"Jim's a tough guy and you can see his personality is all over this football team," Fitzgerald said.
News bullets and other important items:
- Brandon Moore and Stephen Hopkins still have unclear injury status. They may or may not play Saturday.
- The staff is wearing the Chuckstrong t-shirts on the way to the stadium.
“Uh, thanks for coming. Good practice yesterday. Liked how we’re preparing right now. I think the intensity level hopefully will be the same today from an offensive standpoint. I think talking to Al, they got a lot of good work done yesterday. Defensively, I’d say the same thing. I think both coordinators were pleased. I mean, not happy, but pleased with the preparation that we have.”
Were the practices as good as they were last week?
“Uh, I think it was comparable. I think coming off the bye week and not playing for a week, I think you always have a little more intensity it seems like. I think they’re comparable.”
It was there for the taking.
It was there when Michigan had a first-and-goal on their third possession, when Vincent Smith—yes, Vincent Smith—threw an interception in the end zone.
It was there on each of the next four drives, each ending with a Denard Robinson interception.
It was there when—despite the above—Michigan faced just a ten-point deficit on their first possession of the second half, when they drove to the Notre Dame 16, only to lose a Robinson fumble.
It was there when the defense forced a do-or-die third-and-four with 2:35 on the clock, only to see Tyler Eifert beat J.T. Floyd down the sideline for a 38-yard completion.
In a game that felt like karmic retribution for the last three years, however, Michigan never seized control, instead making error after crippling error until there were no more errors to make. The defense did everything in their power to overcome the offense, holding Notre Dame to just 239 yards on 4.8 yards per play and forcing two interceptions of their own. They could not stop Robinson from turning the ball over, though, and in the end it was a triumphant Tommy Rees kneeling the clock out.
The turnovers overshadowed a stellar defensive effort, one that will sadly be forgotten in the aftermath. Notre Dame starting quarterback Everett Golson was completely ineffective, completing just one fewer pass to Michigan (two) than he did to his own team. The Irish rushing attack never got going, gaining 94 yards on 31 carries. Jordan Kovacs (7 tackles, 1 TFL) and Jake Ryan (5 tackles, all solo) both turned in outstanding games. With no margin for error, however, all it took was two poor plays on third downs—a pass interference by freshman Jarrod Wilson on the goal line and the final pass to Eifert—to foil an otherwise textbook Mattison game.
On offense, the bright spots are fewer and farther between. Fitz Toussaint finally got some holes to run though and looked like his nimble 2011 self when he found them. Roy Roundtree make a few crucial catches after largely disappearing from the offense this year. Al Borges added a promising wrinkle when Devin Gardner took an end-around only to throw downfield to fullback Joe Kerridge, drawing a pass interference on the opening drive. That's about it.
As I'm sure will be said ad nauseam in the coming bye week, all of Michigan's goals are still within reach. The Big Ten is awful and still very much there for the taking. If the Wolverines are to seize that chance, however, they'll have to be far more opportunistic than they were tonight, when a fourth straight victory over the Irish slipped through their fingers and into the hands of a team more willing to take advantage.
Formation Notes: Oh, the humanity.
This is an I-form. Sweet. Air Force started out motioning the outside WR into the gap between the two backs, FWIW.
This was called "near 3-wide unbalanced" because I think NCAA calls formations with RB alignments like that "near" and "far". Yes, large sections of my nomenclature are lifted from EA Sports. It is the closest thing to a lingua franca we have for footballing jargon. Note the covered-up slot WR. That's the unbalanced bit. You discovered this in the Picture Pages.
This is "flexbone big," which means there's a TE on the line. Just flexbone means the two wingbacks and two WRs.
This was "near half-flex."
As for Michigan, they spend most of the game in a 4-4 with a three-deep shell. They would shift the line towards the field side. I called it "under" even when it was technically "over" because Michigan aligns to field and Air Force doesn't really have a declared formation strength because of all the motion they do.
Substitution notes: The humanity continues. Michigan started Roh-Campbell-Black-Beyer on the line, rotating in Clark, Heitzman, Pipkins, and Brink extensively. Ojemudia also got time, mostly after Beyer went out with his "knee strain."
At linebacker, Ryan got the most playing time; he was spotted by Cam Gordon on a couple drives. Michigan started with Demens-Morgan, then started rotating in Bolden and Ross. Demens did not appear in the second half; the final AF drive in their base offense featured Ross and Bolden both on the field simultaneously.
In the secondary, Gordon, Kovacs, and Floyd took every snap. Avery started out as the other corner and was replaced by Taylor midway through the second. Gordon moved down to the nickelback spot and Jarrod Wilson came in when Air Force was stuck in passing downs, which was rarely.
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||I-Form 3-wide tight||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||12|
|Wingback motions to backfield before snap, creating Maryland I. I am going to be guessing a lot here. Dive doesn't get it; QB and RB head out with the wingback as a lead blocker. Gordon(-1) motions inside of the tight WR on the AF motion and looks in the backfield, getting sealed away by the WR easily. Floyd(-2) doesn't know what he's looking at for way too long; Gordon's getting plowed for steps before he finally commits to a run fill. He ends up trying to dodge a cut block eight yards downfield; I'm guessing he probably needs to be turning this inside at the numbers five yards further up. RB gets the corner. Morgan had good pursuit and Kovacs makes a good tackle at the sticks, FWIW.|
|O37||1||10||Near 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Black||4|
|AF did this a lot: line up the slot on the LOS. This should scream run at that slot defender. Here they motion towards that and hand it off on the backside, aiming for the hole between NT Campbell and 5-tech Roh. Campbell(-1) gets blown up by a downblock; Black(+0.5) blasts a G trying to pull across his face. This prevents the G from getting out on Demens, but then Black gets confused and starts chasing the QB. FB blasts into the G, who is now blasting Demens, and can fall forward for a few yards.|
|O41||2||6||Flexbone Big||4-3 over||Run||N/A||FB power||Beyer||4 + 10 Pen|
|Power == pulling guard. This is not a true option as the QB is not looking at anything but the FB as he gives. Beyer(-1) is unblocked for a moment, thinks he has to get down on the dive back(?--I thought M used DEs for the QB) and then gets nailed by the guard. He's sealed inside, FB bounces out. Morgan(+1) is getting blocked, sheds to the outside, and tackles. He's just catching the guy because of the blocker and everyone falls backwards. RPS -1; this took a pretty good play from Morgan to not hit the first down. Campbell(-1) gets a flag for tackling an AF lineman [BWS] trying to get to the second level.|
|50||1||15||I-Form 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Gordon||-1|
|They motion a guy to the field and run to it. He goes for Kovacs. FB goes for Demens. Morgan(+1) forces the pitch and then pursues well; Gordon(+1) gets the edge on the WR and should force it back inside the numbers but seems to get held and falls; no call. Getz is at the sideline and has to delay to get around the falling Gordon; he falls at the LOS. Morgan was there for a minimal gain even if he keeps his feet.|
|O49||2||16||Ace 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Ryan||7|
|Acceptable given situation. Demens(-0.5) reacts quickly enough to get past a blocker and force a bounce but ends up falling; Ryan(+0.5) forces it back and trips the QB. Demens not being on his feet gives up some extra yardage. Morgan was pursuing and helps finish.|
|M44||3||9||Ace 3-wide||Nickel under||Pass||4||Scramble||Demens||9|
|Dietz comes off first read as Avery(+1, cover +1) gets depth to carry a seam to the safety. Morgan(+1, cover +1) is on the other slant and the outside guys are covered; Demens(-1, cover -1) is nowhere near the RB release, which could go for the first; Dietz doesn't bother to throw it and takes off; Black(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) can't make shoestring tackles(-1), and Demens's late reaction gives Dietz a first down.|
|M35||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Kovacs||1|
|Washington(+0.5) gets nice push, and there's nothing on the dive, so a pull. Ryan is sitting on the edge and takes the QB. Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) was not blocked on this play and so does what Kovacs does when you don't block him, which is plaster the ballcarrier.|
|This is ludicrously bad refereeing. Two Air Force OL release downfield on a pass play. One of them cut-blocks Demens! By the time Dietz releases the ball these two guys are six yards downfield. Anyway. Beyer(-1) gets cut by an RB and allows Dietz outside, where he calmly hits a little drag that Ryan is in meh coverage on. Pressure -1, Refs -2.|
|M28||3||3||Offset I-Form||4-3 over||Penalty||N/A||Offsides||Washington||5|
|M23||1||10||Near 3-wide unbalanced||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||3|
|AF motion man moves back and then starts moving towards the LOS pre-snap, no call. He ends up falling to the ground, possibly on purpose, as he blocks Demens along with another Falcon. Ryan on the edge with QB; Dietz fakes keeping it and draws him, in then pitches late. Kovacs is a bit late on this one, but it's a three yard gain so call it a push.|
|M20||2||7||I-Form 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Iso||Roh||2|
|Campbell(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him back, which forces the RB to alter his flight path in the backfield a bit. Probably needed a little better angle but this was still good. Roh(-1) got blown out, though, so when RB alters path there's still a hole. Demens avoids one block only to eat the FB; Morgan(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) close to tackle in the hole. Call it a push for the LBs.|
|M18||3||5||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Counter option||Ryan||-1|
|Roh(+1) does not get faked out by the dive action and is there to force a quick pitch; Ryan(+2) is on the edge one on one and makes the open-field TFL(+1)|
|Drive Notes: Missed FG(36), 0-0, 9 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||N/A||-1|
|Gordon rolled down with three deep across the top. AF fumbles the dive exchange.|
|O24||2||11||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Morgan||-1|
|Motion to Maryland I. Man, they have this as again Gordon(-1) get sealed inside way too easily but Dietz does not make Morgan(+2) commit; he shoots out on the edge and makes a TFL in space (tackling +1). Floyd(-1) ended up on his face five yards downfield; if Morgan is forced to take the QB this could have been a big gain.|
|O23||3||12||Ace trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Corner||Taylor||15|
|Taylor(-1, cover -1) does not get enough depth on his drop; he's seven yards downfield, sucked up on third and twelve when a corner route is going on behind him. He recovers well but the ball is a foot over his hand and AF's big leapy guy can bring it in in front of an immediate tackle from Kovacs. C. Gordon(+0.5, pressure +1) was in the QB's feet as he throws; without this being open a likely scramble and three and out.|
|O38||1||10||Flexbone 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Floyd||9|
|No back; guy comes in motion and gets a quick pitch to the outside. C. Gordon(-1) gets crushed inside by a WR and ends up going upfield of him, which never works. This knocks a pursuing Roh out of the play as well. Downfield, Demens avoids one cut block only to take a second block as he's still trying to find his balance. Floyd(-2) again ends up on his face eight yards downfield. Morgan flows about as fast is as reasonably possible and manages to make contact from the side a ways downfield. Floyd needs to get on his horse as soon as he sees that WR crack down on the LB.|
|O47||2||1||Flexbone Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Washington||1|
|Dive. Washington(+1) actually does a good job of getting under his guy and pushing him back into the runner but he's got no help since Roh gave ground to a double. That's tough.|
|O48||1||10||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||11|
|Kovacs again is supposed to have the pitchman; this time the WR releases downfield a bit, then cracks down on him. Floyd(-1) doesn't read this until it's way too late. RPS -1.|
|M41||1||10||Flexbone big||4-4 under||Pass||N/A||PA waggle drag||Gordon||18|
|This looks like a flood play but really there's just one WR this ever goes to. The guy who took Avery deep on a fly route is blocking the whole way. This is part structure(RPS -2), part Gordon(-1, cover -1) sucking way up. Fundamentally he was screwed, though, covering one of two guys.|
|M23||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||4|
|Campbell(-1) gets cut to the ground and the immediate release of the guard is not punished. Demens doesn't do great here but I'm not sure what he can do. It'll be interesting to see what, if anything, the freshmen are doing better.|
|M19||2||6||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||5|
|Same thing. When your NT is just falling to the ground on the FB dive that goes right behind him the linebackers cannot do anything about it, because they are getting insta-OL in their junk. Campbell -1. Brink(-1) also blown back.|
|M14||3||1||Flexbone Big||Goal line||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|M19||3||6||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Taylor||7|
|Same thing: Block Kovacs, exploit crappy corner support. This time it's Taylor(-1) who gives up the corner.|
|M12||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Washington||8|
|Washington(-2) gets blown down the line; Roh(-1) is easily locked out by the LT. Big hole. Demens reads the play and tries to get to it but he's basically screwed. He gets blocked by a guy with a great angle. Morgan(-2) ran himself way out of the play and it's only a superior play from Kovacs(+2, tackling +2) to avoid a block and make a diving ankle tackle that prevents this from being six points.|
|M4||2||2||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Roh||1|
|Roh(+1) gets under his guy and pushes him into the running lane. This forces a cutback into Ryan(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5), who tackle for no YAC. Washington(-1) had gotten blown up, FWIW.|
|M3||3||1||Flexbone 3-wide||Goal line||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Avery||-1|
|AF blows this as the WR to the playside is headhunting Ryan, who's on the LOS and moving upfield at the snap this means he takes a bad angle that 1) immediately tips Avery that this is a run and 2) picks off the flex guy assigned to him. Avery(+1) moves up, forms up, and makes contact two yards behind the LOS. Ryan(+1) flattens the guy assigned to him and flows out to make sure there is no funny business. RPS+1. Putting Ryan on the line made AF go all crazy.|
|Drive Notes: FG(22), 7-3, 3 min 1st Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O10||1||10||Flexbone unbalanced||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||3|
|Bolden(+0.5) in. He does do better than Demens on this dive, hitting the guard about a yard from the LOS. He loses the battle a bit but does hit the FB directly before falling over backwards. He saves Michigan a yard over Demens, so here's a half-point.|
|O13||2||7||Ace 4-wide unbalanced||4-3 even||Penalty||N/A||False start||--||-5|
|Service this time.|
|O8||2||12||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle out||Floyd||6|
|I think. He's the CB on this side and he is not even in the frame as this completion is made. Hard to tell if it's a good idea because they had to go deep or not. Still... suspicious. Floyd -1, cover -1. Fortunate AF does not execute better here, they could have turned this upfield at the sideline for first down yardage easy. Beyer(-0.5) gave up the corner, FWIW. Pressure -1.|
|O14||3||6||Flexbone tight||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Scramble||Ryan||4|
|They fake that effective quick pitch and shoot three WRs the opposite way. Taylor(+1), Bolden(+1), and Ryan(+1), cover these guys... it's dodgy for the former two but they are enough to dissuade a throw, and then they attack at the right moment to prevent Dietz from running for the first. (Cover +3). Taylor came up late, leaving the deeper guy to Gordon and preventing AF from going over the top of these LBs.|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 12 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O25||1||10||Ace 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Bolden||4|
|Bolden is staring right at this and gets no blocker so he just runs right up in the hole, making contact after a yard. That contact is won by the FB, who pushes Bolden over backwards. Clark comes to help finish. A push; Bolden could have done better here but did not screw up an easy play.|
|O29||2||6||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Roh||-2|
|Roh(+1) shoves the LT inside and releases into the QB, who has to pitch early. CGordon(+1) is the guy on the edge here and makes a nice open field TFL. AF RT stumbled here, making this easier for Roh.|
|O27||3||8||Ace trips||Nickel even||Pass||5||Throwaway||Black||Inc|
|Blitz sends Avery and Bolden with Gordon backing out; Black(+1) stunts around and gets through as the RG blocks air. Roh(+1) is coming up the edge as Black chases Dietz out of the pocket and he's all like F this I'm outie. This was a jailbreak [BWS]. (Pressure +3, RPS +2)|
|Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 6 min 2nd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O45||1||10||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Demens||3|
|RT is pulling inside of the G here. Ojemudia almost tracks this down from behind but can't quite get there. Black(+0.5) constricts the hole, causing the RT to stumble. Demens(+0.5) is there for a tackle near the LOS.|
|O48||2||7||Flexbone||4-4 under||Pass||4||PA throwaway||Roh||Inc|
|Fake pitch into a fake option to the other side and then into a pass attempt. Avery(+1, cover +1) isn't biting on that stuff and the deep route is not immediately open. Roh(+1, pressure +1) then chucks the LT and gets pressure—probably gets held—forcing a throwaway.|
|O48||3||7||Flexbone||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Roh||14|
|DTs split too much and give up a running lane; contain should be the name of the game here. Roh, Campbell -1. Now there's trouble as the LBs are pass dropping against blockers. Demens(-1) can't do anything; Morgan is trying to flow into the gap and may be able to make a tackle but one of the downfield blockers for Air Force literally tackles him, reaching out to grab his ankles. RPS -1. This opened up big. Just play it straight when they're in the bone, it's not like their passing game is forcing you into the nickel on third and seven.|
|O34||1||10||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Morgan||3|
|Heitzman(-2) gets scooped really badly. Insta-second level means Demens has to fight off a cut block, which he does. Morgan(+1) beats up the blocker on the edge and Gordon(+1) shoots past his, forcing a cutback. Demens could be there but for the DL. Beyer(+0.5) is there, but giving ground; momentum carries Getz for a few yards.|
|O31||2||7||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Ryan||7 – 15 Pen|
|Ryan(-2) chopped to the ground by a cut block, back goes outside of him, no chance for anyone else to do anything about it. Brink was pursuing and may have had a shot. Demens again ate a block from a guy releasing right away; he kept his feet; not sure if there's anything at all he can do to prevent himself from getting hit there. Kovacs(+0.5) beat a block to get to the edge and prevented this from breaking even bigger. At the end of this play, the AF guy who took out Ryan gets up and clearly talks smack to him. Good on you, flexback. AF gets a call for tripping as that OL who cut Demens puts his legs up when Morgan jumps over him. Not relevant to the play.|
|O40||2||16||Flexbone Big||Nickel even||Pass||4||Dumpoff||Floyd||6|
|I think Floyd(-1) blows a coverage on the TE here as he is headed for the corner and Floyd turns around and chases him; Gordon(+1) has his back, dropping into that route and preventing it from being thrown. With both of those guys focused on a deeper route the swing underneath opens up for good yardage.|
|O34||3||10||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Kovacs||11|
|RB moves simultaneously with snap; legal. They get out on the corner quick. Ryan is unblocked and optioned off. Morgan(-1) is slashed to the ground. He takes two with him as AF ends up doubling him. Three guys on the edge now: Avery, Kovacs, and Demens. Demens(+0.5) takes a good angle past the guy trying to cut him and is in the area ready for action about four yards downfield; Kovacs(-2) goes upfield of his blocker and loses leverage; Taylor(-1) is aggressive but puts himself right on the sideline and doesn't keep this hole small. Demens flows to tackle, but too late.|
|O23||1||10||Near half-flex twins||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Ryan||4|
|Roh shucks past a tackle and then eats a cut block. Demens also gets hit with a block right away, he stays on his feet but he's been shoved away from the POA. Ryan(+2) is alone on the edge with both guys and splits them such that Dietz turns it up and Ryan can tackle him. Washington was coming from behind but fell, Clark pursued from the other end to help tackle. I should probably find a minus on a four yard run but can't. I plead option.|
|O19||2||6||Offset I-Form||4-4 under||Run||N/A||End around||Taylor||12|
|Dive fake and then a handoff to that guy going in orbit motion. Ryan is looking in the backfied and gets lit up by a receiver cracking down on him. Taylor(-2) is way off despite this being in the redzone and comes up poorly, getting cut to the ground and allowing the back to leap over him. Demens was flowing as soon as he figured out where the ball was going; he can't get to the sideline. RPS -1... hard to figure out how M will defend this.|
|O7||1||G||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||2|
|Campbell(+1) is falling over but in the running lane; RB falls over him. Demens(+0.5) is there to help stop his momentum as well.|
|O5||2||G||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Refs||5|
|This is the play where Arena league flex guy is hauling ass at the LOS before the snap and cuts Kovacs to the ground. Demens(-1) gets cut really badly here but once this goes outside Ryan there's no one to fill because Kovacs(-1) got blown up. Refs -2.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Hoke should have called a timeout once AF had second and goal with the clock running.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O12||1||10||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||14 + 10 pen|
|So there's still no help on the edge as the flexback is running right at Kovacs(-1), who gets cut. Morgan(-1) also goes down. I don't think that's too much on Kovacs but on Michigan failing to adjust here. The CB has to respect the deep route being run by the WR, Gordon is on the edge, and he has support on the interior—he should take the pitch. Instead he takes QB, again corner is open, big gain. RPS -1. Campbell(-1) gets another holding call for tackling an AF OL, which is why Bolden is running free. Picture-paged.|
|O36||1||10||Near half-flex tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Bolden||6|
|RT pulls. A back shoots down onto Clark, cutting him off, and then the RB moves through the backside hole between the NT and Roh. Bolden eats the OL in the hole. Morgan(-1) is gone to the fake; Michigan is fortunate that Ryan(+0.5) reads it and comes down on the RB to tackle as he shoots through the gap. Bolden(+1) did force the RB into Ryan, whether it was intentional or not. Result-based charting. Big hole as Roh and Campbell(-1) got kicked. I get Roh since he's contain on the backside. Not so much Campbell, who ends up father away from the play than two guys lined up outside of him.|
|O42||2||4||Flexbone||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||2|
|Straight ahead at the Roh/Campbell gap. Bolden hits it as fast as possible, they get a couple yards, everyone says that's how that has to go down, next snap. Bolden +0.5 I guess, for keeping this to two yards.|
|O44||3||2||Flexbone tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Bolden||3|
|Again at the same gap, with the LT coming off of Roh to hit Bolden. Contact is made at a yard, but Roh is on the side and Bolden's getting hit so momentum pushes the pile over the line. Another push; this is just what happens unless someone MAKES PLAYS.|
|Straight dropback! No pressure(-2), though I understand. AF WR does not sell his route and rounds it off, allowing Taylor(+2, cover +2) to break on the ball and break it up.|
|O47||2||10||Near half-flex tight||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Counter power||Washington||7|
|Same play they just ran. Clark(+1) actually does a great job to get under the same block he just fell victim to. He comes through it and shoulders Getz, but he's literally shedding this block as he makes contact and can't use his arms. Brink(-1) fights way far upfield; they block Ryan. Washington(-1) is buried. Bolden hits the pulling T right at the LOS but there's just huge amounts of space to both sides of him. He sheds and tackles downfield. Morgan(-1) again misses the T pulling in front of his face.|
|M46||3||3||Near half-flex||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Morgan||11|
|Back goes in motion before the snap and they pitch it out; no adjustment from M before the snap. Gordon has to keep leverage and turn it in. He does. Clark(-1) doesn't adjust to the motion and goes upfield, no pursuit. Morgan(-1) starts moving about two steps after the OT flares out and has no shot. He leaps a cut, but the delay is more than enough. Kovacs(-1, tackling -1) isn't going to prevent a first down; his missed tackle adds five or six.|
|M35||1||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle cross||Taylor||17|
|Bolden(-2, cover -2) gets utterly lost on the play action and lets this guy get open by ten yards. Yeah, so now they're decisive. Taylor(-2, cover -2) also sucked way up and didn't get depth even when it was clear this was a pass. There's no run threat to his side and he's still flying upfield. Nyet.|
|M18||1||10||Flexbone Big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||3|
|Campbell cut, ends up on ground, etc. Must be the scheme. Bolden(-0.5) there but not quite decisive enough and misses a tackle, Morgan and Floyd combine to finish the guy as he squeezes through the line.|
|M15||2||7||Ace twins||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle hitch||Floyd||9|
|Ojemudia(-1) flows hard down the line and gives up the corner (pressure -2). Floyd has to drop into the corner route and gives up a super easy completion in front of him, but that's a coverage thing—three guys ended up trying to cover one AF player. Cover -2, RPS -1.|
|M6||1||G||I-Form 3-wide||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Lead zone||Roh||3|
|Roh(+1) thrusts playward, getting penetration and keeping the edge; he picks off the FB and forces a cut inside. Bolden(-0.5) gets past a blocker but his angle is not directly at the hole the RB must hit if he's going to be relevant. Ryan(+0.5) is containing but reads the cutback and gets a tackle in. Campbell did get a little penetration. FWIW.|
|M3||2||G||Flexbone||Goal line||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||2|
|Black(+1) immediately hops inside his blocker, and though he falls he forces a cutback. Clark(-1) again just shoulders a defender and starts falling over; he's not there to stand the RB up, and he falls forward for two yards.|
|M1||3||G||Flexbone||Goal line||Run||N/A||QB sneak||Campbell||0|
|Campbell(+1) gets lower than two blockers and everyone falls at the LOS, not beyond it; Bolden(+1) is the first of many people to jump on Dietz. Roh(+1) also had a large hand in stalling the momentum of the pile.|
|M1||4||G||Near half-flex tight||Goal line||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||N/A||1|
|Michigan sends everybody, and Air Force calls rock to their scissors, shooting Getz outside and getting it easily since Taylor is blitzing. I don't RPS plays like this since you've got to roll the dice to stop them from getting a yard.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-17, 9 min 3rd Q. That's kind of depressing.|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Shotgun 4-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ross||4|
|Our first all-freshman LB corps. AF motions a WR to the short side and runs a speed option at three WRs and not much space. Ross(+1) is blitzing with Bolden moving to cover him at the snap. He bowls over the WR who is trying to seal him inside, and the QB cuts up. Heitzman(-0.5) gets significantly delayed by a scoop block and blown off the line so there's a gap for him. Pipkins(+0.5) shot through the line at a crappy angle on the backside and manages to come around and tackle.|
|O38||2||6||Flexbone unbalanced||4-4 under||Pass||N/A||PA fly||Kovacs||32|
|They show their option and shoot that flexback downfield at Kovacs again. Kovacs is like NOT THIS TIME BUDDY, is determined to get outside of him, and... guy runs right by him. How the hell you're supposed to not have this happen I don't know. I guess you can key on is Roh getting blocked. Yes, in this case. Otherwise, screwed. I have to give him a -2, cover -4, but this is also an RPS -4, the culmination of Michigan's scheme leaving them vulnerable to this. WR is hit over the top with eight yards lead on the nearest defender, but bobbles the ball and falls over, which is the only thing preventing a TD. Picture-paged.|
|I think. They are showing a replay on this down. No idea. Some pluses should be handed out for a zero yard run, and are not.|
|M30||2||10||Ace twins twin TE||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||Waggle scramble||CGordon||10|
|Coverage(+2) is good. Brink(-1) is chasing on the end but he's either slow or not going maximum speed. Either way this opens up more space than the QB should have. Bolden is underneath on a TE. CGordon(-1) roars up late when it becomes clear a scramble is coming but overruns it and gives up more yardage than is necessary.|
|M20||3||In||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Ross||2|
|They get it.|
|M18||1||10||Near half-flex tight||Okie||Run||N/A||FB dive||Washington||2|
|Washington(+1) gets some push and impacts the FB with his blocker; Bolden(+0.5) pulls out of the seven man front and tackles unmolested.|
|M16||2||8||Flexbone big||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||2|
|Oookay. Black(+1) dodges a cut and Ross(+1) again plows a blocker back; those two tackle after the usual two yards.|
|M14||3||6||Ace 3-wide||4-3 under||Run||N/A||QB draw||Bolden||6|
|Michigan stunts, pulling Black around and sealing the intended hole. Bolden(-2) does not read this and sits, waiting for the QB to come through the hole the stunt closes off; he cuts behind where Washington was always going to get sealed off from thanks to the stunt. Black almost makes a saving play after avoiding a cut and coming around but can't; Bolden is not where he needs to be and this breaks for the first down. Ryan, who starts a full three yards behind Bolden, actually makes this tackle.|
|M8||1||G||Flexbone goal line||4-4 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Bolden||1|
|May be a bust as the playside G pulls. FB is running straight at where the G no longer is. Campbell(+0.5) comes under a block and helps tackle with an unblocked Bolden(+0.5) hitting it after a yard.|
|M7||2||G||Offset I-Form||4-3 under||Run||N/A||End around||Ross||4|
|Ross takes one step playside and then bursts upfield as he sees the end around. Too far upfield. He's there to make the tackle but only from the side and just barely. Taylor(+1) provided good support here, getting into the lead blocker at the LOS and turning it in at then numbers. He also helps tackle. Ross gets a push; this was good recognition but that angle needs to be wider so that you're meeting the guy at the LOS instead of chasing him.|
|M3||3||G||Near half-flex unbalanced||4-4 under||Run||N/A||Outside pitch.||Taylor||0|
|A crappy pitch bails M out, but I think they had this stopped. Taylor(+1) held the edge and dodged a cut, and Ross(+0.5) was going flat out for the outside. Bad pitch brings Getz into a ton of bodies and ends it.|
|M3||4||G||Field goal||4-3 under||Run||N/A||Speed option||Ryan||2|
|Michigan leaves their defense on the field and AF still runs the fake. Not a good idea. Ryan(+1) forces it back and Bolden(+0.5) tackles with help.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-17, 1 min 3rd Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|M39||1||10||Ace trips unbalanced||4-3 under||Pass||N/A||PA fly||Taylor||Inc|
|Two deep routes draw man coverage, basically, as Gordon shoots up on the option fake. Taylor(+1, cover +1) is step for step with his guy and probably has a play on the ball if this is accurate enough to be caught; it's not.|
|M39||2||10||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||7|
|Same thing. Safety has to worry about getting burned over the top and by the time he commits it's too late. Gordon hops over a cut block but is still way far away from the edge once Ryan forces a pitch. I guess you can key on the OL releasing downfield and get on your horse. Gordon -1.|
|M32||3||3||Flexbone tight||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Quick pitch||Taylor||-2|
|Taylor(+2) comes up hard on this one, smacking a blocker three yards in the backfield at the numbers. Other blockers run by Clark(+1), who delivers a thumping tackle. RPS +1, they were looking for this.|
|M34||4||5||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Gordon||6|
|Same thing, always. Gordon(-1) does not get outside the flexback, gives up corner, does tackle at the sticks but not enough. Clark is coming so hard from the back on this that if Ryan makes the QB turn up this is a stop, I think.|
|M28||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||PA flare||N/A||Inc|
|Floyd(+1, cover +1) and Morgan(+1, cover +1) cover their guys, Floyd on a fly route and Morgan recovering from the PA. QB tries to flare it out as a checkdown and misses badly. Possibly thanks to Heitzman(+0.5) getting a nominal amount of pressure.|
|M28||2||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Floyd||3|
|Ojemudia(-2) has no idea what he's doing and shoots down inside at the dive back instead of taking the QB. Floyd(+2, tackling +1) shoots by the corner and fills after the QB pitches for no earthly reason. Took a huge mistake by the QB and a great play to not have this break huge. Because the whole defense was going nuts about the dive back.|
|M25||3||7||Ace 4-wide||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Slant||Morgan||10|
|Morgan(-1, cover -1) takes a weird bad zone drop and opens this up. OL had cut everyone, so this was coming out immediately or not at all.|
|M15||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||FB dive||Black||6|
|DL shift does Michigan a disservice here; Black(-1) pops through the line at the wrong spot to do anything about this and LBs can't do anything about it either.|
|M9||2||4||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Ojemudia||1|
|Ojemudia(+1) does hop out on the QB this time. He decides not to pitch for some reason and gets nailed. Pitch looked like a TD, FWIW.|
|M8||3||3||Flexbone||6-2 over||Run||N/A||Triple option||Morgan||8|
|M finally switches their scheme up, shooting Gordon at the QB from the corner. This forces a pitch. Morgan and Floyd are on the edge against one blocker... Floyd(-1) gets cut and ends up incapacitated at the three and Morgan(-2, tackling -1) overruns the RB entirely. TD.|
|M3||2pt||2pt||Ace twins||4-3 even||Pass||N/A||Waggle TE circle||Bolden||3|
|Roh(-1, pressure -1) sucks up and does not get out on the edge. Bolden(-1, cover -1) also bites hard, so this is easy.|
|Drive Notes: Touchdown(2pt), 28-25, 12 min 4th Q|
|Ln||Dn||Ds||O Form||D Form||Type||Rush||Play||Player||Yards|
|O34||1||10||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||N/A||2|
|Fumbled the dive fake.|
|O36||2||8||Flexbone tight||4-3 even||Pass||4||Scramble||Brink||1|
|One flex back is in a WR stance, so may tip pass. Dive fake and then Dietz drops back. He doesn't like what he sees(cover +1) and scrambles directly upfield. Brink(+1) and Pipkins(+1) collapse on him.|
|O37||3||7||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Run||N/A||Speed option||Floyd||13|
|Three AF players are moving before the snap, which ain't legal. Ross is hauling after this play—he really is decisive—but gets easily cut off by a guy blocking down. Kovacs takes another blocker and Floyd(-1) is one on one on the outside with a motioned flexback; he again gets taken out of the play. RPS -1. Schemed here, mostly. No response from the LBs to the motion.|
|50||1||10||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||FB dive||Campbell||2|
|Campbell(+1) shoves his blocker backwards and gets to the hole, tackling. C released directly into Ross; Campbell making this play saves a yard or two, an important yard or two.|
|M48||2||8||Flexbone||4-3 under||Run||N/A||FB dive||Roh||3|
|Campbell over C on this one, play goes behind him. Roh(+1) fights to the hole and helps tackle; Bolden(-0.5) isn't quite authoritative enough with his fill and shoulder-blocks the RB down.|
|M45||3||5||Flexbone||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Counter dive||Ross||2|
|Woo! Ross(+1) is going forward on the snap, splitting the two guys releasing downfield and blasting the RB at the LOS. Would be two but he does not wrap. Black(+1) ditched a blocker and takes out the pulling G; he uses the Ross-created delay to tackle.|
|M43||4||3||Near half-flex||4-3 even||Run||N/A||Triple option||Clark||0|
|Michigan stunts. They send Clark upfield and take Black out behind that. Clark(+1) takes out the lead blocker and forces Getz upfield. Black(+1) is now out on the QB, who ends up pitching it forward to a guy right next to him. Black and Ross(+1), who flew right by a blocker en route to the edge, make the stop. RPS +1. The stunt killed it. Way to pull that out at a critical juncture, Mattison.|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 4 min 4th Q. Okay, so ABC screwed up here and the tape misses the first three plays of this drive. They are INC, 7 yard completion plus 15 roughing the passer, Roh(-1), incomplete (Clark +1 for leaping PBU), and a sideline interference(!) penalty. We pick it up on second and fifteen.|
|O37||2||15||Shotgun trips||4-3 under||Pass||4||Out||Ryan||Inc|
|Roh(+1) gets some pressure after initially getting stopped by the LT; Dietz is rolling out to his side after he dumps the tackle and has to throw. Ryan(+1, cover +1) is in position and breaks to break up a poorly-thrown ball.|
|O37||3||15||Shotgun 4-wide||Nickel even||Run||N/A||QB draw||Clark||-2|
|Mattison is so looking for this, running a stunt that sends Clark(+1) directly into the running lane AF is looking for. Ryan(+1) darted inside the tackle he's stunting and helps tackle. RPS +2.|
|O35||4||17||Shotgun trips||Nickel even||Pass||4||Batted||Ryan||Inc|
|Ryan(+2) sets the RT up inside, looks like he's going to burst outside, and then is definitely bursting outside because the RB clunks into the RT. Ryan in, QB has to throw, Ryan knocks it down. (Pressure +2)|
|Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 31-25, 1 min 4th Q. EOG for D.|
That could have gone better.
Yeah. I found this reference to what Michigan was doing on The Birddog, the great Navy blog:
The biggest surprise in this game was how poorly Michigan defended the option. They spent most of the game in a 3-deep 4-4, with the safety assigned to the pitch man. Sound familiar? No wonder Air Force was able to move the ball. After playing both Navy and Air Force several times in his career, you’d think that Brady Hoke would have known better.
That link takes you to the Birddog's extensive breakdown of the 2008 Georgia-Georgia Tech game in which the Yellow Jackets broke a long losing streak against the Dawgs by completing one pass for 19 yards… and rushing for 409. In that game, the pitchman was the safety's responsibility, the safety started eating the flexback, and the Jackets looked like Las Vegas for a day. The Birddog chalks this up to old-timey ways to defend the wishbone that time-pressed coaches default to because they aren't up on the ways in which the flexbone makes those defenses invalid.
It's of purely academic interest until Michigan schedules another option team, but the similarities between how UGA defended Tech in 2008 and how Michigan defended Air Force in 2012 are extensive. If you just want to know why Saturday went down like it did, I can't recommend that post enough.
This is already nine thousand words.
What I'm saying is could I have some cliffs notes?
Fundamentally, the mechanics of your basic triple option play are the same whether you’re running it out of the wishbone, I-formation, spread, or whatever. Each of these formations, however, imply different overall philosophies. The underlying theme of the wishbone– bringing blockers to the point of attack to support a power running game– is very different than that of the spread. In the spread, you want to stretch the defense, both vertically and from sideline to sideline, in order to create running lanes. You might think these are just platitudes, but they aren’t; this difference, coupled with the threat of the pass, is why wishbone defenses don’t work against the spread option. The spread allows an offensive coordinator to use a greater variety of formations in order to create the space he wants for his ballcarriers. That advantage played a big part in Georgia Tech’s win over Georgia.
Mattison knows he was burned, and we won't see Michigan try this in purely hypothetical future option matchups. But when it came down to crunch time, he did respond.
Oh, yes. On Air Force's final drive he had the luxury of the Falcons trying a shotgun passing attack but it's still a big plus when you call rock to the opponent's QB draw scissors, and on the even-more-critical final AF drive in their base offense Mattison finally pulled out a variation of his base defense that worked:
Clark bursts upfield and Michigan stunts Black outside, getting both a delay on the QB and a second tackler in space. Also featured is James Ross getting on his horse and doing what James Ross does: running at maximum speed somewhere. I assume there will be moments this year when Ross doing this leaves a tight end wide open, but you can't accuse Ross of being indecisive. If you need to figure out where to eat dinner with 12 people, invite James Ross.
He is in fact the only edge-type person on the—
probably pretty doomy CHART
--chart to not get a negative.
|Roh||9||5||4||Size not a problem against Falcons.|
|Campbell||4.5||7||-2.5||I may have been a little harsh on some early cuts as AF didn't get that many yards on them.|
|Washington||2.5||5||-2.5||Right, this is more realistic than his Alabama number.|
|Black||6||1.5||4.5||Some big plays late.|
|Pipkins||1.5||-||1.5||Showed some agility after popping through the line at bad angle|
|Beyer||0.5||2.5||-2||Clark seemed a lot better.|
|Heitzman||0.5||2||-1.5||Probably shouldn't be playing yet.|
|Clark||5||2||3||Too bad impressive PBU not shown by ABC.|
|Ojemudia||1||3||-2||One bust on QB he got away with.|
|TOTAL||31.5||31||0.5||Step up from 'Bama; maybe not very telling anyway.|
|Morgan||8||10||-2||Faded late after strong start, thus setting up allfrosh.|
|Demens||2||3.5||-1.5||Poor guy was dodging two blocks a play.|
|Ryan||13||2.5||10.5||Ran up the score with +4 on final three plays. Option blame fell elsewhere.|
|C. Gordon||1.5||2||-0.5||Will be viable depth for Ryan.|
|Ross||4.5||-||4.5||Goes, man, just goes.|
|Bolden||5.5||6||-0.5||Some nice plays, some getting lost.|
|TOTAL||34.5||24||10.5||Thought these guys did okay considering all the cut blocks|
|Floyd||3||10||-7||Has always been a terrible run defender, this played into a weakness.|
|Avery||3||-||3||Did okay before getting pulled with back issue.|
|Taylor||7||7||0||Had some crappy plays, but also popped up to pop people.|
|Kovacs||3.5||7||-3.5||Really put in a bind by the scheme.|
|T. Gordon||3||5||-2||Did not do well compared to Ryan on edge.|
|Wilson||-||-||-||Did not chart.|
|TOTAL||19.5||29||-9.5||No Marlin Jacksons here.|
|Pressure||7||7||0||Not really important.|
|Coverage||15||15||0||Push good against this kind of offense.|
|Tackling||6||3||66%||AF != Alabama|
|RPS||7||13||-6||Mattison said as much.|
So… I did not get the Demens removal. I thought the DL was pretty scary save Roh, loved Ryan, thought the linebackers were otherwise eh, hated Floyd's run support, was disappointed in the safeties, and think Michigan got outschemed somewhat. Thus Air Force racking it up.
Ryan is so shiny here, but you thought he might be a problem live?
That was probably lingering Argh Ryan bias from last year. He made tackles in space, he was very likely not the guy who had the pitchman at any point except when he was making tackles in space, and he almost singlehandedly ended Air Force's final drive. Bennie Oosterbaan would be proud as soon as he stopped asking why a linebacker was wearing his number.
He also lowered some BOOM:
Note that the alignment there drives the blocking crazy. The WR is trying to crack down on a LB but he's on the line, so the CB knows right away that this is a run, and then the angle he has to take cuts off the guy assigned to Avery.
Ryan did have one ARGH RYAN; other than that he was stellar. Easily Michigan's best defender on the day.
But Floyd not so much.
No. While he got a lot better in coverage last year—Gibson minus all of the points—he remained a sucky edge defender. Remember bubble screen fiesta by Northwestern? Etc. He is not real good at taking on blocks of any variety. This ends up a Morgan TFL but watch Floyd:
That was a constant occurrence, and it would have been a problem on this play if the QB had made Morgan commit before pitching. It cost Michigan lots of yards on others. On this one he's not even blocked and ends up in the parking lot:
I don't know why they're so far off. I do know that attacking Michigan's corners in the run/screen game has been easy money for a couple years now.
How did Taylor do in his first extended time?
He was uneven, as you might expect. I don't blame him on the easy pitch touchdown Air Force got since he was blitzing at the snap—watch Floyd for confirmation—and got blocked in the back something fierce without a call from this ref crew deathly afraid of throwing a flag on America. Mattison dialed up a risky play in an effort to get a stop and got beat, which is fine on the one yard line. You've got to dial it up somehow.
He did extend a few Air Force drives with rookie mistakes, like this corner route on which he has to know the situation:
That step up is the difference between a completion and getting off the field, and it was made against a stationary tight end three yards downfield on third and twelve. On the other hand, he recovered pretty well there. If Dietz doesn't put it up high he's got a play on it. He's got the athleticism. He needs to learn how to play zone coverage, is all. He might already be better than Floyd at run support.
Demens got pulled but doesn't stand out as terrible above.
No. I'm not sure what he could have done on most of these plays. I mean, the poor guy ended up dealing with multiple blocks for big chunks of the first half:
That is not one but two Air Force blockers who do nothing but go after Demens. No consideration for guys on the line, no one else to block, just Kenny Demens vs The World.
Bolden was okay, but I think maybe Demens doesn't get sucked to the frontside and makes a stop on this play:
That's pretty bad because of the stunt in front of Bolden. That hole frontside is going to get filled by the stunter, and that's something the LB should realize. I didn't see much from Bolden that was option-relevant. Michigan was using their MLBs mostly to nail that FB dive.
Ross showed that maybe there were plays out there to make, but I don't expect Demens to get buried. I also don't expect him to do much unless Michigan starts getting more plays from the DL.
So what about this covered slot thing?
I've never seen anyone do that with the frequency Air Force did, and wanted to know if Mattison was using that stuff as a run key. Answer: yes. Via Heiko:
MGoQuestion: A lot of times Air Force came out with two receivers lined up on the line of scrimmage such that the slot was an ineligible receiver. Do you coach your defense to use that as a run key?
“Yeah. We knew that. We knew that. In fact, if you watched that, you would have seen J.T. Floyd come over to him and know that he didn’t have to drop, and he didn’t. He became another run defender over there.”
Even so I was frustrated a couple times when that happened and the guy over the slot did not react quickly enough to the run. It is possible to pass out of it but the contortions you have to go through are extreme. Nebraska got a corner route TD on it against Southern Miss by not even bothering to move either of the outside WRs. [HT: Smart Football.] We saw the magical journey the covered slot guy went on on the long shoulda-been-TD in Picture Pages.
Just astoundingly bad. Here's an Air Force pass play on which not one but two Falcon offensive linemen release downfield:
Those two guys in the middle of the field are OL. One of them cut-blocked Demens. No flag. I know the packaged plays have made everyone aware that refs will give OL a couple yards, but that's ridiculous. There was that Arena-league touchdown, and Morgan got tackled on a critical third down:
I mean, call it both ways. We're part of America too.
Jake Ryan and James Ross.
Floyd's run support, Mattison's antiquated approach to defending the flexbone option, the D-tackles (somewhat), and the safeties (somewhat).
What does it mean for UMass and the future?
Not a whole lot since option has just slid off the schedule. However: I think Taylor will have some rough spots but come through okay. He's an athlete. Ross is going to get more playing time until such time as his hypercaffeinated ways get Michigan burned, and possibly beyond that. Jake Ryan is developing as well as Michigan fans had hoped.
Still feeling pretty ominous about the line, unfortunately, but a lot of Air Force's success is not replicable by other teams. Since Alabama is way up there, UMass way down there, and Air Force way out there, our first read on how this defense is going to play against humans comes against Notre Dame.
Air Force's ability to consistently get the edge on Michigan's defense was the most frustrating thing about Saturday's game, and many theories have been proffered as to what was supposed to be happening, why it wasn't, and why we will or will not die on the rest of the schedule.
I'm of the opinion that Michigan's scheme was predictable and that as soon as Air Force started blocking Kovacs they were out of ideas.
Here's Air Force's first play of the second half. Denard Robinson's just gone 58 yards to put M up 21-10 and a poor decision by a Falcon player to fall on a squibbed kickoff sets the Falcons up on their own 12 yard line. Michigan has just sat in the locker room for 20 minutes getting coached up; Air Force comes out and runs the same triple option they've been running all game.
It does not go well.
Okay: I called this "near half-flex" for Air Force. Michigan is in their 4-4 under, which I know is actually shifted towards the nominal strength of the formation and so is technically an over. Michigan aligns to field, not strength—so they would flip their formation if it was on the other hash.
Against Air Force, Michigan brought Gordon down into the box and made their formation basically symmetrical. Mattison:
Jake and Thomas were the exact same position in our scheme. A lot of people play the same scheme.
Kovacs is playing center field. Earlier in the game, he was not getting blocked and doing Kovacs things. Like this:
Air Force was all like Eff that to the A and started blocking him. That took out Michigan's edge defender and opened up the corner. Michigan didn't really adjust.
Air Force's "triple" option" wasn't really that. They occasionally ran the dive to keep the defense honest but when they did that the QB just turned around and give it, no read. Here they're running the option with the token dive fake. Already in the above frame, bad things are happening.
Will Campbell(1) is tackling an Air Force lineman who's trying to get out on Bolden. He'll succeed at this, allowing Bolden to flow freely for the rest of the play, but he'll pick up a second defensive holding call doing so. On the edge, Gordon(2) is the optioned guy. Michigan is playing him to pitch like they have been all game. Kovacs(3), is the destination of the flexback.
In a second or two, Michigan is going to eat cut blocks:
Thanks for participating, Clark and Morgan, but you've been elimidated. Try again next play. Meanwhile, downfield…
…the ref is ANGAR at Campbell and Jordan Kovacs is decidedly not coming up to stop the pitch.
Why is Kovacs taking that angle? Why is he not attacking the run? That's an eligible receiver he is in man coverage on. He's got no one behind him, and there are two other receivers going vertical. He has to respect this guy as a receiver, or he could give up an 88-yard touchdown.
At this point it's pretty obvious, but Kovacs doesn't have good options.
Gordon forces the pitch. Michigan has Bolden ready to hit the QB if necessary, but he doesn't know that, and that's not the scheme.
The scheme is getting cut to the ground 13 yards downfield.
Presenting yet another ten yard run on a pitch. WSG Will Campbell holding flag.
[After THE JUMP: Air Force twists its mustache!]
Jake Ryan and Denard Robinson
Opening remarks re: jersey:
Ryan: “It’s an honor. Coach Hoke called me in about a week ago and told me I was going to be wearing 47. It’s been an honor. This game is awesome for me and just wearing it is amazing. I’m going to wear it with pride and represent him as well as I can.”
Did wearing that number give you any strength today? You looked like you were a mad dog out there.
Ryan: “I did a little research on Bennie. I just feel like he was a really athletic Michigan man. I feel like it’s just a number, but I’m representing someone, but I don’t know I guess a little bit. I kind of had pride in what I did.”
You guys seemed to struggle with the triple option. What was going on there?
Ryan: “Yeah it was just technique. We just needed to improve on our technique. Just get back to the benches and see what we did wrong, what we needed to improve on, and just go from there.”
Ryan: “No, just technique. I mean, we weren’t playing our technique, so we needed to get that done.”
After The Jump, more Denard and OosterJake, two Devins, Kovacs & Lewan.
In re: "who are you optioning?"
This is a weird formation, right? Lewan is eligible receiver, Kwiatkowski is not?
It's a little weird. Neither Lewan or Kwiatkowski are eligible in that formation. Lewan wears an ineligible number; Kwiatkowski is covered up by a receiver outside of him. I call these formations "unbalanced" when I talk about them.
They're not that weird, though. Teams do it to screw with the defense's alignment, test various things, etc. If the play ends up being a pass you've declared that you've only got four receivers, but since the tight end can pass block you're still playing 11 on 11.
Occasionally you'll see Michigan line up with two receivers on the line of scrimmage to the same side. This drives me nuts since the slot guy may as well not exist. This was more common under Rodriguez but IIRC Borges did do it a couple times last year. These are always runs, and usually short ones if the defense notices the alignment, which it seems like they always do.
Why do coaches do this? They're trying to mess up a defense's alignment keys and get easy yards. It's the same principle at work whenever a wide receiver lines up at fullback and motions out to the flank, or when a running back ends up lined up way on the outside.
Join our flaming crater!
What effect do you think the 'Bama game will have on recruiting? Much to my surprise many fans think neutral or positive.
I don't think it will have much, if any. Michigan's down to a couple of scholarships in the next class. By the time the 2014 kids start committing in numbers, Michigan will have played 12-13 additional games and the Alabama debacle will be a lot less relevant than it seems right now.
If it's going to hurt, it'll be with Derrick Green and LaQuon Treadwell. I don't think anyone was optimistic about Green after Auburn popped up even before Saturday; Treadwell is more of a mystery. We'll see.
In general, short-term results are not the be all and end-all in recruiting. See Charlie Weis, Ron Zook, etc. You either have it until such point as your job is under threat or you're at Kansas, or you don't.
An update on the Stubhub thing.
Just a quick heads up that UM still appears to have their relationship in place with StubHub. I received an email on Friday from the Michigan Ticket Office proclaiming, “Don't forget to use our online Marketplace (in its second successful year in service) to easily resell your tickets electronically.” I know you mused about whether this relationship was still in place after StubHub referred to UM as a former partner, so I wanted to pass along.
False alarm. Still amazed at that MBA who managed to make counterfeit tickets incredibly easy to manufacture unless you were selling through Stubhub. Probably laughing moooooohahahahaha right now in a lair somewhere.
Inversion. Also, this section sponsored by Slanty the Gecko, inexplicably the first hit in Google Images for "line slant football," or at least it was a year ago.
Steve Sharik, a former high school who you may remember posting some great diaries a couple years back, sent me an email about what happened to the defense; I responded with a question, and he answered. So let's put me in a yellow box:
It looks like Michigan is slanting the DL a lot to get their guys in gaps between the massive OL and set up an obvious cutback lane in which the LBs are supposed to be 2v1, but rarely do both of them get there. It's so consistent that it almost seems like I have to be wrong. I want the LBs to absolutely tear ass for the gap behind the slanting DT (usually they leave the DE to contain the backside). Instead they check up for cutbacks constantly that seem like the DL's job. Am I crazy?
Slanting does two things to zone blocking:
- If I'm an OL zone blocking to the right, and the guy on my outside who I'm supposed to block goes left, there is a natural tendency to go after my guy.
- More importantly, slanting the DL gets penetration, which wreaks havoc on zone blocking.
Recall how effectively OSU slanted against us in 2007 (yes, that screen shot).
the most infamous
What would continually happen was the ball would show in a hole a LB was supposed to fill, which was done fine, but the hole was created so well that there essentially are two gaps where there was once one: there is space on both sides of the lead blocker, so the filling LB has to pick one, meaning the extra LB/S/C has to fill the other one. Consistently this second, unblocked defender was late and too far away, creating a seam in the run defense.
[ED: This came up last year too. I complained about Brandin Hawthorne not getting past a blocker against EMU. Michigan has been short on free hitters.]
BONUS: we also had a discussion on that seam route Alabama hit early and Floyd tackled immediately on. I am still in a yellow box.
Sharik: Even the normally reliable Kovacs was bad. Demens was in the wrong gap a few times, Morgan doesn't have a great feel for when to attack now or where to fit, and Kovacs and JT Floyd were very tentative. In other words, our extra run defender (when the QB is turning around and handing it off, they're playing 10 v. 11, so we should have an extra, unblocked defender vs. the run) was late to the party or in the wrong gap, creating the huge seams you saw. Even vs. the pass, on their conversion on a 3rd and long, Kovacs went to wide and too aggressively to re-route a seam, and ended up being outside the numbers and too close to the LOS, thereby giving up the seam right behind him.
I caught that Kovacs thing, but thought the problem there was a crappy chuck on the guy. If he really jams him there the blitz should have time to get there or Floyd has time to get over. yes/no?
Against the pass, the defender responsible for the seam must stay on that seam--reroute the receiver off the seam. You do this with both your horizontal and vertical position. When Kovacs was so aggressive he took himself outside of the seam and stayed too close to the LOS, creating an open window for the seam. The technique is to not gear up to hit the guy, but to shock, catch, and run. If a guy is running in the seam, it almost looks like man coverage if the defender is playing his technique correctly. (Actually it does look like man, the way to tell man or zone is by what other defenders are doing.) Also, Floyd can't come over b/c he has deep 1/3 and the outside receiver was running a go route.
If Kovacs stays in the seam window, he doesn't have to take his eyes off the QB and he can eliminate the possibility of a throw without touching the WR. And if their QB holds the ball b/c the seam isn't open, the blitz gets home (or at least has a better chance).
Actually, I think the designed route was an inside skinny; designed to be behind the Mike and in front of the Free. The WRs job is to clear the seam defender, then post to the middle at about 10-15. (Different coaches teach different depths, and different defenses command slightly different depths, as well as the drop of the QB--3, 5, 7 step.)
I am now out of a yellow box. When Steve mentioned that the slot defender on the seam often looks like man coverage, it made me think back to Courtney Avery consistently carrying receivers deep on similar routes, and wondering if that was what the intent was. We eventually figured it was—this was a BWS debate—and then last year Mattison flat out said so after Avery carried a seam route deep and Iowa got a 44-yard gain out of a simple crossing route; we asked what happened there and he said Countess got out of position.
Thanks to Steve for the input. Long way to go.