Upon Further Review: Offense vs. Vandy

Upon Further Review: Offense vs. Vandy Comment Count

Brian September 6th, 2006 at 8:06 PM

Notes: new additions for formation and brief here as well. New PR category for pass attempts = "pressure"; only used when Henne clearly has no time to throw. In cases where finding a receiver is plausible, TA applies when forced to scramble.

Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M19 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 12 Hart Off tackle
Ecker and Long cave in the left side of the line. The corner is walled off by a nice block from Tabb. Hart scoots off tackle with ease.
M31 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 2 Manningham WR screen
First WR screen of the year. Ecker motions from his TE spot out to the right for an extra blocker. Manningham bobbles the screen; Breaston's block isn't very good and his man disrupts the timing. (CA)
M33 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Run 2 Hart Off tackle
Vandy blitzes a linebacker lined up over the slot receiver. He's into the backfield unblocked but Hart darts around him and turns a three yard loss into a two yard gain. Play was actually well blocked, but the delay forced by the blitzer allows Vandy's back seven to converge.
M35 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass 6 Manningham Short stop
Smooth drop and throw to Manningham, who spins and tries to move upfield but trips. Had he not fallen he probably picks up ten or twelve. (CA)
M41 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 5 Hart Off tackle
Same as the first snap. This is supposed to be a double on the DE where Ecker helps Long seal him inside then moves to the second level, but Long never really engages with the DE, allowing him to scoot past. A linebacker comes up hard to fill outside; Hart slices up between him, unfortunately into the hands of the DE. No DE = Hart posterizes the LB and goes for big yardage.
M46 2 5 Ace 3-Wide Pass 21 Breaston Waggle
DeBord trademark starts off well. Breaston gets his man turned around, then breaks his route off. When he does the ball is right there for him. Excellent timing. (DO)
O37 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 11 Hart Iso off tackle
Obi Oluigbo gets a nice pop on the LB in his first appearance. Hart again slices upfield, making the maximum out of the blocking.
O26 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 5 Hart Zone
Hey, that offseason rumor-mongering paid off! Looked like it would go for more – maybe a bad cut.
O21 2 5 I-Form Twins Run 2 Hart Iso off tackle
Grumble, grumble, fullback shuffle. Line is clogged up and Hart plows for what he can get.
O19 3 3 Offset I, 2 TE Run 19 Grady Iso SMASH!
Very nice to see that from Grady. A decisive, run with one cut and the bounce outside that gets him to the endzone. Looks faster this year. The entire line crushes Vandy off the ball – Jake Long ends up something like 10 yards downfield.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1Q. MIKE DEBORD IS WONDERFUL!!! ALL HAIL MIKE DEBORD!!! Er... nice drive. Waggle was set up by the gashing Hart off-tackle runs, the run block was generally good, and hey: 81 yards and a touchdown.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M12 1 10 Ace Run 19 Hart Zone
Hart cuts as far to the backside of the play as he can. If Manningham can get engaged with the safety or corner on that side he could go.
M31 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 3 Hart Iso off tackle
Seems relatively well blocked, but no real hole opens. FB shuffle again.
M34 2 7 I-Form Twins Pass -4 Breaston WR Screen
Henne rifles it over Breaston's head. Shame, because this one was going to work.Breaston's man was too far away. (IN)
M30 3 11 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Corner
Found him open but couldn't hit him. Weird aside: a Vandy DE gets loose but forms up and seems like he's trying to keep contain instead of, you know, sacking the QB. (IN)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 5 min 1Q. Two Henne errors end the drive. Can't blame DeBord on this stuff. His calls worked.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
O34 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Draw
Hart's hesitant as LB Goff is unblocked. His posterization attempt fails, and he gives the universal "My Bad" signal to the sideline when he rises.
O34 2 10 Shotgun Trips Run 5 Brown ISQD
"Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw," which for some reason always seems to work decently.
O29 3 5 Ace 3-Wide, Hart offset Pass 7 Henne Scramble
Both Riley and Mitchell get owned by a Vandy stunt on the right side. Both players come through the line, forcing Henne to bail out and prove that yes, he is faster than John Navarre. (PR)
O22 1 10 Weird Thing Pass Inc Breaston Quick Flat
I dunno what you call a formation with one tight end standing up at the end of the line and another a yard inside of him, two yards off the LOS. So we'll go with weird thing. Henne's pass to Breaston in the flat – not a checkdown, the design of the play – is very bad and gets him killed. (IN)
O22 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 6 Hart Off tackle
Hart makes the wrong cut here by going outside of Ecker, but makes up for it by dodging Vandy tacklers and making six yards from very little.
O16 3 4 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Out
The play overturned by review. This is not close and should not have been overturned. Manningham secured the ball, had both feet hit, and then it was punched out. WTF? The play and throw are both very nice. (DO)
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
Drive Notes: FG, 10-0, 2 min 1Q. Not exactly an elegant drive, but one that should have ended in a touchdown.
M45 1 10 4-wide trips Pass 3 Breaston Slip screen
Tabb misses his block. (CA)
M48 2 7 Ace 3-Wide Run 25 Minor Off tackle
Great blocking all around; Minor darts up between Ecker and Long. Special credit to Arrington for excellent downfield blocking.
O27 1 10 I-Form Pass Inc Massey Wheel
Massey's lined up at fullback on this play. He run a simple wheel, and find himself open, Manningham having run off the deep zone. Nice throw by Henne, though not in a position where you can entirely blame Massey for the drop. (CA)
O27 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 3 Minor Off tackle
Same play he just picked up 25 on. Not as well blocked this time.
O24 3 7 4-wide Pass Inc Breaston Slant
Nails him right in the hands. Great throw. (DO).
Drive Notes: Blocked FG, 10-0, 14 min 2Q. Again... execution errors stop the drive, though these aren't on Henne.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M16 1 10 Ace Run 5 Hart Smash!
Line blows Vandy off the ball and ends up five yards downfield, though they don't crease 'em.
M21 2 5 Ace 3-Wide Run 5 Hart Off tackle
Nice block by Ecker creates space off tackle. Nice job by Bihl, too.
M26 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 28 Breaston Stop
Stop and go and stop and go and stop and go go go go(!) (CA)
O45 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 2 Hart Screen
Hart pops a blitzer after a play action fake, preventing Henne from getting killed, the goes out in his route. He slips on his cut, else would have gotten eight or ten. Second slip today. (CA)
O43 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Pass 7 Arrington WR Screen
Arrington spins through a tackle, gaining 7. (CA)
O36 3 1 Offset I, 2 TE Run 6 Grady Iso SMASH!
Grady's untouched until five yards past the LOS. Outstanding, grinding blocking.
O30 1 10 Ace Run 4 Hart Zone
A lot of penetration Hart manages to avoid to the outside.
O26 2 6 Offset I Pass -9 N/A Sack
Henne crushed. Miscommuncation between Long and Ecker causes this: Long disengages from the DE to pick up a stunting blitzer but Ecker does not pick him up. This was going to be a shot at the endzone without the whole sack business. (PR)
O35 3 15 Ace 3-Wide, Hart offset Pass 3* Henne Scramble
Totally unblocked blitzer immediately forces Henne to scramble. Hart starts barking at the OL after this play, and since he is my tiny god I believe him: his offset position made it nearly impossible to pick up the blitzer coming from the inside. Alex Mitchell busts.
Drive Notes: FG, 13-7, 7 min 2Q. Everything was fine until the OL went brain-dead on back-to-back plays. Third drive killed by two mistakes from a single position group. First it was QB, then WR, then OL. Still no evidence that DeBord's playcalling is in any way deficient.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
O44 1 10 Offset I Pass 4* Henne Scramble
Does not find his man downfield and takes off without a Vandy player anywhere near him. Maybe everyone was covered, but we're breaking out the (BR) here anyway.
O40 2 6 Offset I (?) Run -1 Grady Iso
Brian Thomspon does not get a good pop on his man. He bounces backwards, allowing Langford to crack Grady right at the line. Probably not going anywhere anyway, but still: bleah.
O41 3 7 Ace 3-Wide Pass 19 Breaston Shallow cross
Breaston wide open after the other Wrs run their men off. Nice throw allows Breaston to catch it in stride and tear upfield. (CA)
O22 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 3 Grady Counter
Grady's fumble. We shuffle and run the other way(!) for a few unimpressive yards. Aaaand Grady was almost down but that's probably the right call.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 13-7, 2 min 2Q.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M27 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Breaston Shallow cross
Basically the same play they ran on the previous drive but this time into a zone. Breaston was going to get hammered as soon as he caught it, but the pass was a bad one. This is either (BR) or (IN). Someone else had to be a better option. Filed under BR.
M27 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 10 Hart Draw
A lot of room up until about eight yards – Hart pounds out the last two on leg drive alone.
M37 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Penalty -5 Bihl False Start
M32 1 15 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Hart Checkdown
Vandy rushes four and no fewer than three of those guys get in on Henne, forcing the awkward throw to Hart. WTF, guys? (PR)
M27 2 15 Ace 3-Wide Penalty -5 Mitchell False Start
M22 2 20 Ace 3-Wide Run 3 Hart Draw
Give up to end the half.
Drive Notes: EOH, 13-7. Anyone booing the draw call at the end of the half has to get real: second and twenty from your own 22 with 40 seconds?
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M27 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 6 Hart Zone
Hart cuts back behind Jake Long, in front of ecker, gaining six. Spielman criticizes him for dancing too much and I'm all like what?
M33 2 4 Offset I Run 13 Breaston End-arou nd
Preceded by fake to Hart up the gut. Another benefit of the zone running game: Vandy's backside contain must remain vigilant about a potential Hart cutback, opening this up. I expect to see quite a few of these this year.
M46 1 10 Offset I Run 7 Hart Off tackle
Great blocks by Oluigbo and Ecker occupy the linebackers to the near side of the field. Hart has room to run, and only a hustling safety prevents a real big gain.
O47 2 3 Ace 3-Wide Penalty -10 Riley Holding
Stupid penalty by Riley, as he has the guy blocked well enough to let him go when Hart bounces outside.
M43 2 13 Ace 3-Wide Pass 5* Henne Scramble
This is either a bust or some blocking scheme I don't understand. The DE on Riley's side delays for a moment on the snap, possibly making it look like he's dropping into a zone. Riley doubles down on the DT. When the DE comes a moment later, Hart's left to block him. He ably chops him to the ground but Vandy is also blitzing a linebacker from that side. He's unblocked and forces Henne to scramble. My opinion: Riley screwed up. There was no possible threat of a blitz from the other side of the field.
M48 3 8 Ace 3-Wide Penalty -5 Tabb False Start
M43 3 13 Ace 3-Wide Pass 8* Henne Scramble
Max protect and only three guys in the pattern. Plenty of protection, but Henne can't find anyone downfield and scrambles. Tenuous (BR), since it's possible everyone was covered.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 9 min 2Q. Henne had no choice on the first scramble, but hell, if you bomb it downfield on third and long what's the worst thing that happens? It's a punt. More mental errors from Riley.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
O41 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 6 Hart Off tackle
Long momentarily doubles the DE then gets out to the linebacker; Hart has a nice hole that the Vandy safety fills quickly. Play action over the top would be nice if Riley would block someone.
O35 2 4 Ace 3-Wide Run 3 Hart Zone
Safety again fills the hole very quickly, forcing a Hart cutback. He runs up the backs of his linemen for a few yards.
O32 3 1 Offset I 2TE Run 4* Hart Off tackle
Another nice block from Oluigbo blows up the linebacker and making the first down easy.
O28 1 10 Offset I 2TE Pass Inc Butler Waggle
Very catchable ball is plain dropped. Tough throw on the run, being pressured. (CA)
O28 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 7 Hart Off tackle
Excellent, driving blocks from the left side of the OL. Ecker walls of his linebacker; Hart slips past a filling safety four yards downfield for some extra yards.
O21 3 3 Ace 3-Wide Run 2 Hart Zone
Hart misses a big cutback lane, though to be fair the hole outside was equally tempting but for Adrian Arrington whiffing on the corner. Hart slips the corner's tackle, burrowing ahead for a couple.
O19 4 1 I-Form 2TE Run 3 Grady Iso SMASH!
Plows ahead. Important block by Oluigbo on a DT that didn't get chopped or pushed.
O16 1 10 Offset I Twins Pass Inc Massey Waggle
Tipoff: Massey lines up as the fullback. Formation predictability persists: we often put TE s in at fullback and these plays are almost always passes. By the time Henne turns around two Vandy players are in his face. He leaps to throw over them and the pass is too hard for Massey, only a couple yards downfield. Tenuous IN but could be classed PR.
O16 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 2 Manningham End-around
Vandy blitzes right into it, forcing Manningham to take a wide angle around the charging linebacker and allowing the Commodores to close down his angle and deny the corner.
O14 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Pass 14 Ecker Seam
Touchdown. Throw is a bit high but well within Ecker's range. Excellent placement since he had to get it over the linebacker. (DO)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-7, 2 min 3Q. Hurray, points!
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M18 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 4 Hart Zone
I can't decide whether Hart missed a cut to the backside or not. An unblocked linebacker cuts through the mess to get to Hart, but not before Jake Long has driven everyone four yards downfield.
M22 2 6 Ace Pass Inc Butler Out
Henne short hops a throw he should have made. Butler was open near the first down line. I don't think he set his feet... but don't take my word for it. (IN)
M22 3 6 Ace 3-Wide Pass 3* Henne Scramble
Riley screws up the protection, taking the DE and not the blitzing linebacker to the outside. Mitchell futilely attempts to cover for him, but can't. Henne is forced to take off. (PR)
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 13 min 3Q. Riley is the outstanding factor in all this pressure on Henne. It might not be his fault – someone else could be screwing up protection calls or Mitchell could be missing stuff – but I wonder if Mitchell's move to tackle was not just because Riley was dinged.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
M27 1 10 Offset I Run 1 Hart Zone
No blocking. Oluigbo runs past a linebacker, who tackles Hart.
M28 2 9 Ace 3-Wide Run 8 Hart Zone
Hart makes the right cut this time, shooting up in a crease.
M36 3 1 I-Form 2TE Run 5 Hart Off tackle
Long blocks two guys, opening up the left side for Hart and an easy conversion.
M41 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run -1 Hart Hart
Ecker doesn't seal his guy, who chases Hart to the sideline.
M40 2 11 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Ecker Flat
Simple flat route to Ecker is thrown low. If accurate, this is good for 6 or 8. (IN)
M40 3 11 Ace 3-Wide Pass Inc Manningham Out
Riley gets owned, holds, and still lets his guy in on Henne, whos scrambles out and makes a really bad throw that could have been a pick-six for Vandy. (BR)
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 6 min 4Q. Folks, we have a whipping boy.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Player Brief
O41 1 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 0 Hart Zone
They're crashing in against the run now. The three-wide stuff isn't going to be that effective now they aren't respecting the pass.
O41 2 10 Ace 3-Wide Run 3 Hart Draw
Missed a cut outside for more yards.
O38 3 7 Ace 3-Wide Pass 11 Manningham Slant
Thrown a bit behind Manningham; still caught. Tenuously (CA)... or maybe more so since if it was on target there was a linebacker ready to bat it down or pick it off.
O27 1 10 I-Form Twins Run 2 Hart Zone
Little room with Vandy crashing the line.
O25 2 8 Ace 3-Wide Run -2 Hart Zone
Long's man fires inside of him and gets penetration, disrupting the play.
O27 3 10 Ace 3-Wide Pass 27 Manningham Fly
Ees a touchdown. Superb throw from Henne. (DO).
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 27-7, 2 min 4Q. Ballgame.

What did you like about the dawn of DeBord Era II?

Internet malcontents will be malcontents, but they did get a few of their wishes granted. Michigan's base formation was a three-wide set, something long desired by crabby message-boarders. The zone running game vastly reduced the prevalance of the fullback shuffle. The waggle re-emerged as a weapon.

Most important: the run game was great. We have to take it with a grain of salt -- just Vandy and all that -- but it was impossible to stop until Vandy sold out late in the fourth. The linemen were crushing their opponents off the ball.

And what didn't you like?

Well, the widespread bitching about the passing game is partially unwarranted. A few times Henne set up to go deep but was rudely interrupted by men in white jerseys. But would it kill Michigan to try a few posts and slants? Better to find out Henne can't read those coverages now than against Notre Dame.

While the play-tipping based on personnel was reduced it was not eliminated: when Michigan lines up with a "fullback" who is actually a tight end, it is a pass. Greg Mathews' presence in the game equals run. Carlos Brown is going to run an Incredibly Surprising Quarterback Draw. &c.


The Long-Kraus combination on the left side was dominant. Bihl also had a good day, showing excellent mobility getting to the second level. Mike Hart is Mike Hart.

Also, a word on Breaston: yes, he had a bobble on a punt and dropped a slant that could not have been more accurate. But the criticism he's received after the first game is excessive. I mean... did you watch this? Watch it again! Also, his downfield catch on the waggle required good footwork along the sideline. I'd rather he didn't drop that pass, but it was the one error in his day as a receiver. I was actually encouraged by his performance only to return to find out that the general opinion was "start Arrington!" I dunno. I don't get people sometimes.


I don't want to hammer on Rueben Riley too much, but he was the primary burr in the offense's giddyup. Alex Mitchell also "helped" in this regard. The two of them often miscommunicated on stunts or blitz pickups, allowing unblocked Commodores into the backfield and indirectly causing Internets teeth gashing about the lack of a deep passing game.

Henne was okay but missed a number of fairly easy passes.

Tyler Ecker was erratic with his blocking: sometimes great, sometimes awful.

Exciting new faces?

Brandon Minor obviously started his Michigan career with a bang. When I finally saw him in person I was flabbergasted. This was the guy recruiting gurus spent all year declaring a fullback? The guy who the coaches described as a sort of Leroy Hoard on rageohol? He looked more like a slot receiver than a fullback. And then he ran real far. Carr's spent the last week swearing up and down to anyone who will listen that Minor is going to get more carries in the coming weeks -- jeepers.

It might be odd to drop a fifth-year senior in this category, but fullback Obi Oluigbo, sparingly used to date, pounded Commodores all day. He lived up to the hyping given him by Hart and Carr and should help the short ground game that was one of Michigan's many fatal flaws a year ago.

If Carson Butler had caught anything he might go here; if we weren't witholding all positive judgement on the offensive line until ND Alex Mitchell might as well.




  • DO: "dead on." Accurate, NFL-level throws that are either downfield, fit into a tight spot, or provide ample opportunities for YAC due to perfect placement.
  • CA: "catchable." Run of the mill throws. Potentially slightly inaccurate. Screens and short, simple routes like outs and stops max out here.
  • IN: "inaccurate." Poorly thrown balls. Some completions may end up here if they are complete as the result of an extraordinary effort by the wide receiver.
  • BR: "bad read." A throw into coverage or throw-away when not under pressure... basically anything that's an obvious mental error.
  • TA: "throw-away." Can't find a receiver and gets rid of it. BR's less malignant cousin.
  • BA: "batted." Balls knocked down at the line of scrimmage.
  • PR: "pressure." Instances where Henne is unable to complete a pass through no fault of his own, but because people are bearing down on him quicker than they have a right to.


VU 4 9 5 4 0 0 5

Not particularly good, though a couple of marginal balls were placed in negative categories. Not particularly Henne's fault, though. He attempted to throw 27 times; approximately 7 of those times were either screens or three-step rhythm throws. 25% of the time when Henne attempted to throw something longer than a screen or short west coast pattern he had Vandy players in his face, usually unblocked after a stunt or a missed blitz pickup. Late in the game, he started expecting and fearing pressure, forgot his mechanics, and started short-hopping balls. It was reminiscent of last year's Notre Dame game with the exception of a grinding ground game and a kickin' D. Henne was fine at first. He was excellent on the opening drive, and at least good through much of the game. The stats don't show it because of the drops.

However, when he lost faith in his protection late he started scrambling unnecessarily, misfiring on simple passes, and generally reverting to the bad old days at the beginni ng of last season. Notre Dame has no doubt noticed this -- the first hint of it was against them, after all -- and will blitz and stunt extensively, hoping to get him rattled.


No doubt the coaches will be going nuts at the OL and TEs about the protection failures in this game, which were almost all schematic instead of physical. That's going to be the thing I look for most against Central: protection of Henne. The left side should be fine, and Bihl did a very good job his first game, but I worry extensively about Mitchell-Riley.

What does it mean for Central?

Assuming that inexplicably kickass Chippewa defensive end Dan Bazuin lines up opposite Riley, next week's game will either provide reassurance or Ebola-in-the-subway panic about the pass blocking heading into ND. Most of the problems against Vanderbilt were presumably fixable miscommunications -- there was only one instance of a Michigan lineman getting beaten one-on-one (Riley, natch) -- but, strangely, Central Michigan represents a higher level of opponent. Hold them out all day and I'll be feeling chipper for ND.

Central may also pose an interesting test for the rushing offense. Last year they were the top run defense in the MAC. They held Penn State's monster 2005 ground machine to 138 yards and crushed Northern Illinois, yielding only six yards rushing after sack yardage (though Garrett Wolfe apparently didn't play). They return the bulk of their front seven. There's a big, fat NSFMF, though: one of the reasons CMU's run defense was so good was their inept pass defense. Teams didn't bother to run because Central started Condoleeza Rice and a goat that was totally tripping, man, in the secondary. That PSU game? A 40-3 hammering in which Michael Robinson and Anthony Morelli combined to go 22 of 36 for 382 yards. CMU managed to lose that NIU game because the two Husky quarterbacks combined to go 31 of 43 for 435 yards.

We should win, but I wouldn't take the CMU defense for granted. If we can't block them when we try to pass we will be in for a longer day than anyone anticipated.


Upon Further Review: Defense vs. Vandy

Upon Further Review: Defense vs. Vandy Comment Count

Brian September 5th, 2006 at 1:55 PM

Note a couple additions: "formation" and "brief." The former is self explanatory. "Brief" is a two-word description of the play. All terminology in these new sections is lifted directly from NCAA Football, since that's the common vernacular. A selection of plays have accompanying WMV video; look for links in the "brief" column.

I welcome formatting suggestions. I sent the verbosity down to a second line because of the extra columns. Not sure if I like it, but also not sure what the alternative is.

Also new: a generic +/- for "coverage." Since I have no idea what's going on downfield when the QB hesitates and takes a coverage sack or exactly why that WR is wide open, it's hard to assign individual credit or responsibility. When I can I will, but whenever a reasonably catchable pass is thrown I'll try to evaluate how well the intended receiver was covered. This rating is separate from individual ratings and liable to change radically as I get used to it.

Update: Oh. An asterisk next to a yard count is a pass play that turned into a QB scramble.

Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O34 1 10 Standard nickel Pass 3 WR Screen
McDonough: "They had three candidates to take the place of Cutler, Nickson's the one." Hur hur hur. Crable(+1), reads, closes, fends off a block, and cuts off the outside with the help of Hall. Five Wolverines gang-tackle Bennett.
O37 2 7 3-3-5 Stack Pass 5 Out
A blitz! On the second play of the game! Nickson just barely gets it off before being leveled by Crable(+1). Leon Hall was also coming from that side.
O42 3 2 3-3-5 Stack Run 11 QB Draw
Only six guys in the box on this play and it appeared that Graham was supposed to blitz around a stunting Biggs, leaving a big hole in the middle. I don't like this play call on a fairly obvious QB draw down.
M47 1 10 Standard nickel Run 2 Zone read handoff
Chris Graham(+1) sighting: faced with the prospect of one-on-one blocking with an OT he skips past him and converges along with Branch (+1, holding up well at the POA), and Biggs (who reads where the ball is going before closing down the RB).
M45 2 8 3-3-5 Stack Run 2 Zone read keeper
Crable and Graham are blitzing. Crable cuts off the outside, forcing Nickson upfield. Graham pops up into the hole left between the guy attempting to block Crable and Biggs, who's stunting inside. Graham doesn't make the tackle but does force Nickson into the mush. Crable(+1) discards his blocker and recovers to make the tackle.
M43 3 6 Standard nickel Pass Inc Wild scramble
Terrance Taylor(+2) goes through a double team to get immediate pressure on Nickson, who scrambles out to the left. Nickson gets a fairly accurate pass off but Chris Graham(+1) is in great coverage, knocking the ball down. I think Taylor's held here just enough to prevent him from sacking Nickson.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 7 min 1Q. Crable and Graham have great drives. Crable's outstanding speed is put to good use: he snuffs out a screen, crushes Nickson, then manages to tackle him after keeping containment. Containment? NO WAI.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O25 1 10 Standard nickel Pass 8* Scramble
Woodley(+1) gets upfield fast enough such that the pulling guard who's supposed to block him on this play-action pass can't get there in time, forcing Nickson to scramble up in the pocket. Graham(-1) overruns the play and slips when Nickson cuts, else this goes for zero yards. A pursuing Branch(+2) punches the ball out from behind.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 5 min 1Q. Um, Branch just ran down that QB from behind.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O28 1 10 Standard nickel Pass 4* Scramble
Biggs' offensive lineman decides not to block him. Good coverage(+1) downfield forces Nickson to scramble up. Nickson was correctly ruled down on his fumble.
O32 2 6 Standard nickel Run -1 Zone read handoff
Really nice job by both Branch(+1) and Biggs(+1) to push into the backfield, allowing the defense to converge. Note: Mundy is in the game as the nickelback.
O31 3 7 Standard nickel Pass Inc Deep cross
Bennett drops a great pass from Nickson. Zone had been busted wide open there (coverage -1), though if complete this play is coming back for illegal hands to the face on Woodley.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0 last min 1Q. Ron English looks a little like Denzel Washington.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O41 1 10 Standard nickel Pass Inc Zone read fake screen
Nickson is heavily pressured by both Biggs(+1) and Woodley(+1), which causes him to panic and throw inaccurately.
O41 2 10 Standard nickel Pass 3 Checkdown
Good coverage(+1) forces Nickson to check down to the fullback. Burgess(+1) is all over him and makes the tackle immediately.
O44 3 7 Standard nickel Pass 15 Deep cross
No pressure, lots of room in the zone (coverage -1)
M41 1 10 Standard nickel Pass 11 Short stop
Charles Stewart(-1) is playing way off in man as Michigan zone-blitzes, almost missing the tackle.
M30 1 10 Standard nickel Pass 30 Trickeration
Postgame the coaches point at Stewart(-2).
Drive Notes: TD, 10-7, 12 min 2Q.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O20 1 10 Standard nickel Penalty -5 Offside
WR lined up in the neutral zone. Weird.
O15 1 15 Standard nickel Pass -7 Sack
Attempted screen is snowed under. Will Johnson and Prescott Burgess(+1) are ready to crush the RB should he receive the ball, so Nickson doesn't throw it. A charging Rondell Biggs(+1) prevents him from throwing it away; Woodley(+1) cleans up.
O8 2 22 Standard nickel Run -3 QB Draw
Er... Woodley(+2) does blow this play up, but they ran thi s QB draw thing that fakes up inside then comes out to his side of the field, leaving only a running back to block him. Thees is no good idea.
O5 3 25 Standard nickel Run -2 Off tackle
They give up and run. Nice play by Harris(+1), but there was nowhere for him to go anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 4 min 2Q. DANG. Just... just dang. When was the last time Michigan punched an opponent off the field like that? Even a crappy one?
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O19 1 10 Standard nickel Pass -8 Sack
Woodley(+3) runs right around the tackle and crushes Nickson.
O11 2 18 Standard nickel Run 0 Draw
Burgess(+1) and Harris(+1) zoom right past potential blockers, meeting at the RB.
O11 3 18 Standard nickel Run 15 QB Draw
Somewhat scary there, but they go away.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 1 min 2Q.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O30 1 10 Standard nickel Pass Inc Out
Burgess(+1) jumps on the fullback out about five yards downfield, knocking the ball down.
O30 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Run 9 QB Draw
Crable blitzes for a fourth rusher. Woodley tries an edge rush, opening up a big hole for the draw; Harris gets solidly blocked by the RB.
O39 3 1 Standard nickel Run -3 Slam
Safety blitz from Englemon at the last second; Biggs(+2) slices between the tackle, who's blocking down on Branch, and the tight end to stuff this play in the backfield.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 13 min 3Q. Three and out on the first drive of the second half. Biggs gave no indication he could be this sort of playmaker a year ago, though he didn't get much time. And Jamison beat him out. Gooo Jamison!
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O13 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Run -5 QB Draw
Vandy goes five wide. This is nominally a 3-3-5 but Crable(+1) is lined up with his hand down next to Woodley. Woodley and Crable stunt with Woodley(+1) crashing into the guard and Crable coming around him; it works beautifully; Crable is to the QB immediately; Biggs and Branch help clean up.
O8 2 15 3-3-5 Stack Run 0 QB Draw
Again Crable lines up with his hand down, this time at DT, and stunts, this time around Branch. Woodley(+1) is the one in the backfield disrupting the draw, as he shoves off his man and cuts off Nickson's foray up the gut. Nickson's forced detour gives Crable(+1) and Harris(+1) enough time to converge on him at the LOS.
O8 3 15 3-3-5 Stack Run 4 Zone read handoff
Nice play by Burgess(+1) to shove away the feeble block attempt by the WR and contain the RB.
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-7, 7 min 3Q. Crable is a monster against these foofy spread rushing attacks. These last four drives are tingly.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O19 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Run 1 Option keeper
Hall(+1) is sent on a blitz but correctly reads the option play and backs off to keep contain on the RB. He doesn't do that and it's a big play. Nickson cuts up inside; Jamar Adams and Harris hit him at the LOS.
O20 2 9 3-3-5 Stack Run 1 Zone read handoff
Very nice job by Biggs(+1) to hold his position, then shuck the blocker when the RB reaches him to make the tackle. Crable set up outside, read the play, and then crashed in on the RB to make very sure he went away.
O21 3 8 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Short post
Harris feints a blitz; Crable and Burgess actually come. The feint causes Vandy to shift its protection the wrong way, giving Burgess a free shot on Nickson. Despite the quick pressure, Nickson finds an open receiver and makes an accurate throw. Bennett drops it, partially because Jamar Adams(+1) arrives with the ball. (Coverage +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 1 min 3Q. I love Ron English. Crable looks like a different player. Biggs is playing like Woodley II. We're aggressive on third and long. Please, Vandy game, mean something. Brown roughs the kicker, causing the next drive. I realize this isn't technically correct, but it is essentially.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O36 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Short stop
Dropped by the Vandy receiver. I don't like how far Stewart has to play off this guy.
O36 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Penalty 13 Pass interference
Jamar Adams is right there on the receiver when the ball gets there, leaping over him in an attempt to make a play on the ball. Call is for hooking the receiver with his arm when he went to go over the top, which was unnecessary. Adams was in position to make a play. (Um... -1 for Adams, though I hate to give it to him, and +1 for generic coverage.)
O49 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc ???
This looks like a screen but, uh... isn't. Four players, including Eugene Germany and Will Johnson, burst through the line. Nickson bails out, understandably, and throws it away. (Crable, Johnson, Germany +1)
O49 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Run 7 Option pitch
Crable again blitzes, forcing the pitch immediately. It's impossible to see what happens downfield because of the camera angle, but Jamar Adams barely misses a tackle; Burgess can't quite get there, and Englemon doesn't wrap up.
M44 3 3 Standard nickel Pass Inc TE Screen
Nickson's inaccurate on this screen, which would have worked. Michigan was sending the house.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-7, 15 min 4Q. A couple Vandy screwups terminate the closest thing they've had to a drive since the touchdown.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O37 1 10 ??? Pass 14 WR Screen
Leon Hall(-1) gives up outside contain on this screen, opening up a big gain.
M49 1 10 Standard nickel Pass -4 Sack
Coverage(+1) sack. Biggs(+1) gets it; Crable's pressure made him think twice about the throw.
O47 2 14 3-3-5 Stack Run 12 Option pitch
Crable levels Nickson on this play. I don't like how tentative Adams(-1) is here. He comes up into the box presnap but holds up, allowing himself to get blocked by the tight end and giving the (white!) Vandy RB a nice gain.
M41 3 2 3-3-5 Stack Pass 9 Slant
Vandy runs a combo against our zone coverage. The underneath receiver clears out space for a deeper one, who makes the reception. Nice read and throw from Nickson.
M32 1 10 Standard nickel Pass -9 Sack
Speed option play action; Spielman accuses a WR of running the wrong route. In any case, Nickson hesitates and is buried by four Wolverines, primary amongst them Jamar Adams(+1).
M41 2 19 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Bubble screen.
Dropped. Harris(+1) was going to crush him anyway.
M41 3 19 3-3-5 Stack Pass 14 Post
Two blitzers don't get to the QB; Nickson makes a nice throw to Bennett. Stewart(+1) actually has pretty good coverage here, nearly knocking the ball loose. (Coverage +1)
M27 4 5 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Bomb
Great coverage(+1). Nickson sits in the pocket looking for someone, can find nobody, and eventually hurls it to the back corner of the endzone. Crable(+1) eventually got the pressure.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 20-7, 9 min 4Q.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O21 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass 9 Slant
Pitch and catch.
O30 2 1 3-3-5 Stack Run -1 Off tackle
Man... Woodley(+2) shoots into the backfield, disrupting the play immediately. You would think he was unblocked, but he wasn't.
O29 3 2 3-3-5 Stack Run 9 QB Draw
Crable(-1) overruns the QB draw, freeing Nickson. Englemon(+2) makes a textbook strip from behind to force a fumble and a turnover.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 20-7, 4 min 4Q.
Line Dn Dst Formation Type Yards Brief
O20 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass -6 Sack
Corner blitz! On one of these desperation drives! Hall(+2) gets chopped, gets up, and gets it done.
O14 2 16 3-3-5 Stack Pass 5 Stop
Another blitz!
O19 3 11 3-3-5 Stack Pass 12 Slant
Nice throw from Nickson, but we had this stopped short of the first down if we get a tackle from Burgess or Englemaon
O31 1 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Slant
Hall(+1) blitzes again, crushing Nickson and forcing an errant pass.
O31 2 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Slant
Rattled, Nickson sails it wide.
O31 3 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Fly
Leon Hall blitzes again. Nickson just wants to get off the field.
O31 4 10 3-3-5 Stack Pass Inc Slant
Nickson errant again. We blitzed on almost every play on this drive.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, EOG.

(Thanks to reader Josh Houchin for much of the video.)

Care to offer some sort of grotesque sexual reference that clarifies your feelings about Ron English?

Well, no. Apparently relatives of mine read this. But it's really hard not to.

What's different?

Other than everything?

It's the difference between confidence and arrogance.

  • English is more deceptive. One of the most irritating things about Herrmann's defenses was their refusal to do simple things like align themselves in formations that don't give away the call. A year ago, Michigan positively refused to depart from its base 4-3-4 against three wide-receiver formations on first and second down. An outside linebacker would line up in the vague area of the wide reciever, indicating to any idiot that Michigan was in a zone. Vanderbilt spent the entire game save a few short yardage plays with at least three wideouts on the field; English was in either a standard nickel or a 3-3-5, allowing him to call a variety of defenses that don't come with giant blinking signs that say "VANILLA ZONE."
  • English has a better grasp of the underlying game theory. Not that he sits around with a calculator and a statistics textbook, but on third and twenty he sits in an umbrella zone and blitzes instead of rushing four or even (ugh) three. On a hypothetical desperation drive, he blitzed the hell out of the opponent. He seems to have a more intuitive feel for the right sort of call in most situations. (Note that predictability is death and taken to an extreme the aforementioned tendencies would be negative. English seems to have his weighting right.)
  • English molds his schemes to his talent instead of vice versa. Crable was deployed like a nuclear jack-in-the-box: he'd pop up randomly and bam, you're dead. Mundy featured heavily as the nickel back, taking advantage of his coverage ability without making him the last line of defense. No 6'8" proven liabilities played over guys who just made the Patriots. (Previous sentence assumes a move inside for Branch.)
  • English's players look smart. Crable? WTF? Last year that guy played like he had an extra chromosome. Against Vandy he was responsibly violent. Burgess and Graham were both solid. There were vanishingly few mistakes -- Stewart's bite on the trick play is the only one that comes to mind.
  • Swagger heart wanting it more blah blah blah. He's a better motivator.
  • And the grand poobah: English coaches like he's got a talent advantage. He swarmed Vandy instead of sitting back, waiting for them to make an error. Bend-but-don't-break is a rube's game suited for weaklings. Take a look around the NCAA: the best defenses are all ravenous things featuring penetration galore, proactive schemes that force the offense to react. Sitting back yourself is a recipie for losses against teams with offenses that efficient when not pressured, and these days that's nearly everyone. English coaches like he's got a terrifying defensive line, which is nice, because we just might.

Whoah, tiger. It's just Vandy.

True. I'm no doubt getting ahead of myself. But I don't think Vandy's offense is all that bad. They returned most of their starters from a year ago and the big issue at quarterback was handled ably by Nickson, one of those athletic sorts who would gut us in days of yore no matter the crappiness of his teammates. When he managed to get a pass off it was almost always a good throw until the last drive, when he was clearly not interested in getting his ass kicked further. There wasn't much he could do given the Mongol horde in his face on every snap.

The Vandy offensive line is probably a mediocre unit but not a bad one. They return three starters from a line that allowed 24 sacks a year ago and was roundly criticized in scouting evaluations of Jay Cutler. Senior Brian Stamper was second-team All SEC a year ago, charged with zero of those 24 sacks. He gave up two to Lamarr Woodley.

Still: just Vandy. Disappointment probably coming. Easy to blitz the hell out of theoretical desperation drive when you're up three scores. Repeat until Notre Dame.


Er... everyone? Let's check the table:

Player + - Total Notes
Woodley 12   12 Uh... yeah, good start. All American?
Biggs 6   6 We'll have to see how he does against a better team before declaring him the new hotness.
Taylor 2   2 Came out once the 3-3-5 came in.
Branch 4   4 Somewhat quiet as the only DT.
Johnson 1   1  
Germany 1   1  
Crable 7 1 6 Still have worries about him against power rushing attacks, but against the spread? A monster.
Harris 4   4 Picked up where he left off.
Graham 2 1 1 Left midway through second with minor pull.
Burgess 5   5 Played well.
Hall 4 1 3 Note that the secondary had little to do most of the day.
Stewart 1 3 -2  
Adams 2 2 0  
Englemon 2   2  
Mundy 0 0 0  
Trent 0 0 0  
"Coverage" 7 2 5 Usually on top of Vandy receivers even when there were completions.


None, really. The closest thing to one would be Charles Stewart, who had a few instances of meh coverage and the bust on the trick play touchdown. No one else had more than one or two minor errors the whole way.

Exciting new faces?

thanks to reader Dave Dilks for the picture.

Do Rondell Biggs and Shawn Crable count? They looked like entirely different players. Stewart was a little rough -- something reflected in the new depth chart, which has his spot occupied by Charles Stewart OR Morgan Trent -- and no other newbies featured in anything more than spot duty.

What have we learned?

Nothing definitively; it is just Vandy. But indications:

  • This is going to be an aggressive defense that attempts to force opponent mistakes with multiple fronts, stemming, and blitzes.
  • Two of the big question marks on defense, SAM linebacker and DE-opposite-Woodley, appear to have been filled.
  • I may have underestimated Woodley himself.
  • All zone all the time? Gone. Corners are now permitted to approach the line of scrimmage.

What does it mean for Central Michigan?

No doubt we'll see more of the same against $#*!ing crazy Brian Kelly's spread offense, which I can't seem to go two sentences without referring to as "frenetic." Central was competitive against a probably-good Boston College team, gaining 354 yards despite giving away a few possessions with someone other than redshirt freshman Dan LeFevour -- already inspiring painful headlines -- under center. Unless Kelly goes really bats he'll stick with LeFevour after his impressive debut (22-37 for 221 yards and 74 yards rushing), which should make the Central offense even more efficient.

Against BC there was a ton of screening and misdirection. If Michigan isn't careful, Central could get some gashing plays against the new, hypothetically-aggressive D. The game still projects as an interesting learning exercise instead of a possible upset -- LeFevour is but a freshman, after all, and Central has to play defense -- but if the defense does anything comparable to what it did against Vandy it will be time to get excited.