Opponent Watch: Week 3

Opponent Watch: Week 3

Submitted by Heiko on September 20th, 2012 at 5:17 PM

About Last Saturday:

Baby Seal 13, Club 63

The internet is a strange place.


The Road Ahead:

No. 11 Notre Dame (3-0)

Last game: Notre Dame 20, Michigan State 3 (W)

Recap: Another Michigan fan on twitter suggested that watching this game was like watching two douchebags trying to get with your sister at Rick’s. If that’s the case, congratulations to Notre Dame for the equivalent of having more than three dollars to pay for her drinks.

Anyway, Football. Right. The Irish beat Michigan State by a healthy margin. After scoring twice in the first half to get to a 14-3 lead, Sparty never came close to breaking the chokehold despite holding the Notre Dame offense to a pair of field goals in the second half. The Irish front seven was just as impressive as Michigan State’s. Their defensive line ran through Sparty’s offensive line on nearly every play, which made life miserable for MSU QB Andrew Maxwell (23/45, 187 yards) in passing situations. They limited RB Le’Veon Bell’s (19 carries, 77 yards) effectiveness such that Michigan State had to abandon using him in the second half. More importantly, the pass rush allowed the inexperienced secondary to make a few plays on Sparty’s equally inexperienced receivers.

The linebackers impressed as well, and Manti Te’o (12 tackles, 2 PBU) was Manti Te’O, despite dealing with the tragedy of losing both his girlfriend and grandmother just days earlier. There are lots of Notre Dame players who are very easy to root against. Te'o is not one of them.

Offensively Notre Dame was underwhelming but relatively error-free. The game plan was to rely on the defense to win the game, so offensive playcalling focused on the ground game save for a couple spectacular big plays that ultimately resulted in points. The conservative approach resulted in some ugly stats like 1 of 14 on third down conversions, but it won the game, so I won’t criticize. I’d be surprised if the Irish deviate from that plan against Michigan since offensive errors cost them the last two games in the series.

This team is as frightening as: Windows 7. The previous version was buggy and unintuitive and too complicated with all the bells and whistles -- it sucked. This one looks like it could actually be viable for the long term, but by this point pretty much everyone owns a Mac. Bill Gates was so last century. Regardless, fear level = 8.

Michigan should worry about: An Alabama redux. If Michigan doesn’t hit a bunch of passes early, there will be no room for either Denard or Fitz to run.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: With S Jamoris Slaughter out, Notre Dame’s secondary looks an awful lot like NEVER FORGET. Michigan might actually be able to hit a bunch of passes early.

When they play Michigan: If this were any other game, I wouldn’t bother getting my hopes up for a Michigan win. But it’s Notre Dame, and weird things happen when Michigan plays Notre Dame.

Next game: vs. No. 18 Michigan


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-18-12: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-18-12: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on September 18th, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Al Borges

“ ’Sup. Where’s your glasses?”

I didn’t want to look cerebral today.

“It’s up to you.”

MGoYouAreStaringAtMeButIHaveNothingToSay: So. Norfleet.

“You’re not even going to ask me about my daughter first?”

How’s kinder--


“She learned about caterpillars. And you know what the word of the day is? Metamorphosis.”

They haven’t gotten to bubble screens in kindergarten yet? [Ed: This was not me.]

“Psh. Bubble screens. No. They blow bubbles.”

Are you expecting a metamorphosis from last year’s performance against Notre Dame?

“I’m hoping it’s better than that. Holy smokes that was just awful.”

What didn’t go right early last year that all of a sudden clicked in the fourth quarter?

“Well we completed some passes. That’s the thing, when people are crowding the line of scrimmage like that, kind of forcing the issue. They were keenly aware of what Denard had done the year before. They restructured their defense to kind of stop him and force the issue with the passing game. We just weren’t early on completing many. We made a couple adjustments at halftime with the run game, and it helped us a little bit, but they played good, too. They came out ready to play and, you know, we were still so unpolished at that time -- not that we’re real polished now, but we did not play well at all and they played well.”

Dear Diary Killed the Last Honorable Man

Dear Diary Killed the Last Honorable Man

Submitted by Seth on September 14th, 2012 at 3:07 PM

"That was the finest beating I ever took."

Define the scope of the problem. After the Bama game I texted with my best friend Tres. Tres lives deep in SEC country, where the only conversation anyone ever has about college football is about how the SEC is better at it. So of course big Michigan—the Michigan that tripped up Tebow and outscored Shawn Alexander—getting gutted by the Crimson Tide has made his life oh so pleasant the last two weeks. Tres suggested that game was like when Amsterdam first tries to kill the Butcher. Walking into Bill's great big Dallas party and chucking it long to Devin Gardner while not getting Denard lit up was always doomed to fail, and in such a way that not even a moral victory might be claimed. So was going toe to toe and talent for talent with Saban the Butcher. But it's also that point in the movie when you learn what it takes to beat Bill: recruit your own army and come at him from the front.

hokeandlloydHere's Ball State's old head coach talking to his players—among them mgouser IncrediblyBLUE—after "quieting the Big House" and losing…

He told us we needed to build on the positives, that we needed to use the energy we had taken with us to Ann Arbor and move forward to the rest of the season.  This my friends, is when Coach Hoke told us that "a moral victory is still a .... loss."

This is how far you need to get, and if you don't get there you lose. Let it be a lesson.

I've almost exhausted the amount of times I can be like "I met this football player once" but there's one last important nugget from when I chatted up MSU LB Chris Norman for an hour at an airport. This is about when they played Alabama in that Citrus Bowl a few years ago. It was a blowout but according to Norman it was the most important game they ever played. Paraphrasing, facing Bama showed them exactly how far they needed to get. Players don't care who was a 3-star and who in the Rivals 100—they get on the field with guys like Dont'a Hightower or Courtney Upshaw and see linebacking done right.

We now know how far Michigan needs to get to win Hoke a championship.

More problem solving after the jump

Opponent Watch: Week 2

Opponent Watch: Week 2

Submitted by Heiko on September 13th, 2012 at 7:37 PM

About Last Saturday:

Air Force 25, Michigan 31

Your wings got helmets.


The Road Ahead:

UMass (0-2)

Last game: Indiana 45, UMass 6 (L)

Recap: A baby seal walks into a club and says, "Ow."

This team is as frightening as: A couple reps with a five-pound dumbbell in the middle of a workout that has so far consisted of bench-pressing an elephant and 60 minutes of CrossFit. Fear level = 1.

Michigan should worry about: Hey guys, I really don’t think we need to worry about this one.

Michigan can sleep soundly about: Like for real.

Mike Cox: Is three inches bigger.

When they play Michigan: Key matchup will be me (-7) vs. press box food. “Ermahgerd” over/under is set at 10.5.

Next game: No. 17 Michigan


Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 13th, 2012 at 2:38 PM

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.

Show? Show.

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.
M45 1 10 N/A N/A Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
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.
M34 2 9 Flexbone 4-3 under Pass 4 Drag N/A 6
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.
O47 1 10 Flexbone 4-4 under Pass 4 Out Taylor Inc
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.
M30 1 10 ??? ??? Run N/A Counter dive ??? 0
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.
Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
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?

Ah so:

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?

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.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
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.
Brink 1 3 -2 Eh.
Ash - - - DNP
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.
Player + - T Notes
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.
Hawthorne - - - DNP.
TOTAL 34.5 24 10.5 Thought these guys did okay considering all the cut blocks
Player + - T Notes
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.
Holowell - - - DNP
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.

Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs Air Force

Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs Air Force

Submitted by Brian on September 12th, 2012 at 4:09 PM

Formation notes: The Air Force defense is the opposite of their offense when it comes to formations. They run their 3-4 on virtually every play. They started off in some unusual (for them, anyway) formations, got burned for 79 yards on the second, and then decided to do this every play:


That may look like a four-man line but the line is directly over the C and tackles; the standup end is a linebacker, with AF's other linebacker flared out over the opposite hash.

For Michigan this is "double stacks," BTW.


I did not call this out specifically—it's just shotgun twins twin TE but note the inversion of the line TE—Kwiatkowski—and Funchess, who is in an H-back spot inside of him. Michigan used this mostly to get Funchess on wheel routes.

Substitution notes: A mishmash at WR with Gardner, Gallon, and Roundtree all seeing about the same number of snaps. Jackson and Jerald Robinson were next in line. Funchess, Kwiatkowski, and Williams split a good number of TE snaps.

Toussaint was the only tailback all game save for a few Smith snaps; the line was all starters.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun triple stack 1 0 4 Nickel under Run QB counter Robinson 1
Looks like read option in the backfield; Lewan pulls around into the hole. Omameh(-2) lets a DT go straight upfield into the Lewan pull; Lewan delays to prevent a TFL and Denard has to deal with that unblocked LB in the hole. RUN-: Omameh(2)
M21 2 9 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Okie Run QB lead draw Robinson 79
AF goes with a six man front and one MLB behind it with a cover two shell in the secondary. They send five, backing two out, those two are tasked with covering the receivers. They're looking at a bubble screen fake, and bug out. They're gone. Michigan blocks the four frontside guys, with Mealer(+1) and Barnum(+1) getting a scoop on the DT that gets Mealer(+1) to the second level, where he pancakes a safety. Gardner walls off a corner, and then Robinson(+3) is one on one with the last guy. You know how that ends. Ermagerd. RPS +3. This was easy, really.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Mealer(2), Barnum RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0. 8 min 1st Q. By the time M gets the ball back plays are 24-2 AF.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 3-4 Run QB iso Robinson -1
This is either a run blitz or a really great read; one AF MLB shoots forward at the snap, getting past Mealer(-1) before he can come off a combo block. Maybe Molk makes this play, but it's not awful to not be able to do it. The DT Mealer and Omameh(-1) are trying to combo is shooting way left at the snap, so this is a blitz, I bet. Omameh totally loses the guy. Hopkins(-2) runs right by the blitzer, and this gets Denard buried in the backfield. RPS -1. RUN-: Omameh, Mealer, Hopkins(2)
M26 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass PA TE seam Funchess 21
Why, hello. LBs suck up on run fake, Funchess wide open, nailed, caught, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +2)
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Toussaint 1
AF tips a blitz like whoah and Michigan does not check. They send a corner and LB, slanting the line away from that blitz. Barnum(-2) gets confused and lets a DT through untouched. This is not good. Toussaint dances through it for a yard or two. Omameh(-1) also did not pick up the blitz and let that LB through clean. Bubble? Open. RPS –1, gotta have a check. RUN-: Barnum(2), Omameh(1)
M48 2 9 Shotgun double stack 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass PA drag Gallon 8
Gallon comes in motion as the ball is snapped; M fakes the zone and flips it out to him in space. Same play that he got open on against Alabama but Denard overthrew it. This one is on the money. Gallon gets the edge on the slowish AF defense and nears the first down. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O44 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 7
AF running another blitz up the middle with stunting action. Michigan's pulling outside of a TE and Omameh(+1) plugs a blitzer, ending that backside threat. On the playside, Kwiatkowski(+1) seals the playside end, Toussaint(+0.5) kicks the OLB (easy), and Barnum(+0.5) pulls through to get an OK second-level block. Robinson is about to test those safeties again when a linebacker who was originally blitzing to the backside recovers for the ankle tackle. Nice recovery by that guy. RPS +1; blitz put AF in a bad spot.
RUN+: Omameh, Barnum(0.5), Hopkins(0.5), Kwiatkowski RUN-:
O37 1 10 Shotgun triple stack TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB counter Robinson 7
Run to the other side with Schofield pulling. AF blitzes right in the intended gap; Schofield(+1) slows up to wall the guy off… guy goes after Toussaint. If Schofield keeps going and bips a safety... oh well. Denard now has a big hole thanks to a big kickout from Lewan(+1) and Barnum walling off a LB who bit on Toussaint. S fills well, Denard tries to go around him and is chopped down by pursuit.
O30 2 3 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Run Iso Toussaint 5
Mansome block from Hopkins(+2) who takes a blitzing LB, stands him up, and thrusts him out of the hole. Mealer(+1) adjusted well to a moving LB and escorted him out of the way; Omameh(+1) put a potentially problematic DT on the ground. Safety fill is rapid since he was moving forward on the snap as AF went to an eight man front.
RUN+: Hopkins(2), Mealer, Omameh RUN-:
O25 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Toussaint -1
This is just an old Rodriguez inside zone and that it doesn't work is kind of on three people. One: Denard. End isn't crashing but a keep is attractive here. Two: Mealer(-1), who can't get much of a block on a playside LB. Three: Toussaint(-2), who refuses to cut it up and ruins excellent blocks from Barnum(+1) and Lewan(+1) on the backside. Maybe the end shuts this down, but probably not for zero yards. Also... we could use some belly here. FWIW, yeah, Omameh and Schofield are in the backfield but this is essentially fine on zone blocking. That's where they went. Toussaint needs to cut.
RUN+: Lewan, Barnum RUN-: Mealer, Toussaint(2)
O26 2 11 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB iso Robinson -8
AF tips a safety blitz, no checks on either side. Michigan runs directly into it. Lewan is expecting to kick a DE who screams inside of him; nothing he can do. Denard runs around and goes down. RPS -3. This was dead. Moar checks. This was so tipped.
O34 3 19 Shotgun double stack 1 0 4 Dime Pass Rollout out Gallon Inc
I think. This is a rollout flood route on which AF blitzes and still has everybody blanketed. Denard eventually throws it at a double-covered Gallon, getting it batted near the LOS. Given the situation I don't really mind the attempt—it's a crappy punt in a world of crappy punts if it gets picked off. He had Roundtree if he wanted to throw across his body... does he? I don't know. He's there for a reason, I guess. I'm just going to punt and BA this. (BA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 13 min 2nd Q. Gallon costs M 25 yards by not catching a punt before the next drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M12 1 10 Shotgun triple stack TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB iso Robinson 6
AF blitzes right up the intended gap; Toussaint(+1) takes that guy out of the play. Mealer(+0.5) does an okay job with the NT; Barnum(+0.5) gets a linebacker he released directly into. Robinson(+0.5) gets a half for moving past the blocks in an optimal way.
M18 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run Zone stretch Toussaint 0
AF stunts, sending the playside DT right into Mealer. He goes low, submarining him and taking out Barnum. Not sure what Mealer can do about that. Omameh and Schofield now have to block guys inside of them that are at angles they are not expecting; they don't do this well. Even if they do, the peel-off leaves an unblocked guy waiting to fill. Williams(-1) did get owned on the edge and that didn't help. Rest of it seems RPS -2. Bubble open, BTW.
M18 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Out Jackson 8
Stacked to the boundary. Bubble yawningly open. Michigan does it the slightly harder way by sending Jackson on an option route at about six yards. He breaks open, but not by much, and Denard shoots it in there like he's a WCO QB. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M26 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Wheel Funchess 24
Play action fake to Smith sucks up the OLB, who dodges Funchess like he's blocking. He and Gallon break deep against one safety, who takes the inside. Funchess is open, Denard sees it and hits him. Big paws man. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O45 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Run Broken play Robinson 2
Denard(-1) bobbles the snap. I was going to call this an iso since the play worked out like that but after watching it a couple times, Smith is definitely expecting a mesh point and just improvises after he figures out it's not coming. This is a half-step from breaking big, in fact, but a blitz from the OLB gets Denard around the legs just as he's about to burst. Barnum(+1) and Omameh(+1) paved the way.
RUN+: Omameh, Barnum RUN-: Robinson
O43 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 3-4 Run Inside zone Toussaint 1
This one is on the right side of the line as AF slants to get it to the backside. Schofield(-2) is supposed to latch on to that slant and push him past where he's trying to go; instead he just whiffs and dude makes contact in the backfield. This is really all Schofield; Barnum is looking for someone to block in his zone and this is not a tough thing to do. All Schofield has to do is push the guy and Toussaint has a nice lane on the cutback he did find. RUN-: Schofield(2)
O42 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Hitch Gardner 12
AF brings the heat. Both Mealer (-1) and Omameh(-1) get blown by, with Omameh's being more relevant. Denard has a guy in his face, and where previously he may have backfooted something turrible this time he shoots one out to Gardner in rhythm. It's a little upfield, but that's fine. (CA+, 3, protection 0/2, Mealer -1, Omameh -1)
O30 1 10 Ace Big 1 3 1 Base 3-4 Pass PA TE corner Funchess 30
PA gets Funchess one on one with a safety and Denard all day. Funchess loses the S because he's thinking waggle, and Denard fires it. It's a little short, but the S is still running as Funchess finds the ball, so it's not really very off. Much better this than missing. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +3). FUNCHESSSSSSS
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 7 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 Shotgun twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run QB iso Robinson 7
Looks like Toussaint(-1) blows an assignment and heads into the wrong gap. He ends up running into Omameh near the LOS; unblocked MLB. Robinson(+1) bounces it and gets the edge thanks to Schofield(+1) driving his guy a couple yards off the LOS. Interior blocking looked good, FWIW
RUN+: Robinson, Schofield RUN-: Toussaint
M45 2 3 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
AF walks down a safety and blitzes him right into this. They tipped this too, but no checks never checks. RPS -2.
M45 3 3 Shotgun double stack 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Dumpoff Smith Int
Pass is a little high and hard for the 5'6" Smith, bouncing off his hands and getting intercepted. Denard had all the room in the world to run, but this was also wide open for a first down. (MA, 2, protection 1/1) On replay I don't even know if this is MA. Very catchable.
Drive Notes: Interception, 14-3, 5 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 1:16 in the half and two TOs.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 10
AF shows blitz and backs out of it. Funchess's guy is backing out at the snap. Funchess ends up chasing him a bit, then decides to release downfield. Denard(+1) pulls since there's no one containing him and shoots up in the gap for a first down. Funchess probably should have clocked a linebacker instead of going for the safety, but oh well. RPS +1.
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Rollout hitch Roundtree 5
A crappy throw takes Roundtree off his feet, robbing him of YAC and keeping the clock running. Accurate and this is 8-10 and a stopped clock. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)
M34 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass In Gardner 5
Eight men in coverage; Denard can't find anything except a short one to Gardner at the sticks. Accurate, at least. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Deep hitch Gardner 19
Three man rush again; Denard surveys and finds Gardner open between levels in the zone, zips it for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1). They burn nine seconds before the next snap.
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Post Dileo Inc
AF sends seven; picked up. Denard stares down Dileo and does not see Gardner coming open beneath him. He forces it into three guys. No es bueno. (BR, 0, protection 3/3)
O42 2 10 N/A       N/A Penalty Illegal substitution -- -5
O47 2 15 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Post Jackson Inc
I'm not charting this given the situation. May as well force it. Do think Gallon was a better option, but whatever. (NC, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: EOH, 14-10.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 58
AF sends a blitzer off the corner. Toussaint(+1) deals with him. Omameh has to get around that issue and does. Robinson slows up for him. Now both are on the edge with a linebacker. Omameh(+1) blows him up. Robinson cuts inside that. Lewan(+2) has donkeyed a slanting DL all the way to Schofield(!), so there's a gap. Mealer(+1) sealed away another DT. Williams and Barnum are doubling a linebacker. Denard(+2) has a big cutback lane. Dileo(+1) cracks down on the other OLB and gets a bonus block on a DB who wasn't making the play anyway. Gardner's stalk-blocking the corner to that side; Denard(+1) jukes that guy inside out and seeya. No shoes necessary.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-10, 14 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M35 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run QB sweep Robinson 1
M pulls Omameh and Schofield around two tight ends to the boundary. AF is stunting things; Williams(+1) does a good job to shove the playside DE past everything. Another DL has stunted himself out of the play, and Lewan(+1) gets the third despite the stunting. Michigan crushes the second level, and the only thing that can prevent Robinson from getting five or six yards is Robinson(-2) not cutting upfield and instead jogging out of bounds.
RUN+: Lewan, Williams RUN-: Robinson(2)
M36 2 9 Shotgun triple stack TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB draw Robinson 10
AF tips that blitz again, and this time it seems like we do get a check. Robinson fakes a WR screen to Gallon and takes off. Just like his opening run, the two linebackers haul for WRs on the outside, so if Denard can get past the line he will get yards. Pump fake gets one for free; Lewan(+1) stuffs the other blitzer and there's an avenue outside. No gap in the middle, unfortunately, or this could have been a massive gain. As it is it's an easy first down. Denard(+1) for speed and things. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan RUN-:
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 5
Barnum(+1) pulls and gets there. He takes on a run-blitzing LB at the LOS and wins. Toussaint(+1) kicks the OLB. No chance on the safety because Barnum got used at the LOS but he's got to be cautious and it's a decent gain.
RUN+: Toussaint, Barnum, Williams RUN-:
O49 2 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Slant J. Robinson 10
That's not Milliner. The Other Robinson gets inside position and uses his body to wall off the DB; Denard nails him. Body-caught, but results-based charting. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
O39 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Pass Wheel Funchess 26
TEs both in two point stances. Michigan runs a Toussaint fake and then goes pass, with Funchess running a wheel down the sideline. Man coverage, AF linebacker tries a chuck or something, and that's over. Denard floats a perfect touch pass over the LB. Funchess bobbles it but does bring it in. Great throw maximized YAC. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 6
This time the other way. Kwiatkowski(+1) seals the DE; Lewan(+1) shoves a slanting DT and then gets a second level block. LB spins off it but is significantly delayed. Robinson(-0.5) gets spooked by that fellow and runs a little outside where he should, giving up some yards when a guy Dileo cut decently can make a tackle from his knees.
O7 2 4 Ace Big 1 3 1 Base 3-4 Pass Waggle out Gardner 7
Play action fools the entire AF secondary; easy pitch and catch for Denard and Gardner. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-17, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M1 1 10 I-form Big 2 2 1 Base 3-4 Run Power off tackle Toussaint 1
Ugh, just throw the damn ball to Gallon and see if this AF corner's eight-yard cushion is something he can make up. That's a guaranteed five yards. Instead, M runs a power. Williams(-1) loses a DE to the inside. Omameh(-1) does not get there, and that's all she wrote. RPS -1.
M2 2 9 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Pass Hitch Gardner Inc
Extremely token run fake and max pro. Robinson fires a hitch, accurate but maybe a tiny bit late. Gardner gets his hands on it but ends up dropping it as the CB rakes it out. Could be route here, as separation was not gained. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)
M2 3 9 Shotgun double stack 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Out Jackson Inc
Zone blitz gets two ILBs in Robinson's face, so he flings a dart to Jeremy Jackson that he bobbles and then the OLB backing out knocks down. Dileo had separation and could have turned up for the first; Jackson is just slow. In any case, this was probably a yard or two short of the first down unless Jackson did some mansome OLB dragging after the catch. (CA+, 3, protection 0/2, team)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-17, EO3Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 6
Omameh's back to pulling really badly, as he ends up two yards in the backfield at one point and Robinson has to slow up for him. He does plug the linebacker that shows, I guess. Tentative +1. Lewan(+1) and Williams(+1) club the playside DE with Williams coming out on a LB. Barnum(+0.5) gets the easy NT block; Toussaint(+0.5) kicks the DE, and Denard only has a safety to deal with.
M40 2 4 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass PA seam Dileo Inc
Robinson gets instant pressure from the edge as a blitz comes and has to dump it immediately. Dileo is covered by one of those linebackers coming out from the center of the field and Denard chucks it high of everyone anyway. I'm filing this PR. I don't mind this from Denard. (PR, 0, protection 0/1, team, RPS -1).
M40 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 3-4 Pass Out Jackson 9
Three-step rhythm throw (except this is a shotgun). This is west-coasty. It's Purdue-y. It's a short out to Jackson for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1). Jackson gets some bullish YAC, too.
M49 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Pass PA post Roundtree Inc
Toussaint gets a great cut block on a blitzing OLB that gives Denard time. He pumps, indecisive, and then he's got to go. He runs up in the pocket and as he's getting tackled by that OLB unloads 50 yards downfield to Roundtree, who is open by a step; pass is way long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M49 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB draw Robinson 7
AF sends a double A gap blitz, backing off an OLB. Barnum(+1) catches one LB and escorts him out of the hole. Toussaint(+1) kicks the other one. Crease. Williams(+1) gets a good downfield block on that OLB who backed out. Robinson is one on one with a safety and ends up trying to cut behind Williams; Safety chops him down by the ankles.
O44 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 11
DE slanting inside on the playside makes Omameh move around him, which slows him. Denard slows, too. By the time he's finished doing that, Williams(+1) has shoved that DE all the way past the back of the line, Schofield(+1) has blown the playside DE past Barnum's guy, and a big cutback lane opens that Robinson(+2) takes. Dileo(+1) cuts off a linebacker and bang secondary.
O33 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Run Waggle corner Gardner 20
Toussaint again gets a nice cut block on the OLB coming hard on the edge. Denard is now in plenty of space and can leisurely pick out Gardner breaking open 20 yards downfield. Hit in the numbers, easy catch, big gain. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O13 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 Base 3-4 Run Iso Toussaint -1
S nominally covering the slot comes on a Kovacs blitz and nails Toussaint for no gain. RPS -2. No blocking matters here.
O14 2 11 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Pass Delayed slant Gardner Inc
Gardner hitches up at five yards and then extends his route when a LB comes up to cover, and Denard goes for him. He's about to have a completion nearing the sticks when an DL who's not even bothering to rush gets a hand up at the LOS and bats it down. Foiled again! RPS +1, great little route. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
O14 3 11 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 3-4 Pass Dumpoff Toussaint Inc
Air Force sends six. Picked up but Robinson is spooked and dumps it to Toussaint, low and tough. Not caught, not getting the first down even if caught. RUN THE BALL DENARRRRD. Taking off here has possibilities, man. (IN, 1, protection 3/3)
Drive Notes: FG(31), 31-25, 8 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 3-4 Run QB power Robinson 2
Playside LB splits Toussaint and Barnum, getting upfield of Barnum and forcing Denard inside away from blocking. This gives AF a free hitter, who tackles Robinson in the hole. Think Toussaint(-1) has to go at this guy and cut him so Barnum can come around. Stunt made the blocking down very easy FWIW.
M45 2 8 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Run QB sweep Robinson 2
Williams(-1) gets shoved back and loses his guy, which picks off Brink and gives Brink's guy an avenue to flow. Toussaint(-1) never actually gets a hat on the contain guy, and these folks combine on Robinson for a short gain.
RUN+: Schofield RUN-: Toussaint, Williams
M47 3 6 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 3-4 Pass PA rollout hitch Gardner Inc
Wide open as the smash route takes the corner to that side deep. Robinson finds it and leaves it short, but catchable. Gardner cant' bring it in. (MA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-25, 2 min 4th Q. Michigan's final snaps are kneels.

I like this not playing Alabama thing.

Yeah, it's pretty cool.

My favorite bits are Denard running until your brain melts.

Me too!

My second favorite bits are when Denard throws the receivers are not coated in a blood-red harbinger of doom.

I feel you.

I'm even feeling pretty good about this chart you're going to hit me with.

Do… you want to? You know, do it? The thing where I say—


—chart and you interrupt me to say—


--chart. The love is back!

[Hennechart legend is updated.]

2011 through MSU 13 66(12) 11(1) 34(1) 17 2 3 10 4 55%
2011 after MSU 9 77(9) 7 17 9 6(1) 5(2) 9 5 69%
Alabama 4 15(2) 1 4 3 - - 3(1) 1 71%
Air Force 1 14 3 2 1 - 2 1 - 75%

Boom. Denard's misses:

  • Dumpoff to Smith that's a little high and hard marked MA. This was the INT.
  • Two iffy throws on sideline stop routes, one of which takes Roundtree off his feet inbounds on Michigan's hurry-up drive at the end of the first half, one of which forces Gardner to try and dig out a low throw on Michigan's final real snap. Both MAs.
  • Fifty-yard bomb to Roundtree thrown while on the move and getting tackled. IN, but not a big deal.
  • Dumpoff to Toussaint as he's getting pressure on third and eleven. IN.

There was also a crappy read right at the end of the first half. That's it. Denard Robinson killed Tacopants tag: deployed.

I mean, I'm just like you guys. Wheels on the money, corner routes on the money, even one of those dinky Purdue routes in traffic squeezed in there. He stood in against pressure and shot darts out to his WRs. QBs make mistakes. There are those little frustrating moments when the guy won't just RUNNNNNNN and you're going HNNNNNNGGGG because look at all that space on third and three. But if you're trying to tell me this is not a significant leap forward, you crazy.

This is pretty.


I am so Funchized right now you guys.

you're what

I am Funchized to the max.

that's not even a thing

Oh, man, this is great stuff.

Fine, fine, I am so Funchized.

That's not even a thing.

I clipped all four of his catches not because I set out to do so but just because it happened. Each was a big gain, each was virtually unstoppable for safety or linebacker, and all but one made you think that Funchess was going to have awesome hands as he plucked the ball out of the air with the twelve-inch skillets attached to his wrists. Was the seam a little behind him? Maybe if it's Dileo the throw forces a spin and a tough catch. Funchess just reaches out for it. Was the touchdown a little short?

Maybe if we're talking about Martavious Odoms or Jeremy Gallon going for that. In Funchess's case, feed the man up high.

Aigh Toussaint?

Let's do another variety of chart first.

Offensive Line
Player + - Total Notes
Lewan 8 - 8 Blew some guys off the ball; locked out edge guys.
Barnum 6.5 2 4.5 Solid.
Mealer 4.5 2 2.5 Seems like a decent player.
Omameh 5 5 0 Pulling getting bad again; got blown by a couple times.
Schofield 3 2 1 Not tested that much.
Kwiatkowski 2 - 2 Did okay.
Moore - - - DNP
Williams 5 3 2 Very blocky.
Funchess - - - Blocking is for saps.
TOTAL 34 14 71% What they needed to do against Air Force.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 11.5 3.5 8 XOXOXO
Bellomy - - -  
Toussaint 5 5 0 Pretty good day blocking on rollouts FWIW.
Rawls - - - DNP
Smith - - - DNR
Hayes - - - DNP
Hopkins 2 2 2 Denard running meant not much Hopkins.
Kerridge - - - DNP
TOTAL 18.5 10.5 8 fast
Player + - T Notes
Gardner - - -  
Roundtree - - -  
Gallon - - -  
Jackson - - -  
Dileo 1 - 1 --
J. Robinson - - -  
Darboh - - - --
TOTAL 1 - 1 Eh.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 33 5 87% Team –3, Mealer –1, Omameh –1.
RPS 17 13 +4 A lot of RPSes.

Those line numbers have extremely low amplitude because Michigan only got off 28 rushes—Air Force had 71!—and the high RPS numbers mean that I attributed a lot of stuff to play design/response instead of blocking. Like, on the 79-yarder there was only one second level player who needed thumping. That means fewer treats to pass out to the OL and more for Borges. Similarly, getting whacked in the backfield by an unblocked blitzer is not on the OL.

When the line did get called upon, they did well. Mostly.

Okay. Now: Aigh Toussaint?

I'm not sure it was much about Toussaint. He missed one cut pretty badly. Other than that, I'm not sure what he was supposed to do:

Air Force tipped blitzes a lot and Michigan didn't check out of their play but once or twice (and I didn't actually clip the check). Not sure if that's on Denard or Borges, but a lot of the time when Toussaint was getting the ball he was dodging unblocked guys in the backfield. Lewan said this was "embarrassing" OL performance; I do think they had some problems but I think it was mostly Toussaint getting the wrong chamber in Air Force blitz/slant roulette.

Michigan's success in the air was the flipside of that business. Michigan's final TD was easy easy because even Air Force's corners freak out about run.

But the right side of the offensive line is a problem?

I'm not sure Schofield had enough relevant reps in this game to make any sort of declaration. Omameh was pretty bad, though. I was probably too kind when gave him a +1 on some of his pulls. He's back to that arcing thing where he ends up running eight yards when he can run five. And too often yesterday did he let slanting guys right by. Here's the first play:

Have to get a shove on that guy even if he hops past you. Schofield had a similar error on a zone where Air Force slanted hard playside and the only thing preventing Toussaint's good-idea backside cut from working was the whiff. I don't see stuff like that from Lewan.

Robinson only had 4.5 YPC if you take out the big touchdowns, though.

Thanks, Danny Kanell. The way Air Force was playing left them exposed to monster plays. The 79-yarder saw a blitz and both LBs bugging out into a potential bubble screen:

the youtube url for this play has "Wee" in it

There is no one on the second level, period. Air Force did a lot of stunting and slanting  blitzing in order to make up for their size deficiencies, and when it worked it got Michigan in second and long. The long runs were a cost they were hoping not to pay. You can't just take them out and expect to say anything meaningful.


Yo I got your magic midget right here.

He'll get some carries Saturday.

Did you forget something?

Right, receivers:

[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Gardner 1 0/1 0/1 5/5   5 0/3 1/2 5/5
Roundtree 1   1/1     2 0/1 1/1 2/2
Gallon 1     1/1   2 0/1 2/3 2/2
J. Robinson       1/1   1     1/1
Dileo 1         1 1/1    
Jackson 1     2/3         3/4
Kwiatkowski                 1/1
Funchess       4/4         4/4
Toussaint     0/1         0/1  
Smith     0/1         0/1 2/2

Notice the large drop in 0s. Obviously. The only routine drop was a Jackson out when Michigan was backed up on the goal line. Wouldn't have gotten the first down but would at least have gotten Michigan away from the goal line and give Hagerup an opportunity to boom one. Smith's 0/1 was of course painful.


Denard! Also Funchess.


Omameh had a rough day on the OL.

What does it mean for UMass and the future?

UMass will be a walkover.

As for the future, if Denard puts up the same sort of accuracy against UMass that ND game will be monstrous for the fan excitement level. Put up a bunch of completions against the Irish and keep that streak going and it's that MSU game for the Roses. Revert and we're all feeling pretty crappy about ourselves.

Toussaint gets an INC; the right side of the line is the biggest worry now, along with the tight ends holding up against bigger teams.

But, hey, Funchess and a rapidly developing Gardner combine with Denard's running to pose a tricky question for upcoming defenses. The passing just has to be for real.

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-12-12: Brady Hoke

Wednesday Presser Transcript 9-12-12: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on September 12th, 2012 at 2:03 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Frank Clark's recent hearing has no impact on his status.
  • Sounds like Courtney Avery will be 100% for Saturday.
  • Blake Countess's surgery has not been schedule yet.
  • Richard Ash is out this week with a boo boo, but will return next week hopefully.
  • Brennen Beyer is also out this week.
  • Barring further injury, no additional freshmen are likely to play.

Brady Hoke


Opening remarks:

“It’s an important week for us as a football team as far as how we come out to practice, the improvement we need to make in all areas. We had a good intense practice yesterday. I thought we came out with the right attitude and we have to follow that up again today, obviously. Frank Clark’s situation hasn’t changed. Won’t change. The judicial system obviously, he’s paying for that, and he’s paid a very heavy price with us. He’s a teammate, and he made some bad decisions -- a bad decision that is not what we want. But he is a teammate, and he’s part of our family. So.”

Frank Clark derpy derpy derp.

“I just made a statement on it.”

How have you seen Elliott Mealer settle into his position at center?

“You know, I think Elliott is really settled in, and I think he has a presence about him in there at center. I think the one thing he wants to do a little better job with is maybe some pad level at times and keep finishing on blocks, but I think he’s really been consistent when you look at what we ask that position to do.”

If you had to challenge him on the beard, could you do that?

“No. Not even close.”

Picture Pages: Nefarious Option Scheme

Picture Pages: Nefarious Option Scheme

Submitted by Brian on September 12th, 2012 at 11:41 AM

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!]

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-11-12: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-11-12: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on September 11th, 2012 at 3:05 PM

Greg Mattison


Opening remarks:

“I guess the first thing I would say is -- happy that we got a win. You know, not pleased the amount of yards that we gave up and not pleased with the option responsibility at times. You just want everybody to know -- I’ll take the blame for that as a coordinator. One thing we always talk about with our defense is we will always have enough bullets and always have enough in our package to be able to stop anything that somebody does. You know I think for a number of reasons, we maybe didn’t have enough or enough adjustments or I didn’t adjust soon enough to take away what they were doing. As far as the players, I really am proud of them for how hard they played. That game could have been disastrous had they not played as tough as they did on a number of situations. The thing watching the tape, in the crunch time at the end of the game, I looked out there at the end of the tape, we had seven freshmen and sophomores in there at one time, right during the heat of it. But I don’t fault our players. I know there’s things they could have done better. That’s always the case. Technique-wise, if anything, I point to myself as far as not having a little bit more expansive plan going into that game.”

MGoPodcast 4.2: Surviving The Danger Zone

MGoPodcast 4.2: Surviving The Danger Zone

[DOH: this didn't get FPed when I posted it at nine.]

Not terrible. First couple minutes got cut off, though, so the start is a little awkward.


OFFENSIVE LINE WHAT. We are concerned. I do think they are coming from everywhere, FWIW.

HELLO FUNCHESS. Welcome to our lives. FWIW, the guy who applied "the Funchise" to Funchess first was indeed Scott Burnstein of the Oakland Press.

DENARD: ACCURATE? Seems like it. We're still being careful. 

HELLO FRESHMAN LINEBACKERS. We're a bit less enthused about this development. Ace likes it. 

DL: WHERE IS IT? Seriously. 

JEREMY GALLON 2011. Someone return him to functional status please. 

THIS LEAGUE! Man, we spent all last year complaining about the Big Ten. Hope you liked that because we're going to keep doing it. I ask Jamie if Purdue is the favorite in the Le-whatever division. We talk about Minnesota making a bowl in the Le-whatever division. The Big Ten. 

SONGS.  "Highway to the Danger Zone," Kenny Loggins. Obligatory. "Paint It Black," The Rolling Stones. "E-Pro," Beck. 

The usual links: