Mike Lantry, 1972
This is just pure aaargh right here, but how about a preview of why the Michigan defense was so terrible against UMass?
It's first and ten on the Michigan 35 on what will be UMass's second touchdown drive. UMass comes out in an ace set with two tight ends to the short side of the field:
Michigan is in a 3-3-5, basically, but the twins formation and the double TEs distort it. Roh's off the field momentarily, replaced by JB Fitzgerald. UMass is going to run it up the gut:
There's no pull on this so it's an inside zone. There's nowhere to go with RVB shoving his guy into the backfield, Kovacs beating the second TE to the inside, and Leach blitzing unmolested off the weak side. Michigan has basically killed this play as the RB has no choice but to head outside, where…
…Mouton is totally unblocked. You can also see Kovacs poking his head through at the top of the line and Van Bergen getting his shove on.
Anway, Mouton: with no one outside of him because of the alignment he's the force defender who must get the tailback inside of him, where Leach and a scraping Ezeh can deal with the tailback if he cuts back inside tackle. (For some reason, this is "keeping leverage on the football.") And he's playing against a I-AA tailback. So he runs up real fast…
…lets the tailback outside of him…
…and personally turns zero yards…
Seriously, there's nothing else here except Mouton making an enormous mistake. The good news is that if they fix that stuff the scheme of the defense is fine. It's not like they're asking the players to do anything particularly difficult or novel: make tackle. If cannot make tackle, funnel RB to help. Do not let RB outside of you. This has nothing to do with a shift to a 3-3-5. Look, here's Mouton doing the pretty much the same thing last year, albeit against a blocker:
That's the bad news: if these linebackers have been starting for three years and are still making these mistakes, why would they stop now? GERG linebacker fairy theory is about it and that took a major hit against UMass.
Maybe it was just an off day, one on which the linebackers took it easy and reverted to old, bad habits. Yeah. That, too, is the ticket.
First: Look at those glasses! He says they're not prescription.
When he made two big plays late in the first half "I just felt like it was the momentum changing." The offense started poorly, and he needed to provide a boost. "I don't know if 2 touchdowns in 45 seconds is quite the dream," it might be better. "I was always the big-play guy in high school, I was always the deep threat in high school. I've always wanted to get that transition over to Michigan."
In the third year of the offense with Denard throwing well, it's not just Stonum that's blossoming. Everybody knows stuff so can go out there and play fast.
"I try to lead by example most of the time. I'm not really a vocal screaming yeling in the huddle type of guy." He lets his work ethic speak for itself. Always works as hard as he can in weight room, in class, and on-field.
Defenses play differently with Denard in the game. They'll contain instead of trying to sack Denard. He's making the right reads and is pretty dangerous. "We knew we didn't want him carrying the ball 30 times a game every game." They were able to get the ball to some RBs and establish something else on the ground.
"We've got some pretty athletic offensive linemen." They relish the opportunity to show off that athleticism by getting downfield and making plays. "I knew we had playmakers, it was just a matter of us getting the ball into the laymakers hands and setting up opportunities for them through our blocking."
The OL is coming together each week, as they have pretty good experience. Molk jumped back in where he left off with his injury last fall and spring. Taylor Lewan - "I watched the whole game yesterday, and he seemed to have a pretty good game." He and some others have been performing well in practice, even if they haven't seen the field much.
"There's absolutely more [offensive improvement] to come. The offense is clicking but we're still not performing to our full potential and capability."
UMass was a "mini wakeup call." Seniors have been good at getting them pumped, but they need to do better than last week. "I'm frustrated now and I was frustrated then. You just can't do anything about it now." The defense needs to prepare better and be more hungry going forward.
The first two games were good for the defense. Against UMass "looking at the tape, we just didn't tackle well." Were surprised by a few schemes as well. Have to have a certain persona to tackle well. "I really did think every guy came in with that" and it just didn't work out for some reason. They'd hit guys in the backfield, or allow 5 yards to be stretched into 10. Don't want to let guys get more than they should.
"With our training from Mike Barwis, we don't get very tired ever." The fourth quarter points for UMass were not a result of that.
Taylor Lewan played well. Proud of him because they've been buddies for a couple years. "He's finding a happy medium between being aggressive and holding a lot." That style will work well in the Big Ten.
Mike Martin "he is the strongest person I' ve ever seen in the weight room, and it's really showing on the field." Beat a double team to sack the QB.
It won't be tough to get up for BGSU. "From our performance this Saturday, this team is definitely going to get up for this game."
"The offense really helped us out this past Saturday, and that's why it's a team." One side will have to rely on the other from time to time.
Craig doesn't listen to music before games to get pumped up - reads a bit of the Bible.
Being a hometown guy, it'll be a different experience to play BG. He doesn't know anybody on the team though, outside of Bryan Wright. "It's gonna be weird" being on opposite sidelines. Knows him well, good kicker. They keep in touch a little bit, but haven't been trash talking yet.
Defense mindset - "Obviously we aren't satisfied with the way that we played defensively." It's much nicer to get that out of the way early in the season, and with a win. "I expect it to be a 1-game slip-up. I'm sure we'll make our corrections today."
Feels different than last year's struggles. They'll move forward. "I think they're pretty simple things." Technical errors and a couple missed assignments. Players might have been hesitant after giving up big plays to Notre Dame "maybe guys are just inexperienced and aren't feeling comfortable in their zones yet."
Obi and Jonas are the senior leaders on D. Each said a few things after the game in the locker room, as did Craig Roh.
"If you can control the ball, you can wear out a defense." The D didn't do their job to get themselves off the field.
Interception - "The first thing I was thinking is 'yes I finally got one.' Sometimes, you don't want to do too much." He should have tucked the ball better.
The team will be very focused after a letdown against UMass. "Last game was a reality check for many games to come. Of course, it's a good thing that we still got the win." There's a small margin for error at this level. The other teams prepare, too. "You have to prepare even better. It's not like high school."
The defense wants to do their part like the offense has been doing. "We're still not as good as we need to be or want to be." Both sides of the ball can improve, but there's only been three games.
Going against Michigan receivers in practice helps prepare for other teams' best receivers.
Transition to safety is good. Still room for improvement. "What's the best room in the house? That's room for improvement."
Choosing Michigan - "I love it here." Everyone will face adversity growing up, and he's learning at Michigan that working hard and staying in the fight will help you through.
Not pleased with the way they played, but happy with the win. All three phases of the game had letdowns. "As quiet a winning locker room as you'll ever see."
"I can promise our guys will look at the film, coaches will look at the film, I'll watch everything on all three phases." "Defensively we thought they would pressure us a little bit" so Denard couldn't run. Has to talk to D coaches to see if UMass did surprising stuff. "They're pretty good up front."
Nobody was injured outside of Banks, and his injury isn't serious.
Take what they give us. Stonum made plays, Shaw stepped up. Not worried about starters being tired because they only played 56 snaps.
3-4, 4-3 shift "We saw the same thing last week." Switch just about every other snap. "That's kinda part for the course. Our guys have seen that." UMass adjusted at the second half. UMass played a lot of cover-0, gave up lots of 1-on-1 opportunities. Maybe Michigan should have taken even more deep shots. Wanted to run to give the D a break.
"[Denard] was pretty sharp with his eyes and his decisions." Ball-handling was the problem. Denard not as sharp as he was first couple weeks. "Amost like a first-game feel." Execution wasn't clean. Denard made some great throws, a few good runs. "We didn't run him as much. We didn't want to." Shaw stepped up.
Offense is QB-centered, he has to run sometimes. More designed RB runs today to give him some relief. Shaw - "runs hard, got great speed, used his vision well today." Team's biggest homerun threat.
Lewan - "we should have played Ricky Barnum too some." They'll decide if a few more guys should have gotten onto the field. "If we'd have payed better, we could have played more guys. Didn't happen, so we've gotta play we've we've got to to win the game."
"We have some warts, that's still out there. Let's not pretend that we're the 1985 Chicago Bears." Have to play with passion, intensity, and intelligence in all 3 phases, but especially on D. Didn't get better today, but the guys know without being told that they need to work hard this week.
Some of D struggles lack of execution - missed tackles, losing contain, "there's a lot of things that we've gotta clean up, and everybody knows that." Going against a different scheme this week, made some mistakes. Has to watch film to compare where the breakdowns were. Losing contain to our left was bad, because they knew it would happen coming in. Lost contain 5-6 times at least.
Kovacs strip - scored quickly, then got the turnover for 2 quick scores. Momentum with the ball in third quarter. Didn't happen to shut them down and put the game out of reach. "They played well." Went into the UMass locker room to tell them that.
Special teams - The return game was OK, a couple times Darryl almost broke one. Missed only field goal, kick coverage needs to improve. Kickers make them in practice. Will just dropped the snap on the block.
Thought Seth Broekhuizen kicked better for kickoffs. Placekicking - "We had a student body tryout. Any student out there... we'll have another tryout for you.
"You never know" how many points you'll need to win. UMass is a good team. "They gave us a run for our money." The D carried the offense last week, so in the team concept, it's time to pay it back a bit. "They'll make some corrections, and so will we."
Came out slow, but for the most part did a good job executing. Offense knew they were shooting themselves in the foot early, just started executing better.
"On that play, I'm usually a backside outlet" on the long TD reception. Omameh and Grady did a good job blocking to open the hole.
Last time he scored 2 TDs back-to-back like in the second quarter was in high school. Personal breakthrough game? "With all the talent we have at receiver, you never know who's gonna be the hot hand for the week." Just his job to show the coaches he's capable of making plays. He and Roy joking about who would be the guy this week.
On his long (non-TD) reception "Denard fakes the sprintout, and we knew that the whole defense is gona key to his running." Just had to run past the cornerback.
Denard throwing: "His accuracy and his... total quartebrack, just being a pocket passer." His accuracy has improved. Puts the ball where the receivers can run away from the defender after the catch.
"[Denard] told me on the sideline, mid second quarter, that he was gonna start giving up the ball a lot more." Denard's been getting yards because Ds are keying Shaw instead of Denard. Today was different. Other guys need to step up so the offense can click without Denard having to do it all. "We have playmakers, but now we're coming into our own as an offense."
There's no way to tell from film who the end is keying on. Had an idea they'd try to contain Denard (like ND, which didn't work out for them).
He was trying to hit the hole fast early in the game, but the DL was 2-gapping the OL, so he tried to hesitate on his long TD run to make sure he had the right read.
Offensive pressure opposite that D? "We added pressure to ourselves." Held each other up each of the past two weeks. Denard kept the team poised when they were down 17-7.
Special team struggles? "I don't really expect our kicking game to miss kicks. We all have faith in all of our teammates." Offense's job is to score TDs and not have to rely on those guys as much. "Those 40-yard kicks can turn into 2-yard extra points."
UMass held onto the ball well. Defense didn't do their job to get them off the field. "You've gotta give them a lot of credit they're a very good team. Maybe they caught us off guard." "They've got some big offensive linemen, I know it's nothing like we'll see in the Big Ten."
"We're happy that we didn't lose, but we're not satisfied with the way that we played defensively." Defensive play overall: "Clearly it's disappointing." Better to have that happen in a game that they still win, instead of have them cause a loss.
On his strip and recovery: "At that point in the game, they had a lot of momentum." Knew his team needed a big play, noticed the guy was carrying the ball low.
Losing contain - "Tough to see defensively. I'll admit that it happened to me a couple times." Need to get back to fundamentals and responsibilities. Would have been a different story if everyone executed well.
"We never underestimate a team. We're not good enough to just walk in and get a victory." The team just has to play hard. "I think a focus that we needed" was lacking. Had a good week of practice. Need to get back to fundamentals this week in practice. "Michigan came out with a victory, and that's all we can ask for."
UMass offensive line - "They had a good line. They were smart and they did a good job with positioning their bodies a certain way." Called some plays to keep UMass unbalanced, disguise some things. They did a god job reacting.
Fighting through doubles. "It feels good as a nose guard because you don't get a lot of chances to be free." If you hit a rock over and over and it breaks after 100th hit, it's not the 100th hit that breaks the rock, it was the 99 before that.
Fewer sacks - "We've just gotta keep playing hard." Last year, it took BG 4 games to get a sack, there's still a lot of football to play.
Cam Gordon int/fumble "That's tough. I think it's just one of those freak things." The way it happened, they didn't complain and just went to go play the next play.
The team has done a good job not getting worried, pointing finger. "That's what we did in the past and we've done a better job this year in that aspect." Just do your job to win.
Coach went over a few things on the drawing board, and the halftime message was to go out and play as hard as they can for the final 30 minutes.
Make sure guys buckle down and get ready for Bowling Green.
UMass is a good team on both sides of the ball. "We watched film and knew they was pretty good." The team just came out sluggish. Can't come out sluggish and expect to win. That was the lesson they learned today. Have to re-focus to make sure this doesn't happen next week.
"We just had to focus and everybody had to play as one, play as a team, play smart" when they were down 10. Team started slow, and everyone needed to whole team to play.
"They really didn't contain me, I guess. That's why Shaw had a great game." UMass made that decision, not Denard. "It was great to have [Shaw] running the ball like that." All the running backs are threats, they just needed a D to give them a chance to break out.
"I'm all in for Michigan. Whatever it takes to win. We winning for Michigam, we're not just winning for me." Doesn't care about his stats if they win. "If we get a W, that's good." Nobody's perfect. He knew he wasn't going to go a whole season without throwing a pick. "We're gonna face adversity the whole season."
He thought he would play the whole game, until the coaches tell him otherwise.
On the long Stonum touchdown, "It was designed, he read the blocks perfectly, he made one guy miss, and got going." It was a big shift in momentum before the half. The offense just had to make the plays happen. Everybody knew they had to step it up.
"We've moved from that Notre Dame game, that was last week. And will move on from UMass after we watch film tomorrow to Bowling Green."
Didn't get any awesome emails this week but there are a few bits from the comments and other blogs. Anyway:
GS's run chart comes to a lot of reassuringly similar conclusions as the UFR did: the left side of Michigan's line struggled against Kapron Lewis-Moore but the right side and Molk got their pwn on; he was way more impressed with the tight ends (8-0=8 combined!) than I was and similarly down on Shaw. More Omameh hype:
Much better from Omameh. The 2* who was a 250 pound DE in high school crushed the 5* all-world linebacker multiple times, with brutal efficiency.
I meant to mention this in the UFR, but BWS also picture-paged some running back inefficiency. This is a key point:
As you can see here, the defensive end is staying high, forcing Denard to hand the ball off. But the Notre Dame linebackers have engaged with the offensive line before they were able to get upfield. If Michigan's linemen were given a free release to the second level, they're fast and smart enough to make the block. But instead, Notre Dame's linebackers were told to plug the holes at the point of attack and make Shaw slow down at the line and pick a hole. In doing so, it gives the weakside defensive end enough time to crash down for the tackle.
Last week against UConn we saw a lot of holes open up; this week ND linebackers were clogging the LOS. I made my position on this clear: Michigan really needed to exploit this tendency more. The other play he cites is the frustrating Shaw dance where this…
…turned into no yards because Shaw cut behind Schilling and then tried to spin to the backside of the play.
Magnus also criticizes the play design of the Te'o sideline to sideline play. Might and Main points out that Stonum got chewed out after the Vincent Smith swing pass that Calabrese killed for a minimal gain on third and seven. This is what I said:
Last week this was paired with a slant and I'm confused why it's not this week. ND is in man-to-man for once and the deeper hitch is covered by the CB, leaving the flare open; accurate, but Calabrese is all over it for minimal gain. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
Given the reaction of RR, it's likely this was supposed to be a slant after all.
Didn't get much feedback this week, but here's Magnus making a valid criticism of the 53-yard touchdown breakdown:
Rogers shouldn't get a -1 for the 53-yard TD pass to TJ Jones. Here's why:
In a Cover 2 defense, the flat defender (Rogers) is supposed to play any receiver in his zone. If no receiver enters his area, he's supposed to gain depth. On that play, an underneath receiver entered the flat zone; furthermore, the QB was rolling to his side. When a QB rolls to the flat defender's side, there will always be a receiver in the flat - that's just how plays are drawn up. So when that receiver enters his zone, Rogers had to suck up closer to the line of scrimmage.
Meanwhile, Cam Gordon's job is to play the deepest man on his half of the field. Whether one, two, or three receivers enter his zone, he has to play the one who runs farthest down the field. It was a well designed play to pick on an inexperienced safety. Gordon got caught looking in the backfield and didn't see TJ Jones streaking up the sideline. By the time Jones came open, he was no longer the responsibility of James Rogers - that was all Cam Gordon.
This is the exact reason that Michigan wants to run a lot of Cover 3. Gordon doesn't have the speed/experience to cover a deep half, and Kovacs doesn't have the athleticism to make a play on the ball, either.
On the other hand, this seems reasonable to me too:
Magnus, I think you should look at the video again......Rogers doesn't even react to the fact that both receivers are going vertical. He almost immediately looks up #3 and starts to jump the route (completely disregarding his coverage duties).
Rogers was the one caught looking in the backfield. He should be reading 2 to 1. When 2 gets vertical, he should immediately get into phase on #1. He jumped the flat route and disregarded the fact that 2 receivers had gone vert, putting Cam on an island.
Who is right? Video:
I can see it either way. It's tough to zone up when you've only got six guys in the coverage, and Rogers was faced with a choice of sinking back on the vertical routes, leaving Rudolph wide open, or leaving Gordon one-on-one with two guys. From his play it looks like he's not even considering dropping back into coverage, which is either a major bust on his part or just the way the D is drawn up. Either way I should have RPS –2ed the play.
Magnus also disagrees with my minusing the linebackers on Armando Allen's nine-yard run off tackle late (the play before the epic Mouton hold:
By alignment, it looks like Kovacs has outside contain to the bottom of the screen. He steps down to get a jam on the TE and replace his feet, but he then gets caught inside. If Kovacs can keep contain here (like he did earlier in the game when he fought off a block from the pulling OT), he's funneling the running back to the inside.
If Kovacs holds the edge, Mouton is stepping up to take on the pulling OL. Ideally, Mouton would stuff up the OL, cut his legs, or take him on with the inside shoulder and force the RB further inside. But Mouton gets caught up in the wash of Kovacs getting blown down the line.
Meanwhile, Ezeh is scraping unblocked and would presumably make the tackle after a minimal gain.
This is plausible, but it's hard to see how Kovacs can possibly maintain contain when he's one guy lined up opposite two ND tight ends and the fullback. This is bad defense design and should have been RPS-1ed.
9/11/2010 – Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24 – 2-0
The Daily's Sam Wolson.
Sometimes even the corner of the endzone is a perfect vantage point to see something, and we were right on line to see Dayne Crist heave up what looked like a punt in the general direction of a covered Kyle Rudolph. We saw Cam Gordon take the wrong angle, backtrack desperately to take a futile swat at the ball, and twist his body around as quickly as possible to chase Rudolph. From there it's a dull haze as Notre Dame stadium erupted. The public address announcer, normally as staid and even-handed as Carl Grapentine, finished relating the details by exclaiming something about the rainbow Providence had directed to appear above the stadium at that exact moment.
Michigan fans are no strangers to this sort of thing. Ask anyone who's been around the block a couple times about Notre Dame Stadium and you'll get a recounting of injustices cosmic and otherwise perpetrated on not only Michigan but the idea of free will. Find them in a quiet moment in the dead of winter and get a couple drinks in them and you might hear a rigidly controlled statement about how the things that happen to Michigan's football team in South Bend make the speaker just… I don't know… unsure about certain things. Doesn't matter if they're religious or not. If they are, it's the existence of a just and loving God. If they aren't, it's the absence of a wrathful one. Either way the intensity with which your conversation partner is focusing on the rim of his glass will be unsettling.
The last time I went was 2002. Michigan fumbled four times, committed ten penalties, missed a 32-yard field goal, gave up a safety on a Courtney Morgan holding call, saw a Carlyle Holiday fumble at the two ruled a touchdown, and lost when Navarre's first pass on Michigan's last-ditch drive was batted directly to a Notre Dame defender. Michigan lost 25-23; in their previous two outings Notre Dame hadn't scored an offensive touchdown. I wrote two things about it in the aftermath:
- An Every Three Weekly article titled "John Navarre Blamed For Offense, Defense, Kicking Game, Iraq, 9/11, Everything Else."
- The other half of the infamous article exchange with Blue Gray Sky, in which a small child utterly defeats me by saying "good game, mister" as I attempt to trudge my way home.
The thesis statement of the latter:
To a Michigan fan, every Irish loss over the past ten years has been due to an unfortunate confluence of unlikely events: fumbles, ridiculous refereeing, blocked punts, hilarious deflected passes, etc. It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not (though it is): that’s what it feels like. It feels like Michigan has nothing to gain and everything to lose, and everything gets lost on a biannual basis.
When Kyle Rudolph crossed the goal line the thing I thought was not an unprintable string of expletives. It was "of course."
Before the season a reporter from the Hartford Courant called me up for a story he was doing on the UConn game, probably because he saw me as a way to tap into the zeitgeist of the Michigan fan. As these things usually go, he only used one sentence from a fifteen minute conversation. This left out what seemed to me like the most interesting bit of the conversation, where he asked what I thought Michigan football stood for, what made it special and unique.
I had no answer to this. I said "that sounds like a question a Notre Dame fan would love to answer"—which caused the reporter to laugh a little more heartily than objectivity would approve of—and then launched into a narrative that won't be unfamiliar to anyone who's been around here a while. The post titles say it all, really: "Empire of the Fallen." "You Were Killed By A Bear And I Am Sad."
I told the guy that my inability to answer that question any more was kind of the point. The thing that was is dead, having expired from natural causes after a long illness. The thing that replaced it wasn't really anything except incompetent.
Basic understanding of the Michigan zeitgeist is understanding that now there is no answer to the question. Advanced understanding adds that until the Horror there was no program in the country with a more confident answer to it, and puts the two together to find a large number of sad pandas.
And then with 40 seconds left Denard Robinson stared down a blitzing, unblocked Manti Te'o and fired a dart to Roy Roundtree for fifteen yards on third and anything but a field goal attempt. Michigan had done its best to gaffe its way out of it like this uniquely frustrating rivalry demands, but after that it was academic. You try to stop Denard Robinson from going two yards, or seventy-two, or eighty-seven.
The rainbow was not Providence, except insofar as Denard Robinson might be it. It was the Shoelace bat signal, or rather one of many Shoelace bat signals: Flagpoles. Trees. Corned beef sandwiches. Damn near anything. Once summoned not even the vast historical juju of Notre Dame Stadium can do anything about him.
So this thing you dared not hope for starts to coalesce just from the things that happen on the field, and then yesterday morning I was struck by a sense of profound gratefulness when I watched the MGoBlue video of Denard's postgame presser:
I love how he smiles all the time and wears his heart on his sleeve and goes "AHHHH" when someone mentions Roundtree blocking for him and seems about as amazed as everyone else as what he's doing. I love how he drops to one knee after he scores in a way that seems genuine in a way I couldn't comprehend until I saw it. I love that if you ask him he'll sign your forehead. I was going to let my skepticism overwhelm, to wait until it was obvious that 2010 was not going to be 2009, but I lasted two games. I'm in the tank again.
That feeling Johnny identified in 2008 when it became clear that neither we nor Michigan had any idea what it was any more is obliterated. I've got an answer for the Courant now: Michigan is receivers blocking like tiny mountain goats 40 yards downfield because it matters, because if you set Denard free he'll go "AHHHH" at you afterwards. He'll smile and it will seem like the sun is poking through dark clouds, scattering colors in a circle all around you.
BULLETS ARE NO LONGER BULLETS
They're annoying. Now bold section titles. More room. Easier blockquoting. Win.
The unsung hero: Shavodrick Beaver, the backup at Tulsa. Does anyone else remember the sick feeling in your stomach when you found out that Michigan had lost a desperately-needed QB recruit to Tulsa? Funny old world, isn't it?
Denard is like a video game, but to Google it's NBA Jam:
HT to reader Apoorva Bansal.
Crist return. We were only getting the usual scattered texts that actually got through but by halftime it was clear that Crist had some sort of head injury that prevented him from seeing out of one eye. I laughed at my friend's concern that Crist might come back in the second half, reasoning that a head injury severe enough to keep someone out of a half of football is severe enough to keep someone out of a game of football. But lo, Crist rose after this:
Q. What play was it that you got dinged up on and what happened?
DAYNE CRIST: Just running the ball, just took a hit kind of on the side of the helmet. I had trouble seeing out of my right eye after that. Tried to get back into focus. …
Q. Was it your vision?
DAYNE CRIST: Just kind of dazed a little bit and couldn't really see out of my right eye. But that was really it.
How would you feel if Michigan's coach had done that after everything we've heard about concussions the past couple years? Apparently they "did the tests" on the sideline and determined he didn't have one, but it's hard to be comfortable with that decision when it's a debate about in what particular way Crist's brain was messed up.
Ref argh. There have been a lot of complaints about Michigan's many penalties and the lack of ND holding calls—especially after Mike Martin described Chris Stewart getting a "warning"—that I can't comment on yet since I haven't seen the tape, but we saw this live since our endzone was the one it happened in:
What is it with Notre Dame getting free touchdowns on a balls they fumble at the one? No one from Michigan jumped on it, unfortunately, or a review would have been uncomfortable for the home crowd. What happens if a player fumbles into the endzone and it just sits there forever? Does anyone know what the result would have been? You can't claim an inadvertent whistle ended the play until after the ball is out. Commenters seem to think it would have been ND's ball at the one.
Tailback argh. Thirty yards rushing is not so good for all your tailbacks, though as we'll see below Fred Jackson thinks Notre Dame made a bizarre decision to put it all on Denard's shoulders. I'll reserve judgment until I see the tape since the corner of the endzone isn't a great vantage point to draw conclusions, but with a couple of less challenging games coming up it seems like its time to pull the other three kids out of mothballs and see what they can do. Tousssaint's Mike Hart and Chris Perry except fast, after all. That sounds okay.
Flagpole argh. One thing that did not factor into my decision as to which tickets I'd use and which I'd give to my friends: whether or not the flag would be 1) in my LOS and 2) at half-mast. It was kind of hard to see stuff inside the 20 on the far side of the field; people twenty rows higher were probably steamed about Al Qaeda in a way they'd never thought possible.
Denard implosion argh. In the aftermath of another OMG Robinson day the questions about his durability continue. I think they're slightly overblown since Robinson takes way fewer hits from the pocket than most quarterbacks, and hits in the pocket to a stationary target are always the most dangerous. Even so they're not entirely so, which means Robinson should see a reduced workload over at least the next two weeks and hopefully three as Michigan tries to find some confidence in the backup quarterbacks and find a tailback. If it comes down to it, though, you have to put the ball in his hands when it's do or die.
The truly terrifying thing about Denard Robinson is how often he was one downfield block from being gone like he was on the 87-yarder. These blocks got missed way too often, but I guess it's a lot harder to make them when you don't have any idea where the runner is going to be.
Game theory stuff. I agree vigorously with this message board thread about how the Rudolph touchdown was a blessing in disguise since any Notre Dame touchdown drive of actual length would have pulled so much time off the clock its hard to see Robinson leading a drive to win. He can execute a three-minute drill now (obviously), but with one and a half minutes I keep going back to those seams to Roundtree in the third quarter. The first was thrown directly at a linebacker when lofting it was a touchdown; the second was lofted and would have been a touchdown except it was considerably overthrown.
Giving up a 95-yard touchdown is obviously bad, but I think the play once Rudolph is behind the secondary and around the 35 is to let him score. Michigan didn't do this intentionally, but they did prevent the same sort of agonizing touchdown drive they gave up against Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2005, where they soft-shell their way down the field and allow the opponent the opportunity to score for the win with vanishingly little time left.
While we're on the topic, Kelly's decision to go for it from the three at the end of the first half has come in for rampant bashing by Notre Dame fans because it didn't work out but to me it seems like one of those decisions that's so close there's no right or wrong answer. We happen to have a huge database of one-shot plays from the three because that's where two-point conversions are attempted from. The expected value of a field goal from there is basically 3 points. The expected value of going for it is 45% of 7, or 3.15 points… if you assume an average defense and offense. Michigan does not have an average defense but Notre Dame's offense while directed by a third-string walk-on is probably even further below average, so in terms of pure points expected I'm betting Kelly gave up a little when he went for it. On the other hand, when you're down 14 points and you might not get many opportunities to score because you're down to the third-string walk-on you take variance where you can; you should be willing to give up some expectation for it. My gut feeling was that I was unhappy with the decision to go, which means it's probably the right call.
Yardage bit. This has been noted elsewhere, but what a bizarre game. Over 1000 yards of total offense but a winning score of just 28 and 18 punts. In a game where yardage was dead even Michigan was +3 in turnover margin and barely won. This happened because they lost about 40 yards of field position on punt exchanges, missed two field goals, got away with giving up the bomb at the end of the first half, shot themselves not in the foot but the head with penalties, and intentionally gave away 50 yards on Notre Dame's final drive.
So… yeah, Michigan functionally outgained ND by 50 since they weren't trying to stop those first two passes to Floyd, which makes the second week they did that against a BCS opponent. That didn't happen until the Purdue game last year.
Defense? Caveats about the backups in the first half apply but the defense managed to hang in there. Cam Gordon is going to come in for some huge minuses in UFR, but the rest of the defense can't be blamed for 200, maybe 250 (Jones phantom TD, Rudolph TD, long pass @ end of first half, final drive) of ND's 500 yards. Given the number of drives in this game holding ND to 24 points is an accomplishment. After Crist came out of the locker room and led ND right down the field twice I thought we were doomed, but the D got a stop after first and goal and then got five straight stops after. Say what you want about rushing three but I'm pretty sure all three picks were thrown into a three-man rush when the QB could not find anyone open. I'll be adding a "players rushed" tracker to UFR to see if the thing everyone hates actually hurt M.
Field goal argh silver lining. Rodriguez may be forced to do mathematically correct things on fourth and three from the 25.
AnnArbor.com slideshow. Genuinely Sarcastic column makes a good point about Cam Gordon and a box safety spot: ideally that's where he'd be. Doctor Saturday says "at some point you begin to run out of perspective, and adjectives." HSR took video of postgame celebrations. Wolverine Historian has a three-part set of highlights up. USA-Algeria-style bar explosion video from NYC's Professor Thom's. MVictors bullets. The Daily ranks the greatest individual performances in Michigan history, slotting Denard #4 behind three guys who killed Ohio State singlehandedly.
MGoReader scores tickets at face when ND opens up wheelchair seating to the public, sits next to Brock Mealer, and gets told this story:
He told me and a couple of nearby patrons a story about Denard: last week, before the game, he asked our QB if he ever thought about cutting off his dreads in case someone tried to pull him down (a la Polamu). Denard's response?
"If they ever catch me, they can have 'em."
Amongst the great many articles using the above picture and declaring Robinson to be hotter than the surface of Mercury but deploying the same stats and quotes as all the others is Mike Rothstein's from AnnArbor.com, which quotes to Fred Jackson about all those carries:
Notre Dame (1-1) offered no choice. With the defensive fronts the Irish presented, it was Robinson’s ball to carry over and over again….
“A lot of times, his reads tell him to give the ball to the running backs,” Jackson said. “But this game, they were forcing him to run it. They were probably trying to beat him up. But he’s too quick to beat up.”
That's an… interesting decision on the part of the Notre Dame coaches there.
I missed a few of Ryan Terpstra's postgame videos. Here's Jordan Kovacs:
I tried this last year but then dropped off, but I'll try it again: when you write 15k words about a football game people who know more than you are going to point out errors. This will be a collection of items people send me about stuff they think I got wrong; if I'm sticking to my guns I'll mention why, but this is all very complicated so reasonable people will disagree at times.
Chris Brown of Smart Football added some stuff that's not actually a disagreement but it would be a shame for it to molder in the inbox:
1. Michigan ran this play a few times with good success:
It was probably the best "dropback" pass I saw Denard run. I saw him throw both to the outside receiver and to the RB. In your description you called it a "slant" and the RB's route as a "screen," but the concept is called the "snag" concept (or triangle). I'd say it's currently the most popular route combination in the Big 10, as Ohio State, Purdue, Penn State and now Michigan all feature it as a staple play. I discussed it on Smart Football.
On the backside Michigan has some kind of fade/out combo but we'll see if he gives the QB freedom to go that way. It's a good play for Denard (and Terrelle Pryor, for that matter) because it's easily completed.
[Ed: this was the first instance of this route combo in the game; as the game progressed I got a handle on the combo and how frequently it's used. Good to know it's widespread and effective. Robinson completed each instance of the snag for good yardage except once when he threw the flare route when the LB was charging it down, opening up the slant bit.]
2. Denard's worst pass of the game was the bootleg where Roy Roundtree gets lit up. I think you were right that it should have been thrown to the outside receiver in the hole before the safety could get over.
3. The really encouraging thing though is that he followed it up with his best pass of the night [to Grady on third and eleven]. The long fake bubble pass was fun, but this was a college throw. The best part? The play was four verticals (I think you said it was a deep hitch). This wasn't exactly a "read" route but clearly the receiver had freedom to bend it and find the hole, and Denard threw it in the open window -- this wasn't where he was told to throw it, he reacted to the coverage. Great throw.
[Ed: Part of the disconnect here is I usually put down the route instead of the concept; that's something to work on.]
Genuinely Sarcastic's run chart is up and it's mostly in line with mine, though it appears toBrian is less inclined to give out pluses and minuses. He's higher on Molk than Schilling but still high on both, thought Koger was way better than Webb, and gave Omameh a solidly negative –6. Also Denard picks up a –2 but toBrian admits "this is where the metric is flawed." FWIW, I'm handing out pluses when the tailback does something that gains yards past what the blocking sets up.
Some complaints in the comments that I've been too harsh on Ezeh, and a response from Burgeoning Wolverine Star about the play specifically highlighted:
He picture-pages the play, highlighting Kovacs dropping into the deep middle and thus taking himself out of position to fill the hole on the interior.
Here, you can see that Kovacs is still backpedaling, now 4 yards deeper than he was pre-snap. Mouton is being hit by the playside slot receiver. UConn's left guard has now pulled across the formation and is in perfect position to block Ezeh. Ezeh's job here is to plug the hole that Todman is supposed to run through. He does this by hitting that pulling guard. It's then Kovacs' job to come into the play and make the tackle. Unfortunately, Kovacs isn't done backpedaling yet.
I don't know about this one. I pulled the play to highlight a trend I saw all day—Ezeh getting put on his butt—and wasn't really focused on the action of the deep safety. I think BWS is right that I should have minused Kovacs for a late read, which turned this from four or five yards into nine, but a linebacker in that situation needs to keep his feet and look to come off his blocker and tackle, which is something Ezeh managed on UConn's last meaningful(-ish) snap but didn't do the rest of the day. Whatever the responsibilities of the MLB in the 3-3-5, they include staying on your feet.
MGoUser AAL sent in some clarifications as well:
- On a 15-yard dumpoff to the FB (UConn drive 2, play 4), which I said "looked like a busted coverage" but could not tell who it was on: A misalignment and a bust. Michigan is playing Cover 3 behind a weakside zone blitz. First, Kovacs has the boundary third and is absolutely toasted if this ball gets thrown his way. (You can see he was busy trying to get untoasted, too, when Gordon arrives in the frame toward the end before he does.) The de facto OLBs should have curl-to-flat responsibilities and they both take initial curl drops. The curl zone is a greater threat because a pass to the flat takes longer to arrive and the defense can use the sideline to help. For some reason Ezeh is lined up over the center, then aborts his drop at the curl. Roh would be the hook-to-hole guy and takes a really poor drop which is probably due to lack of experience in pass coverage. The #1 receiver to strength runs a hitch, but given how long that ball would take to arrive there is enough time for the CB to recover and for the OLB to rally to the ball.
- On the next play, a 20 yard power run: I’d give Floyd more credit. If he allows himself to be reached, there’s one OL left to block Kovacs and the RB is going to the endzone. On the other hand Ezeh does everything wrong. One of the first things you learn as a LB is not to go underneath blocks. If you do, you have zero chance of making the play. There is a point where Ezeh sees the WR(!) coming to block him and makes that decision anyway. It cannot be more easily demonstrated than the WR doing nothing, but inviting him to go underneath and barely even touching him as he flails to the ground. By doing this, his chance of making the play went from 30% to near 0. [Ed: I did not minus Ezeh at all on this play.]
- On the next play, which was the post thrown to the goal line but low and not dug out: Gordon was very disciplined here. He has the deep middle third and has two verts coming up the hashes. He’s dead center and favoring either is certain death. For some reason Floyd had plenty of depth and doesn’t close down on the WR with the ball in the air. Could be mental/freshman/other mistake. Impossible to say. [Ed: I didn't neg the coverage or Floyd here; I did think Gordon was in position for a potential killshot if the ball was better thrown.
- First play of drive three, the first ball over Carvin Johnson's head, the dropped one: Another manipulation of Cover 3. UConn was using a levels concept into the sideline (deep/intermediate/shallow) to put the deep third and flat defender in a bind. Lots of time to come open when rushing 3. No idea what Gordon is doing. Also, more importantly this: when M was in Cover 3 vs. no width (TE only), Kovacs was playing up on the line and responsible only for running w/ the TE. He is absolutely toasted. [Ed: I gave a –2 to Johnson there; I've heard from other people that even if there's going to be a window there in cover 3, it shouldn't be as large.]
The overall impression is one of deep fear about Kovacs against Notre Dame, especially in his effort of cover Rudolph, though elsewhere AAL says he's not that impressed with ND's TE… when it comes to the NFL. Okay. Relevancy against Kovacs? Eh… not so much.
Elsewhere, the UConn blog takes a look at their first offensive snap, which didn't go well thanks to Cam Gordon.