the frontside, where somewhat miraculously there's a tiny wedge he can fit through for like three yards.|
|Linebacker runs up into the hole between Long and Kraus, but this is going outside, so he's just run himself into a really easy block for butler. Long(+1) seals his guy and there's no one to the outside. Hart powers through Scirrotto impressively to finish.|
|Frontside all jammed up. As Hart cuts back Schilling(-1) loses his block and his guy sticks Hart for a small gain.|
|Kraus(-2) humiliatingly discarded by Chris Baker and attacked in the backfield. Baker can't tackle but the play's screwed up, as you might imagine. He turns it into two.|
|Wide open; Mallett's throw is a little high and hard but catchable. A
rrington brings it in. (CA-, 2, protection 2/2)
|Aw, come on, Ryan. This is the fifth one in two and a half games.|
|Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-3, 4 min 3rd Q.|
|Arrington motions across the formation into a twins look; Mallett fakes the zone but Maybin is out on him quickly. Butler is covered short, and there doesn't appear to be anyone open. Mallett sort of runs up into Butler; two guys converge to sack. Should have thrown this away. (TA, 0.)|
|A dead simple stop route that Manningham catches three yards downfield without a guy between him and the first down marker. This stuff was open all day, as PSU tipped three-deep coverage more often than not. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Manningham gets some nice YAC.|
|Exact same play to the opposite side of the field, as Penn State tips three-deep again with a corner ten yards off the LOS. (CA, 3 protection 1/1)|
|O48||1||10||Ace 3-wide||Run||7||Hart||Zone left|
|Penn State again gets superior penetration on the frontside, causing Hart to cut back. Since we're in a balanced formation we have a TE to block the backside LB â€“ PSU in a 5-2 look â€“ and Schilling(+1) walls off his DE. Hart cuts behind the penetrating DT and goes outside of Schilling's block; Connor is caught up in the mess. Something similar happened on a previous drive but Schilling lost his guy. Hart stiffarms his way for a nice gain.|
|PSU's LB blitzes on the backside right into this. To his credit, he reads it well, but Manningham manages to get around him and turn this into a small gain.|
|Mathews open on the out; Mallett throws it to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)|
|Penn State's DL slants into some trouble here. Massey is lined up well off the LOS over Long and pulls around to act as a fullback. To his credit, he really thumps Connor and makes a crease between him and a double on a DT from two OL. (+1 Massey)|
|O28||3||In||Ace Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|Odrick again gets penetration past Kraus(-1) â€“ we are having major problems with PSU DL swimming past our OL â€“ but can't grab Hart's legs. There's a hole created by the DL's penetration. Hart moves up into it, smartly cutting behind a linebacker getting shoved downfield by Moundros; Connor also caught up in the wash.|
|O20||1||10||Ace Twins||Run||8||Hart||Zone left|
|We set up with both TEs to the wide side of the field, bringing Butler in motion short. They remain shifted to the wide side of the field. This time Boren(+1) manages to get Odrick under control; Long kicks out the DE as Butler and Kraus head to the second level. Kraus gets a decent block on Lee; Arrington's guy disconnects downfield to tackle.|
|O12||2||2||Ace Twins||Run||-3||Hart||Zone left|
|Exact same formation, motion, and play, except this time PSU is loaded up to stop it with an eighth guy in the box and shifted towards the playside. They slant hard; Baker beats Boren and with the frontside jammed up Hart's delay means a TFL. Virtually no one got blocked on this play.|
|Arrington looked criminally open from my seats, but maybe he wasn't. Mallett stands in, waiting for Mathews to come underneath the zone; he does. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|O6||1||10||Ace||Run||1||Hart||Outside zone left|
|This is pretty awful from Kraus. He gets blown back yards into the backfield, disrupting this play's timing. I think this was designed to go outside, but we'll never know. Hart manages to get a yard.|
|Penn State's in the backfield before this play even gets started. Both Massey(-1) and Long(-1) lose their guys instantly.|
|Clear contact after the ball is in the air; an obvious call. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)|
|Wad wad wad wad wad.|
|O1||2||G||Goal line||Run||1||Hart||Zone right|
|The "Lionized" run. All effort.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-6, 8 min 4th Q.|
|PSU lines up with a sizable gap between DT and DE on the playside that's supposed to be filled with a blitzing linebacker. Kraus(+1) takes his momentum and shoves him back as Boren and Long get their blocks; no linebacker support with the blitz and Hart is into the secondary.|
|Penn State crashes into this, getting a guy past Kraus(-1) into the backfield immediately; the frontside is overrun and Hart has nowhere to go.|
|PSU with an extra man in the box; we're obviously running; it's a draw. What? Schilling(-1) gets driven back yards by the defensive end, Hart has to orbit around him in the backfield. The rest of it is jammed up.|
|Mallett's to-and-fro pocket
scrambling thing; Mallett rolls out and finds Mathews open. Replay shows that no one was open at first. Excellent play (DO, 3, protection 3/3)
|Massey beaten by his guy, who closes and tackles near the LOS on an otherwise well-blocked play.|
|Michigan allows the DL to slant upfield as they pass block; there's a crease created by this. Moundros crashes into Connor's legs, which is only mildly effective. Hart's only option is to run up into the mess.|
|Interesting: PSU so committed to the run here that they have basically no deep safety with Scirotto moving up at the snap; if Mallett waits like two extra seconds he has Arrington wide open on a seam running free. But a completed slant for a first is good, too. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)|
|Schilling(-1) again blown backwards. Very tough game for him.|
|Connor stands up Moundros in the Long-Kraus gap and Hart's cutback is into a bunch of bodies.|
|Apparently ABC just decided not to show this. It was a swarmed zone left IIRC.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 1 min 4th Q.|
So, Mr Grumblypants, what about this playcalling stuff?
Well... after going over the tape I am less offended. Frequently Penn State was lined up in decently attractive fronts to run against and Michigan just couldn't execute its blocks. Also, Mallett was extremely shaky in the first half and was clearly an option not to be leaned on. Still, I question the lack of simple routes against Penn State's frequently-displayed three deep zone.
Also bothersome: two instances upon which Michigan found itself in second and very short in the redzone and declined to use the opportunity for anything other than a three-yard run. The one at the 11 was the biggest disappointment. If Michigan gets down to the five or something, pounding it into the endzone is a real possiblity. First and goal from the ten is basically a field goal attempt when you're running against this Penn State defense.
|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|
This is a seriously rough outing; things were seriously rougher in the first half. At one point I looked down and I was checking off a fifth IN and Mallett was like on 4 CAs, one of them generous. Kid was very shaky early aside from that ridiculous post dart to Arrington. In the second half, things improved greatly.
Special Mallettchart addendum as requested by some commenters:
I... wow. This has to be something of a coincidence, right? I am not a believer in Shotgun, the Curer of Ills, but my God that's stark.
Oh, and protection: 42/51, -3 Schilling, -2 Massey, -1 Kraus, -3 "team" on missed blitz pickups or a batted ball. More on Schilling and the blocking later. First, receiverchart:
An outstanding day. Anything that was catchable was caught.
What was the deal with all the Penn State defensive tackles all up in Mike Hart's grill?
One: Penn State appears to have an outstanding DT rotation. Though Michigan had played three very sketchy defenses to start the year, they were moving guys like Trevor Laws around like they were on skates. The Lions had guys overpowering Michigan players time and again. They're young but Penn State's defensive line was extremely impressive in the run game.
Two: I think PSU had a plan coming into the game that was high-risk, high-reward. Time and again Ogbu or Odrick would actually duck behind the OL firing out to one side or the other, engaging momentarily, then swimming behind the guy. This was one source of all that penetration. Sometimes it worked to the tune of a three yard TFL. If the DEs and linebackers did well enough to slow Hart at all, the DT coming from behind would crush him. However, when this did not happen the out of position DT would end up diving at Hart's legs and there was a major gap for him to exploit. Thus the infuriating pattern of Hart running for 13 or 9 or whatever alternating with three-yard losses that put Michigan behind the eight ball. Note the pattern above: hardly any three-and-outs for Michigan and a lot of first downs but there's always one series that starts out with Hart getting tackled for no gain or a loss and usually a punt that follows shortly thereafter.
Three: Steve Schilling and Justin Boren both had poor outings, Schilling moreso than Boren. This is not entirely unexpected in both's first start against class-A competition. Schilling got blown into the backfield multiple times, and though he maintained a few blocks nicely he was overall a liability.
Four: Mike Massey's not much of a blocker.
The end result was the most negative rushes in Hart's career. Hart lost 22 yards on various carries; his total for the entirety of last year was 39 yards.
So the PSU defensive plan was to bleed a couple first downs and play it safe until they could put Mallett in third and long?
Yes, and it worked. Penn State held Michigan to ten points, basically, if you discount the ten-yard touchdown drive and credit Michigan with the drive that ended in a Brabbs special 29 yard missed field goal. It was a good idea, and if they had any help from their offense it probably would have resulted in a win.
Is there anything we can do about this?
I don't know, man. I think Iowa employed a similar strategy to good effect last year until we started running what looked like intentional zone counters. Why didn't we go with some of that TE-pull stuff that worked so well the last couple weeks? We only ran it once and on that play it was blown up by DT penetration, then we went away from it entirely. Our single other misdirection play was the near-disastrous end-around that PSU was fortunate to blitz an aware defender into. Other than that, bupkis. The lack of misdirection seems a major problem with this run game against competition with guys who can slash into the backfield. See: the Rose Bowl, when Trojan NT Sedrick Ellis crushed Mike Hart over and over, and Iowa, when the undersized but slashing Iowa DL held Michigan down for a half and most of a game.
So what does it mean for Northwestern?
Given Northwestern's performance year to date, probably nothing. It does portend ill for the end of year matchup against OSU and Wisconsin and possibly the upcoming Illinois game. We'll have to find a way to combat PSU's strategy or there will be lots of stops and starts and punts.