Upon Further Review: Offense vs. Michigan State

Upon Further Review: Offense vs. Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 12th, 2006 at 6:25 PM


M44 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 16 Hart Off tackle left
Well... nice running and all that but also extreme stupidity from the MSU safety, who's walked up to the line and sort of hurls himself into the back of the defensive end instead of, you know, trying to keep contain. The corner is wide open as a result – Breaston hardly has to do anything to seal him. Nice block downfield from Manningham(+1).
O40 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Zone left
Would have had the corner again, but Arrington(-2) runs right by the Key, the MSU safety, who's walked up into the box. Hart's forced to cut back into a loaded front. Mitchell's attempted cut against Clifton Ryan is ineffectual.
O40 2 10 I-Form 3-Wide Pass 4 Breaston Stop
Waggle. Henne comes down to Breaston, his outlet. Greg Cooper makes a solid tackle. (CA, 3)
O36 3 6 I-Form 3-Wide Penalty 5 -- Offside
They jumped off on the previous play when Chad did his check-with-me... and they do it again on the very next play. They are about as well-coached as a pack of squirrels on coke.
O31 3 1 I-Form 2TE Pass 6 Breaston Long handoff
Another jump, but they get back. They're playing way off Breaston on third and one; Henne takes the free yards. (CA, 3)
O25 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 5 Hart Zone left
Video provided; words fail. Breaston brought in motion to block a guy but is unsurprisingly driven into the backfield. Hart reverses his field and punishes fools who try to tackle.
O20 2 5 I-Form Twins Run 5 Hart Zone left
Oluigbo(+1) gets a nice block on Adams, opening up the corner.
O15 1 10 I-Form 3-Wide Penalty 5 -- Offsides
Fourth jump of the drive. Dyslexic squirrels on coke.
O10 1 5 I-Form 3-Wide Run 3 Hart Iso
Oluigbo(-1) does not get much of a block, leaving Herron in the hole on his stomach, but enough to deal with Hart. Better block == first down and possible touchdown.
O7 2 2 I-Form Twins Run 4 Hart Zone left
Overloaded set we run from time to time with everyone to one side, including the TE that I'm not a huge fan of because we always run from it. The TE, covered by a WR, can't go out in a pattern. Anyway: zone left and there's a hole between the guards (Bihl's on the second level.) Wiley, leveled on Hart's cutback play, comes up again and is again dragged forward. Wiley tries to talk smack afterwards.
O3 1 G I-Form Twins Run -10 Hart Zone left
Same formation. Hart goes off left tackle and into the endzone; holding call brings it back. Call is weak and stupid on Bihl's part... let him go.
O13 1 G Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc -- Near disaster
Massive protection breakdown that's not explicable. Line slides way right, leaving the DE unblocked. Hart does not pick him up, leaving him to crush Henne and momentarily "fumble" the ball, though apparently Jim Augustyne's been briefed on "the rules" of "football" this year. Unbelievable this was actually called a fumble on the field. Hart points to himself on the sideline and thus gets the big fat (-2 protection, PR)
O13 2 G Ace 3-Wide Pass 13 Arrington Skinny Post (2)
Arrington is wide, wide open. Henne makes this catch an impossible one, but he comes down with it... I guess. Why wasn't this reviewed? (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q. Does your hand count for inbounds? People keep saying it does but I checked the rulebook and there's nothing specific.
M20 1 10 Ace Penalty -5 Mitchell False start
M15 1 15 I-Form Run 6 Hart Lead draw
Definitely the right playcall. Michigan needs to get the two inside linebackers cleanly blocked and then it's secondary time for Hart. This doesn't so much happen, but there is a crease. Hart bolts through a gauntlet of arms for six.
M21 2 9 Ace 3-Wide Pass 10 Hart GJG
Gold, Jerry! Gold! We fake ol' zone left, set up in what looks like a waggle, then throw the screen back to Hart. Eleven yards and a first down. (CA, 3)
M31 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 4 Grady Draw
I find the idea of a first and ten draw hilarious when we always run on first and ten. State has eight in the box; Ryan stands up Mitchell(-1) and disengages at the LOS.
M35 2 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Stop
Dropped. Anyone else worried Manningham is developing Braylon Edwards disease? (CA, 3)
M35 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass 11 Breaston Shallow Cross
Ton of time (protection +2). We max-pro with only the three WR in a pattern. Henne eventually checks down to Breaston, who should be stopped short of the sticks by all rights but makes the State DB miss and rolls up 8 YAC. Another instance where these damn three-yard routes on third and medium are wide open but Henne throws it way too late. (IN, 3)
M46 1 10 I-Form 3-Wide Pass Inc Arrington Bomb
And by "excellent coverage" McDonough means "terrible coverage." Yeah: they leave S/OLB hybrid Adams lined up in press over Arrington, essentially begging Michigan to drop a bomb on his head. This they do... literally. Henne underthrows the pass and it bounces off his helmet. Back in the day we used to call that the Todd Howard. (IN, 1)
M46 2 10 I-Form Pass 7 Manningham Long handoff
They play way off and we make them pay for like once. (CA, 3)
O47 3 3 I-Form Run 0 Hart Draw
We run a draw into nine in the box. I am displeased.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 2 min 1st Q. They fair catch a punt at the four. They are very stupid.
M46 1 10 I-Form Run 11 Hart Zone left
Sharp cutback behind Kraus. Bihl's on the second level, on a linebacker. Mitchell(+1) has sealed a MSU DT who's first step was fatally upfield.
O43 1 10 I-Form Run 2 Hart Zone left
Ack. There's a definite hole here and the potential for a ton of yards, but Kraus(-1) can't seal his guy despite getting him good and engaged. Oluigbo flies by, as at that point the dude looks blocked.
O42 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Pass 41 Manningham Fly
Uh... yeah, that looks familiar. (DO, 2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 13 min 2nd Q.
M20 1 10 I-Form Penalty 5 -- Offsides
Uh... you're dumb.
M25 1 5 Ace Run 1 Hart Zone right
Riley(-1) blown backwards off the snap, preventing Hart from getting outside for nice yardage. Mitchell also with no push.
M26 2 4 I-Form 3-Wide Run 22 Hart Zone right
Only six guys in the box and it shows. Michigan creases the line right up the middle. Kraus manages to disrupt two guys while Mitchell and Oluigbo double Herron and open up a hole. Hart darts through it snappily.
M48 1 10 I-Form 3-Wide Run 2 Hart Zone right
Kraus(-1) lets his man into the backfield immediately. Another one of those hard-to-make blocks on playside DTs.
50 2 8 I-Form Run 1 Minor Lead draw
Spartans blitz into the draw and jam up the middle.
O49 3 7 Ace 3-Wide Pass 9 Breaston Cross
Manningham and Arrington run off zone defenders, opening up the short cross to Breaston. Caught a couple yards short of the sticks but the Spartan DBs hesitate, knowing who they're up against, allowing Breaston to go straight upfield for the first. (CA, 3)
O40 1 10 Ace Run 5 + 5 Hart Slam
Bihl gets a good push on his man, opening up a gap between himself and Mitchell for about five. Herron gets tagged with an incidental face mask.
O30 1 10 Ace Run 4 Hart Zone left
Dude. Clifton Ryan meets Hart at the line of scrimmage – Riley is following him down the line – to make a tackle but Hart drives him five yards downfield. Ryan is a 300-some pound defensive tackle.
O26 2 6 Ace Run 1 Grady Zone left
Nothing off the left side. Linebackers aren't blocked.
O24 3 5 Ace 3-Wide Run 1 Grady Zone left
Can I tell you how much I hate this playcall? I hate all of it. Forever. It's one thing to "establish a run game" or whatever, but this is throwing away expectation.
O23 4 4 FG Penalty 12 -- Roughing
You are so stupid.
O12 1 10 Ace Run 5 Hart Zone right
Hart hit at about the eleven after cutting it up the middle; drags guys to the seven.
O7 2 5 Ace Run -1 Hart Zone left
Mitchell(-1) blown way backwards by unpronounceable Spartan DT, who flows down the line and makes the tackle.
O6 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Fade
Fade is too far inside and short, allowing Demond Williams to make a play on it. (IN, 1)
Drive Notes: Almost Blocked FG, 17-0, 4 min 2nd Q.
M24 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 2 Hart Zone left
Hart tries to cutback between Mitchell and Riley, but Clifton Ryan has pushed Riley into the backfield and disengaged. Ryan leaves the game at this point.
M26 2 8 I-Form 3-Wide Run 16 Hart Lead draw (2)
DE opposite Riley slants inside; Riley just shoves him the directions he's going. This causes Mitchell to trip as he's getting out on Herron, eventually falling right at his feet. Oluigbo(+1) hammers a linebacker, providing a crease between himself and Riley, and Hart bursts past Herron, who's tripped up by the prone Mitchell.
M42 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham PA Deep post
Fake a zone right; Henne sets up deep and overthrows Manningham. (IN, 0)
M42 2 10 I-Form Pass 2 Tabb Long handoff
Hey, Carl Tabb exists. Huh. DBs are playing up on him and there's not much opportunity after the catch. (CA, 3)
M44 3 8 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc + 15 Manningham Deep out
Manningham drops what should be an easy conversion (DO, 3). Warrick then gets flagged for a weak personal foul. He was way late, but I dunno.
O41 1 10 I-Form Run 6 Grady Zone right
Brian Thompson lined up at FB. Grady does well to pick out a small hole that didn't appear to be there. Grady's grabbed by a diving Spartan DT, holding this down, but a good, decisive run that displays actual vision.
O35 4 Ace 3-Wide Run 8 Grady Zone left
Pat Massey(+1) gets an outstanding seal on the DE, walling off the entire Spartan line. Long comes around the outside of Massey to kick out a linebacker; Grady scoots up through the hole. I wonder if this pull – the first we've seen all year – was impromptu after the Massey seal or designed. In any case, excellent work all around from Massey, Long, and Grady.
M27 1 10 I-Form Pass 27 Manningham Post (2)
Deflecto-touchdown. What am I supposed to chart this as? Without the deflection this hits Manningham in the chest, but does Henne have to get it a bit farther out there to avoid the corner? I'd rather not with a safety coming over and the acknowledged crappiness of the Spartan secondary. Um... (CA, 3).
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-0, 11 min 3rd Q.
M22 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 14 Hart Zone right
Spartan DE's first step to is upfield. All Butler has to do is step forward and seal; this he does. Spartan safety, filling late, is taken care of by Arrington. We hurry this snap count, perhaps preventing the safety from walking up pre-snap and allowing Arrington the block that opens up the outside.
M36 1 10 I-Form 3-Wide Run -2 Hart Zone right
Spartan run blitz sends five guys forward at the snap with a corner coming up to contain the backside. Eight versus six == too many guys to block. An ND-trailing class sellout.
M34 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Run 15 Grady Zone right
Only three Spartan DL! And they're freakin' stunting. The playside DE slants inside, essentially blocking himself, and the DT is nowhere near able to make a play. This leaves Butler and Riley free to rumbled downfield, looking for blocks. Butler engages Herron, eliminating him, and Riley just sort of wanders downfield. Grady flows through the massive hole and is just barely tripped, otherwise touchdown.
M49 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 1 Grady Zone right
Similar hole, only this time the Spartans are on the right side of their blockers, disengage, and tackle.
50 2 9 Ace 3-Wide Run 10 Grady Zone left
Spartan Lbs are shifted right, with Thornhill over Riley and Herron outside the TE. But we totally trick them and run zone left instead of zone right. Grady makes a hard cut upfield that leaves the Spartan linebackers – unblocked – eating dust and trying to grab an ankle. Nice play. This is probably his best game of his career.
M40 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 40 Minor Zone right (2)
Huge hole up the middle created by outstanding seal block from Kraus, who takes the DT right out of the play. Long does likewise with his man, Bihl drives his guy the other way, Arrington picks up the last block on the safety, and Brandon Minor is NOT a fullback.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-7, 1 min 3rd Q.
M3 1 10 I-Form 2TE Run 0 Grady Zone left
Spartans selling out versus the run, sending almost everyone. We oblige; no room.
M3 2 10 I-Form 2TE Run 0 Grady Zone left
I think Grady makes the wrong read here. There was a crease outside if he could get to it. I mean, Obi gets through... follow your fullback.
M3 3 10 I-Form 2TE Run 1 Grady Zone right
I don't know if this is ruled a fumble or not, but it was close. Grady recovers it anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-7, 10 min 4th Q. I don't really have a problem with the play-calling here. Up 24 with 13 minutes left and with the defense we evidently have, the only way we lose this game is to do something stupid down here. Run run run punt, I'm fine with. Unfortunately, as soon as you praise Grady, he misses a fairly obvious hole (follow your fullback!) that probably would have gone for a first down and then (maybe) fumbles.
M48 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 2 Grady Zone left
Would have gone for more, but Long(-1) lets his man go by and tackle. Had the corner otherwise.
50 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Pass 7 Mathews Long handoff
Hey, it's like Greg Mathews and stuff. (CA, 3)
M43 3 1 Ace 3-Wide Run -2 Minor Zone left
Long(-1) gets owned, letting his man in the backfield immediately. Don't know if it's his fault. I don't like this play and will expound later.
Drive Notes: Punt, 5 min 4th Q. EOG.

Aaaaargh run run run run run run run run.

Well... yeah, sort of, but when you can take the ball at your 22 and run six times for a touchdown it makes some sense. By the time we were up 31-7 with the ball at our three thanks to an unwise Jamar Adams interception, running three times and punting was probably the right decision, as only a conspiracy of miracles loses you the game. And hell, if Grady follows his fullback on second down he probably gets a chunk of yards and potentially a first down.

The only series that really bothered me was the field-goal drive in the second quarter featuring five straight ineffective runs connected by a roughing the kicker penalty. That particular drive felt a lot like Michigan wanted to grind a lot of time off the clock, kick the field goal, and go in with a 17-point lead. Except the result was that field goal and a Michigan State possession with 3 minutes left in the half, which is plenty of time to mount a drive. Michigan would have been better off going with play action, hurrying up the end of that drive, and punting it back to State with around five minutes left, increasing the chances that Michigan would have gotten the last possession of the half.

Not to be one of those people, but Henne seemed kinda o ff, right?

Yes. Hennechart:

(Now with explanatory legend.)

Vandy 4 9 5 4 0 0 5
CMU 4 8 2 1 1 1 1
Notre Dame 6 10 2 2 0 1 3
Wisconsin 5 16 2 1 3 1 1
Minnesota 5 13 2 0 3 0 1
Michigan State 2 9 5 0 0 0 1

Maybe I was a bit harsh: two INs were bombs, one was the Arrington touchdown, one was a late throw to Breaston that turned into a first down anyway, and the final was a throw that was a bit inside on a fade to Manningham. So two were catches and two were catchable -- one of the bombs was a bit underthrown and bounced off a Spartan's helmet.

Still: Michigan threw five screens, including Gold Jerry Gold, so he only had six good passes downfield. The sample size isn't exactly vast, but this was Henne's iffiest performance since Vandy.

Gold Jerry Gold? From Wisconsin:

Speaking of screen: play-action waggle screen. Fake a zone, get the offensive linemen moving left, get the defense reacting to the "waggle"... throw back to Hart. It's gold, Jerry! Gold!

It worked for a first down, which marks the first time I've ever predicted anything correctly. So I've got that going for me.

Receiverchart? Receiverchart:

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Breaston 0 0 0 4/4   0 1/1 0 9/9
Manningham 1 0/1 1/1 2/4   2 0/2 3/3 4/7
Arrington 0 1/2 0 0   0 1/3 1/1 2/2
Massey 0 0 0 0   1 0 0 3/3
Mathews 0 0 0 1/1     0 0 0 1/1
Hart 0 0 0 1/1     0 0 0 2/2

Remember: "1" is a technically feasible by improbable catch. Any catches in this category are bonuses. "2" are moderately difficult but makable catches. "3" == should be caught.

So how about those backup running backs?

Minor's touchdown run got all the attention but it was Grady who impressed... except when he didn't. Several times he slashed up through small or nearly nonexistent holes. After he cut through the line he read the defense well and was unlucky not to break a long one, being barely tripped up a couple times. There was one major missed hole deep in Michigan territory late and something that may or may not have been a fumble on the next play, but other than that Grady was excellent.

Why do we suck on third and short?

I dunno. We were actually really good last year, but it seems you put us in third and short this year and we run out three wideouts and run a stretch play into nine guys. This doesn't work so good, evidently. What's wrong with lining up in a big set and cramming it down their throats? We have the personnel for that sort of thing.

And what does it mean for Penn State?

Penn State fans theorize there's some sort of home/away split in the aggressiveness of their defense and that with Manningham out they'll encroach upon our wideouts with impunity. I have my doubts, as Penn State's home opponents have been Akron, Youngstown State, and Northwestern. It seems far more likely that Penn State was tighter in coverage in those games because they could expect a ton of pressure against overwhelmed offensive lines and sucky quarterbacks. The split is more likely Actual Teams/Tomato Cans. Michigan is an actual team.

I expect Penn State to lay back a la Notre Dame and Ohio State. They don't have much faith in their secondary and are content to bend their way down the field and prevent the big play. They'll try to contain Hart with seven guys. Will this work? I don't know. Minnesota would have been of great help in my analysis of this game if they had tried those pitch sweeps that are a staple of their offense but did not. We do know that they have two good DTs and questionable-at-best DEs. Our tight ends have been merrily sealing all year, getting Hart to the edge for plenty of yards, and I expect a fair number of those plays over the course of the day. The Penn State linebackers are good but have been a bit of a disappointment, and Antonio Pittman got the corner with frequency. I don't think you'll have too much success lining up and running right at PSU, but our run game doesn't do that. I'm willing to bet it's surprisingly effective.

As for the pass game, Penn State gets no pressure and Henne has been extremely accurate -- if a bit tardy -- on his throws this year. With the dodgy tackling in their secondary, Breaston should have a big day.

I dunno... everyone says this Penn State team is dangerous but I don't see it. The main worry is that the run game is ineffective but DeBord stays with it long past reason, turning this from a comfortable game into a tight one.

Upon Further Review: Defense vs. Michigan State

Upon Further Review: Defense vs. Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 10th, 2006 at 8:33 PM

As always, clips courtesy Dangerous Logic.


O9 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Run   6 Trap
Can't decide whether or not Crable shooting into the backfield is a good play or not. If he doesn't, this trap looks like it finds room to the outside. Since he does, one of the pulling blockers has to take him and the not particularly nifty Caulcrick has to cut back through a small hole on the backside. I think it's good (+1 Crable), but Burgess(-1) overruns the play, opening it up for a few yards.
O15 2 4 Nickel Pass   1 WR Screen
Outstanding play by Harris(+2) to read this and track down Kerry Reed well outside the hashmarks.
O16 3 3 Nickel Pass   Inc Hitch
Zone is tight at the first down line. Throw from Stanton is low, marginally catchable, but incomplete. Hall(+1) may have helped force the incompletion. (CA, cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q. Good start. Harris has vaulted into Kiper's top 25 and with good reason. Third down play was verrry close and probably should have been reviewed, though the one angle they gave us was not conclusive.
O20 1 10 Nickel Run   2 Pitch sweep
Scott at TB. Burgess(+1) reads, forms up, and moves smartly past a blocker to collar Scott for little gain.
O22 2 8 3-3-5 Stack Pass   9 Out (rollout)
I really hate the huge cushion Trent(-1, cover -1) gives Trannon, who is slow as hell. I guess we're in zone here, so it's not necessarily his fault. (CA)
O31 1 10 Nickel Run   3 TGDCD
That goddamned counter draw. Branch(+2) comes free on the interior by throwing his man off of him and fills the hole himself.
O34 2 7 3-3-5 Stack Pass   8* Scramble
Well... this stuff just happens from time to time versus mobile quarterbacks and there's nothing you can do about it. We blitz Burgess and Crable; Stanton steps past them, manages to escape the ankle tackle of Jamison, and scrambles for nine. Filed under "crap happens."
O43 1 10 Nickel Pass   Inc WR Screen
MSU in a triple stack. Trannon drops this, but Brandon Harrison(+2) had split the two blockers, drawing them both to him and was going to make a five-yard TFL if the ball was caught. (CA)
O43 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc TE Screen
Middle TE screen straight out of the Wisconsin playbook is dropped by Holmes. Would have gone for like eight otherwise.
O43 3 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   -6 Sack
Burgess(+1) comes on a delayed blitz that finds a hole and drops Stanton. Coverage was good downfield. (+2 pressure, +1 cover)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 6 min 1st Q. Gave up a couple first downs but still a good drive for the defense. One of the MSU drops actually saved them five yards, and Stanton didn't have enough time to throw on the last play.
O4 1 10 Nickel Run   7 Off Tackle
They line up with 2TEs, under center, and run right at us. We get gashed pretty hard. Caulcrick gets hit about three yards downfield but on an angle, and since he's 262 he can drag people. Branch(-1) flew upfield, opening up the lane.
O11 2 3 Nickel Run   1 Slam
Better job this time by the DTs containing space. They both get some push. Caulcrick finds a crack between them; Adams(+1) comes up and pops him, preventing any YAC.
O12 3 2 3-3-5 Stack Run   -1 Off tackle
This TFL is Woodley's(+1) doing, as he gets into the backfield and forces a bounceout. We're blitzing so help comes quickly. Jamar Adams(+1) is the first to arrive.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, EO 1st Q. I dunno why State thought run run run punt was a good idea.
O25 1 10 Nickel Pass   16 PA Out
Run fake suckers everyone in save Woodley... MSU pulls guards and everything. Scott is open in front of Adams (DO, coverage -1, pressure -1)
O41 1 10 Nickel Pass   22 Deep Cross
Stanton has all day from a five wide set. Our front four gets no pressure. A WR comes open across the middle eventually but the window isn't very big and you can't expect the D to cover that long. (pressure -2)
M37 1 10 Nickel Run   7 Pitch sweep
Blitz from the wide side of the field, they run to the short side. Woodley tries to get out there but without a linebacker to that side he can't close down the outside. Our rock, their paper. Trent(-1) dives at a blocker's knees uselessly.
M30 2 3 Nickel Pass   Inc Slant
Hall(+1) jumps the route and almost intercepts it. (Coverage +1)
M30 3 3 Nickel Pass   6 Out (rollout)
Trent(-1) comes up late, then gets run off badly by this freshman Williams, stumbling as he gets his hips turned. Williams, as a result, is wide open. (Coverage -1)
M24 1 10 Nickel Penalty   -5 False start
M29 1 15 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Out (rollout)
Ball's thrown wide of Trannon, which might be a good thing for MSU as Trent was closing on this one. (+1, coverage +1) Holding after the play, no replay available.
M39 1 25 3-3-5 Stack Pass   2 Cross
State sets up a screen to the near side of the field, then hits Reed coming on an against-the-grain cross. Hall(+2) makes an important tackle; we were blitzing and if he misses Reed runs a long, long way.
M37 2 23 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Bomb (rollout)
Rollouts == irritating. Crable almost gets to Stanton but is hauled to the ground by a falling OL... no call. Trent(-2) is beaten deep; Williams drops a sure touchdown. (DO, coverage -2)
M37 3 23 3-3-5 Stack Pass   21 Deep Out
Trannon open way downfield for close to first down yardage but not quite. (Coverage -1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG, 14-0, 11 min 2nd Q. A disappointing series full of open wide receivers all over the field.
O29 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   9 Out (rollout)
Crable beats the OT to the outside on the rollout but comes up too hard on Stanton, allowing him to step up in the pocket neatly and find Reed in front of Harrison and Trent (coverage -1)
O38 2 1 3-3-5 Stack Run   5 Zone read
Branch stood up at the LOS. Harris has to take on a blocker, delaying his pursuit. He does make the tackle w/ Adams.
O43 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   2 WR Screen
Slow-developing screen starts with a pitch fake that doesn't sucker Harris(+1) in. He slows the play long enough for Crable(+1) to come from the backside.
O45 2 8 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Flag
Stanton too high to Scott, who was bracketed by Englemon and Hall. Stunt from Woodley(+1) got close enough to interfere with Stanton's footwork, helping the throw's inaccuray. (IN, pressure +1, cover +1)
O45 3 8 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Out
Branch(+1) hits Stanton as he throws. Resulting throw is again errant. No sack here but again an example of pressure interfering with a throw. (IN, pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-0, EO Half.
O23 1 10 Nickel Run   -1 Zone read
A blitzing Crable(+1) closes this down before it has a chance.
O22 2 11 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Quick circle
We only rush three, but the ends both come around the edge for quick pass rush. Woodley(+1) was going to sack Stanton if he didn't throw immediately. Stanton throws about three yards downfield to Terry Love, who can't make a tough catch, as Hall(+1) strips the ball out on contact. (pressure +1, cover +1)
O22 3 11 3-3-5 Stack Pass   40 Fly (rollout)
Scott gets way behind Adams(-2); Stanton hits him on the rollout. Shame, as Crable was running him down from the backside. (Cover -2)
M38 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Run   0 Zone read
Woodley(+1) forces the play back outside. Unblocked Burgess(+1) fills with authorita.
M38 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   9 Cross
A ton of time, as it seems three separate Michigan defenders be being held. Stanton eventually finds Love at the sticks. YAC potential on this throw but it's low and forces Love off his feet. (CA, pressure -2)
M29 3 1 Nickel Run   0 ISQD
Jerramy Scott at quarterback and they run the Tim Tebow play. Branch(+1) crushes his man into the backfield, allowing Taylor(+1) and Burgess(+1) to converge on Scott for no gain.
M29 4 1 Nickel Penalty   -5 False start
Shame because we had this option stuffed.
M34 4 6 Nickel Pass   20 Out
Taylor(-1) offsides on the snap. Irrelevant as we blitz and don't get there in time. Burgess was about a nanosecond away from clocking Stanton, though. Reed runs a deep out versus Harrison in man coverage for the first. (Coverage -1)
M14 1 10 Nickel Run   7 Zone read
Branch(+1) almost shuts this down immediately, but can't quite do it. Burgess(-1) gets caught inside and is plowed by the TE. Big hole results.
M7 2 3 Nickel Run   -3 Pitch sweep
Woodley(+2) gets out to the corner like a shot, hitting Scott five yards in the backfield. He misses the tackle, but the play's fouled up and the cleanup holds him behind the line of scrimmage.
M10 3 6 Nickel Pass   7 Scramble
Holy max-pro, Batman! There's no pressure on this play because there are two, count'em, two receivers on routes and eight guys blocking. Stanton notices that the receivers are double covered, then scrambles for the first down. So irritating.
M3 1 G Base 4-3 Run   1 Slam
Hole opens up on the backside temporarily. Closed down quickly by Adams(+1) and Harris.
M2 2 G Goalline Run   1 Slam
Brandon Logan slices into the backfield but can do little to slow Caulcrick. He submarines Adams and burrows to approximately the six inch line. Aaaaand MSU takes a timeout . Good coachin'!
M1 3 G Goalline Run   1 Slam
Caulcrick manages to get through Woodley's tackle short of the line.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 5 min 3rd Q.
O32 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Out
Not sure if he's throwing this away or not... probably, as Hall(+1, cover +1) was in tight on Scott and this pass is rifled way into the crowd. (TA)
O32 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   9 Middle screen
This thing's persistent effectiveness against us is irritating. We're not blitzing or anything. Tim Jamsion is given a free pass into the backfield but treats Caulcrick as a blocker, not a receiver, and avoids him in an attempt to get to the quarterback. Harris(-1) has a blocker on him by the time the pass is off. Doesn't this require better recognition from the linebackers? As soon as those linemen start downfield you know it's a screen, as only passes behind the LOS are legal.
O41 3 1 3-3-5 Stack Pass   15 PA TE Flat
MSU lines up under center and fakes to Caulcrick. TE Holmes starts blocking Crable as the play starts, convincing Adams(-1), in man coverage, that it's a run play. He bites inside, leaving Holmes wide open when he releases from Crable. Crable does eventually track him down. (CA)
M44 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   7 Middle screen
This one to Holmes. Harris comes in from the side and makes a solid tackle. Can't blame anyone in particular on this one, but good lord... can we fix this?
M37 2 3 3-3-5 Stack Run   0 Speed option
Stanton fakes a pitch he should have made and cuts up smack into Burgess(+1), who shucked a blocker impressively to make the tackle.
M37 3 3 3-3-5 Stack Run   3 Slam
A terrible spot gives MSU a first down they didn't actually get. Harris(+1) brought Caulcrick down short of the marker.
M34 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Post
Corner blitz from Harrison; resulting throw is way short. (IN, pressure +1)
M34 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Slant and go
Weird playcall trying to get Hall(+1) to bite on a slant and go versus the ponderous Trannon. Throw is wildly off because Harrison(+1), blitzing again, hits Stanton as he throws. (cover +1, pressure +1)
M34 3 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Inc Out (rollout)
Receiver is open, but the ball is short-hopped and incomplete. Guy was wide open with Trent coming way late. (cover -1)
M34 4 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Int Bomb (rollout) (2)
Um... okay, Jamar. Nice interception, but you cost us like 30 yards of field positon. Feel my wrath: -1. (Coverage +1)
Drive Notes: Interception, 31-7, 13 min 4th Q.
O49 1 10 Nickel Pass   39 Shallow cross
Barringer's(-2) missed tackle turns this from 4 into 40. (Cover -1)
M12 1 10 Nickel Pass   8 Cross
Our zone needs to be tighter on the 12 yard line. This could be held to about three with better coverage. Trannon injures himself badly on this play. (Cover -1)
M4 2 2 Nickel Run   3 QB Draw
Motion to an empty backfield = obvious QB draw. I hate this. Why does it work?
M1 1 G Goal line Run   0 Slam
Caulcrick stoned. Good job by Harris(+1).
M1 2 G Goal line Run   -2 Off Tackle
Burgess(+1) blitzes in and sticks Caulcrick in the backfield. Burgess' tackling has been outstanding today.
M3 3 G 3-3-5 Stack Run   2 Zone read keeper
Aw, come on now, you knew that was coming. Load up on the line and blitz into this. And why even review this play? It's not even close.
2PT -- -- 3-3-5 Stack Pass   -3 Sack
Another Harrison blitz ends with a sack as Stanton pulls the ball down because of coverage. (cover +1, pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown (missed 2PT), 31-13, 7 min 4th Q.
O20 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass   9* Scramble
I'm only charting this play for the next play.
O29 2 1 3-3-5 Stack Pass   Int Out
Hall(+3) makes a badass, diving interception. (Cover +1)
Drive Notes: Interception, 31-13, 4 min 4th Q. Charting ceases.

Overall thoughts?

Run defense was extremely strong all day, but the secondary was in its second straight week of unpleasantly open wide receivers. Granted, this was yet another game in which Michigan jumped out to a huge lead and started cruising home by the time the fourth quarter started, but at this point the defense doesn't seem quite as dominating as we thought it would be after the Notre Dame and Wisconsin games.

It does remain almost impregnable on the ground, though, and by this point in the season it's clearly not a fluke.



Player + - T Notes
Woodley 6   6 Very hard to get the edge against in the run game, but pass rush has been lacking.
Biggs - - - He and Jamison were close to invisible.
Taylor 1 1 0 Didn't play a ton. Of note that that MSU found the going very tough when in short yardage.
Branch 5 1 4 Second straight good but not great performance.
Johnson - - -  
Germany - - -  
Jamison - - -  
B. Graham - - -  
Crable 3 - 3 Mostly deployed as a standup DE.
Harris 5 1 4  
C. Graham -   - Played sparingly.
Burgess 6 2 4 Excellent day against the run. Coming into his own and playing quite well.
Hall 9 - 9 Had one interception and almost two; didn't let anyone behind him; made a couple key tackles in situations where Michigan had been outschemed.
Stewart - - - Yeesh.
Adams 3 4 -1  
Englemon - - -  
Barringer - 2 -2 Missed tackle led to MSU's second touchdown.
Mundy - - - Didn't really cover anyone.
Trent 1 5 -4 DNP due to broken hand suffered against Wisconsin. Expected to play versus MSU.
"Pressure" 8 5 3 Two sacks; rolling pocket utilized extensively to neutralize the Michigan front.
"Coverage" 11 13 -2 About right, I feel. Guys came open but not so much so that Michigan State could drive the field.


Burgess had what is probably his best game at Michigan. No flashy interceptions he did little to cause (the "Laurinitas") but a lot of block-shedding and fierce tackling that severely limited MSU's YAC all day. Lamarr Woodley was quiet in the passing game but killed a couple Spartan drives with outstanding plays against the run.

Leon Hall is good.


Both MSU touchdowns were the result of safety errors. Jamar Adams let Jerramy Scott get way behind him on third and eleven for a forty-yard gain that turned a potential punt and State's death by blunt object into a touchdown drive that gave the Spartans a flicker of home. Willis Barringer got behind a crossing route and missed a tackle, turning a five-yard cross into 39 yards.

Morgan Trent, unfortunately, was either Charles Stewart in another uniform or just plain off because of his hand injury. He was beaten for completions a few times and was fortunate not to give up a forty-yard touchdown pass when he let Michigan State freshman TJ Williams behind him in the first half. It was his worst game of the year.

Is the lack of pressure from the front four concerning at all?

(Note that "front four" in this case often encapsulates Shawn Crable.) Somewhat. Both sacks came from blitzers and when Michigan sent four there were a couple instances where Stanton had the proverbial all day to survey and throw. Often, though, he was mere moments away from being crushed into goo when he let a pass go and the push up front prevented him from stepping into a number of throws, forcing inaccurate passes. When Stanton stayed in the pocket, the results were all right.

What Michigan does have to do is find some way to neutralize the rollouts Michigan State employed with great success. Anthony Morelli isn't much for mobility, but both Iowa and Ohio State have quarterbacks who can get out of the pocket and throw on the run. It was mildly depressing to see wide open Spartans when Stanton left the pocket. The disadvantage of the rollout is that it restricts your available routes to a thin slice of the field mostly outside the hashmarks. Usually an unsuccessful attempt to move the pocket ends with the quarterback hurling a hopeful pass to a tiny window right before he steps out of bounds, but that didn't happen. Instead, there were a lot of open 15-yard outs and the one 40-yarder that Adams gave up. File under "todo."

We're halfway through the year. What are the weaknesses in this D?

Corner depth. Clearly, Charles Stewart is a longshot to contribute in a positive way this year. That leaves the nickelback as either a safety or mighty-mite Brandon Harrison. The safeties are exploitable in man coverage -- witness Adams on Saturday or the CMU touchdown both Englemon and Mundy misplayed -- while Harrison is an iffy tackler and a guy who still seems uncomfortable with his role.

Also, the safeties have been far less reliable so far this year, but that's more a function of restoring normalcy after Herrmann's fraidy-cat 2005.

What are the strengths?

The run defense may be slightly overrated by the numbers, but it's not by much. Running attacks both conventional and un- have met their doom at the hands of Branch, Woodley, et al. Even Minnesota's occasional gashers were more due to misalignment than any particular failings on the part of the players themselves.

One often hears "may be one of the best in the country" and such, so much that it hardly has meaning, but if you can find a front seven in the country better than Michigan's I'd be surprised.

Who has underperformed expectations?

Tim Jamison hasn't been the terrifying beast off the edge Michigan fans were told he would be. An early injury slowed his progress, but he's healthy now and not making much impact splitting time with Rondell Biggs.

Collectively, the safeties have given up more plays than they've made, though Jamar Adams has been excellent in run-support.

Who has overperformed expectations?

Shawn Crable was the guy singled out by the coaching staff as a breakout player, but's Prescott Burgess who has become a reliable partner to David Harris. He still gets caught out of positon occasionally, but freed from Herrmann's mindbending schemes Burgess has been aggressive and effective, one of the main cogs in the Michigan run defense.

Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson have done much more than just occupy blockers; collectively they're better than oft-winded Gabe Watson was last year. Rondell Biggs has been a consistently reliable steady solid rock who is not useless in pass rush.

Also, can I say David Harri s here? Last year he was all those Biggs backhanded compliments in one package. He looked amazing next to the chaos at outside linebacker. This year the outside linebackers are actually good... and he still looks amazing. Whether it's sticking 260-pound PJ Hill and driving him backwards or shooting out to blow up a screen thrown to Kerry Reed, Harris has been all over the field, doing all the things you expect him to and several you don't. Kiper just put him on his draft board at #19, and that doesn't seem entirely ridiculous. (Especially since it's just seniors -- Harris would probably fall into the early second with juniors included.)

And what does it mean for Penn State?

I'd be shocked if Hunt outperforms Hill or Walker or Caulcrick. He's a solid, thumping back quite capable of turning 3 into 7, but get to him at 0 and he'll turn it into 0. He's got to have lanes and momentum to be effective; Michigan has yielded precious few to date. Given the struggles they're having with a nearly all-new offensive line, one that has some injury troubles, it's exceedingly improbable that this is the game Michigan's run defense collapses.

Morelli is a high variance quarterback capable of many, many things from laser-accurate posts to looping, idiotic throws into double coverage. Expect some of both. Penn State pick up chunks of yards when Good Morelli shows up, but without a consistent run game or a quarterback capable of dinking and dunking his way down the field, 10-play drives are not going to happen. Penn State will hope to break big plays with Morelli's arm and by using AJ Wallace and Derrick Williams as home-run threats on perimeter run plays -- how often they hit these big plays will determine how often they score. It says "not often" here.

The lingering impression from the Ohio State game was Morelli running for his life. I think we can do the same -- though two straight weeks without killing QBs has me somewhat concerned -- and clamp down on the Penn State offense something fierce.