Picture Pages: Adjusting On The Fly

Picture Pages: Adjusting On The Fly Comment Count

Brian September 17th, 2013 at 3:18 PM

I'd planned on posting another Picture Pages this week from the Notre Dame game on the assumption that there wouldn't be much from the Akron game to discuss. Surprise! The good news—ish—is that this continues our discussion of where Michigan's line is.

This is another Toussaint lost yardage play that marks the last time Michigan's run their as-yet-unsuccessful counter to their zone game. ABC provided a slick closeup of events (the difference between doing this for an ABC broadcast and BTN one is enormous—viva ABC), so we'll get a zoomed-in look at goings-on.

ND's in an even front; Michigan has two tight ends. They'll pull Schofield as the rest of the line tries to sell another zone.


Michigan immediately runs into the problems that is Louis Nix, who either isn't buying or is just assigned to slant outside of Glasgow.


That's bad, that'll happen sometimes when you play Nix. As Nix surges upfield of Glasgow, Schofield sees him and knows he's got to deal with that lest Toussaint get swallowed in the backfield.


Glasgow violates the fake rule I made up by turning upfield. Schofield's coming, but he doesn't comprehend that he isn't totally screwed until…


Both guys go to Nix, leaving one of ND's ILBs unblocked. Toussaint makes things worse by trying to bounce around a rampant Nix, and gets chopped down.



That's a two yard loss.


Slow unnecessary for this one.

[After THE JUMP: Notre Dame faces the same problem, finds different results.]


Unverified Voracity Lost A Bet

Unverified Voracity Lost A Bet Comment Count

Brian September 13th, 2013 at 2:02 PM

This guy lost a bet. Don't gamble, kids.

Also a lost bet. A love poem to Tommy Rees from a Notre Dame fan.

The girls of St. Mary’s pray at your knees

Because you are not just Tommy Rees


You are QB1

Equal to the likes of Montana and Theismann and Stuhldreher

A symbol, a winner, an icon

Your droopy eyes, not of a stoner, but a leader

One who studies play books until 4 a.m.

A senior who now neglects parties and cops’ groins

You lived

You learned

You will now prevail

Don't gamble, kids.

The Harmon thing. Do be awesome, though.

Blowing the coverage open. One Foot Down talks about what went wrong for Notre Dame on the long Gallon touchdown.


Long story short, when Michigan motioned Funchess across the formation ND changed their coverage and freshman Jaylon Smith didn't change his despite changing his alignment in a way that suggested he got the call. He followed Funchess into the flat, opening up Gallon for a catch and run.

Not sure if that was specifically designed to test Smith's understanding of his checks, but that's what it did. It is a great example of the kind of things motion can do to a defense: you're testing their ability to adjust at little cost to yourself.

In other film business, Space Coyote takes a look at how Michigan got beat up on the DL when the Irish ran. I mostly agree, but he's a little harsh to Morgan in one instance. I thought the DL play in front of him opened up a cutback lane he had to fill.

Beyer ends up way upfield and Black tries to rip inside of the right guard, so there's a massive backside lane. Once it's clear the back isn't taking it he can't scrape because Wormley got blown up. Thus the crease. Morgan's in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation.

None of this is particularly surprising with six in the box and no nose tackles on the field. I do wonder why Pipkins didn't get more playing time, as he seemed to do well with the snaps he got and there's no way he'd get as blown up as Wormley did on a couple of those plays.

Space Coyote also has a post at his own site on the passing combos that got Fitzgerald Toussaint open for that critical swing route and saw Dileo shake himself open for the final touchdown.

Stick a fork in an outlet. MSU running back Nick Hill:

“I think we’re very close to just being the electric offense we were in 2010, 2011,” Hill told the Spartan Sports Network. “Obviously, we struggled a little bit last year, but we’re right there. And I noticed it when we went through summer conditioning going into fall camp that the pieces are there, the players are there.”

Michigan State starts walk-ons at tight end and right tackle, has the worst receiving corps in the league, and is currently starting Connor Cook because pretending he's Denard Robinson is their best option. Nick Hill may have depth perception issues.

Injuries. AJ Williams is "questionable" and Courtney Avery still limited. I bet we don't see much of either this weekend—why risk it—but it sounds like Williams will be ready to go by the time Big Ten play rolls around. Gallon says he's fine.

In future opponent injury news, Minnesota loses spectacularly-named starting corner Briean Boddy-Calhoun for the year with an ACL tear. Kill said he was their best cornerback, so that's a blow. Jeremy Gallon cackles madly.

More Legends Jersey proposals. From HSR:

4). Jareth Glanda | #54 | Michigan LS 2010-2013
Move anonymously through two whole seasons of football without having your name mentioned, then catch a pass for a first down on a broken play during a bowl game.

Anyone who fumbles ten snaps should be given a red 15 patch reading Mallett.

Etc.: The House Rock Built's UFR of the fourth quarter is slightly different from mine, but spiritually the same. The Daily profiles Taylor Lewan.

FL C commit Ricky Doyle picks up a fourth star from ESPN, is now just outside their top 100. Practice video is a lot more exciting before the season. Fixing the NCAA rule book. New throwy-sticky ball turf. Michigan offers combo guard Donte Grantham. Adidas alternates worn by Arkansas State draw 15-yard penalties at the beginning of each half. A final look at ND.

MLive gets unnecessarily mean towards Akron. Exploit your children for fun and profit!


Dear Diary is the Modern Stone Age Family

Dear Diary is the Modern Stone Age Family Comment Count

Seth September 13th, 2013 at 10:49 AM


ppToilet’s post-game version of Monumental’s wallpaper

It’s been nearly a week and I’m not sure I’m back on a normal sleep schedule yet. I had to shake down Ace for our review copy of NCAA 14 back, change Devin’s number to 98, then go Michael Vick on computer defenses for hours because I wasn’t quite ready to stop watching that happen. This apparently is happened to bronxblue as well…aw hamburgers Brian already quoted that part. Here then’s a totally different stanza from this masterpiece:

Worst:  QB Vision Cone still in experimental mode

[Funchess and Butt] are young and should improve as the season comes along (especially Butt, who appeared to drop and/or run out of position for a couple of balls), but Gardner’s passing cone seems a bit skewed toward Dileo and Gallon and that could very well catch up to him as teams adjust or, knock on wood, one of them gets hurt.  For as much as I love the idea of this team’s leading receivers both being eligible for the Pomeroy Award, that would feel like a massive waste of talent at other positions on the field and, frankly, counter-productive to this team’s maturation this year and beyond.

Brian is like 6’2” so H2V must be a big guy.

I disagree with both bronx and ST3 (in his weekly inside the box score) that the running game was effective at taking pressure off the passing. Brian already UFR’d what I saw: one big Gardner run that made the stats nice, and Fitz doing subtle things to screw with ND’s linebackers when they had him dead to rights. The particular brilliance of Gardner and Borges and Gallon and Dileo and Toussaint in this game was they managed to put up 41 points without the running game being something the defense had to cheat to. Borges picked his spots well because there wasn’t much to be had, Gallon hauled in catches while wearing cornerbacks who could be aggressive because there was help behind them, and Dileo threw his defender on his TD by doing a high-speed luau in the end zone.

More in ND postgame: HAIL 2 VICTORS did the Sports Power Weekends thing and wrote up his glowing review—Jared’s a client and I sat with him at the game so obvious bias here but, yeah, there’s a reason he’s our guy. Jamie Mac went through the recent history of favorites in this series. Brhino went through his favorite memories of the definitely-not-a-rivalry (why is Ismail in there?!?).

[Diarist of the Week and Best of the Board after the jump]


Upon Further Review 2013: Defense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2013: Defense vs Notre Dame Comment Count

Brian September 12th, 2013 at 1:57 PM

FORMATION NOTES: A very passive, bend-but-don't break outing. Michigan started in their 4-3, eventually transitioning to a nickel package basically full-time in the second half. Almost the entire game Michigan maintained a two-deep shell. Canonical example:


Michigan walked Jarrod Wilson into the box for about two plays in the second half, after Notre Dame had gotten some nice runs.

4-3-nickel ND passed once, ran for two yards the second time (an offsides call that wasn't relevant to the play wiped that out) and then started passing again.

Late, Michigan started sending the house against Rees in high leverage situations. This is pure cover zero on which Michigan sent seven guys against six blockers. These are denoted as "Okie."


That one was actually in the first half; their frequency increased as Michigan got deeper into the game.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: The secondary was Wilson/TGordon/Countess/Taylor the almost the whole way with Hollowell getting all of the nickelback snaps (he was on the outside with Countess at nickel). Stribling got a little bit of time replacing Taylor in the third quarter and Avery got a few snaps instead of Wilson.

The ILB rotation was the usual three way split between Morgan, Bolden, and Ross. It seemed about equal to the CMU breakdown, with Bolden in on 50% of snaps and the other two around 75%. Beyer got a lot more playing time than Gordon because he was a nickel DE; Gordon got a significant amount of run only before the nickel switch.

On the line, Clark and Ojemudia split the WDE snaps, no Charlton. Black was out there for just about every snap, first as the three-tech and then as the nose as Michigan went almost the entire second half without playing a true nose tackle. Wormley and Glasgow rotated in at the other DT spot, with Beyer and occasionally Gordon on the other DE. Washington and Pipkins played somewhat in the first half, and then barely at all in the second. I actually thought Pipkins was getting a good bull rush and that removing him was weird; we believe that Washington was playing through injury.

[After THE JUMP: run at us! Please! We're begging you!]


Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2013: Offense vs Notre Dame Comment Count

Brian September 11th, 2013 at 5:13 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan was split close to evenly between shotgun/pistol/under center. Notre Dame, meanwhile, was in a ton of four-man fronts until late, when they went back to more of a 4-3 look. Here you can see Shembo with his hand down and a 1-3-5 technique split to the strongside of M's formation:


I know I've mentioned in the past that Notre Dame's defense is not really all that different from Michigan's, and this game was a good demonstration of that. ND prefers over fronts when they go to a four-man line since their SAM equivalent is Jaylon Smith, a fast light bugger. I guess that's kind of a big difference. The point is: ND runs a lot of four man fronts.

Here's ND's 3-4:


The DL are head up on the Michigan OL, with the SAM over the TEs and Smith is over the slot.

This is the pistol. Pew pew:


Another 4-3 over from ND.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: QB Gardner, RB Toussaint on almost every play. Derrick Green got in for two, I think, and M lined up Norfleet as a back once. The line was the starters the whole game, but when Lewan got poked in the eye, Michigan sent in Magnuson, not Braden. Lewan returned, so Magnuson didn't get a snap. He's your #3 tackle it appears.

Williams, Funchess, and Butt all played plenty; Williams went out with an injury, came back for a few plays, and then left permanently. At WR, Gallon (obvious) with Chesson and Jackson rotating more heavily than Reynolds, who may still be dinged. Excepting the Norfleet package early, the slot was always Dileo. Michigan never had more than two outside WRs in the game. On passing downs they filled out with Funchess and Dileo.

[After THE JUMP: slicing and dicing goes both ways.]


Picture Pages: False Mesh Goofball Punish

Picture Pages: False Mesh Goofball Punish Comment Count

Brian September 11th, 2013 at 10:57 AM

NOTE: UFR will be later than usual today, because of Dos A Cero IV. Lo siento.

BONUS: Soon to be number one in Google for highly competitive search term "mesh goofball punish." Dolla dolla bill  y'all. See you on my yacht.

Michigan had seen enough of Notre Dame's maniac linebackers by the second quarter to expose their aggression. On their drive after ND had kicked a field goal to make it 17-13, M opened with four straight runs.

The one tailback touch in there was a one-yard loss on power. A Notre Dame linebacker shot the gap, meeting Kyle Kalis two yards in the backfield, and Toussaint bounced it outside without having any hope of doing something out there. The other three plays all worked because they used Devin Gardner's legs to punish the overcommitting Notre Dame defense. Each of these plays could have been a 35-yarder.

The sequence:

  1. Michigan fakes inside zone, has Gardner run for 7.
  2. A false zone read keeper breaks outside for 35.
  3. Toussaint stuffed for loss of one on power, holding on Houma.
  4. Inverted veer keeper for nine, phantom holding on Miller.

One of them did go for 35. We discussed the veer keeper a bit in the last picture pages post: it sucked a Notre Dame linebacker well into the backfield and may have been a touchdown if Funchess didn't spin around.

The opener is an interesting play; it follows.

Michigan has it first and ten from their 37 and comes out in a pistol 3-wide formation. Notre Dame goes with their 3-4. (I swear ND was mostly a 4-3 team in this game.) Shembo is tight to the LOS over the tight end with Day next to him. ND has two deep safeties and Jaylon Smith in the grey area over the slot.


Michigan will show inside zone, with quickly aborted doubles on Nix and Tuitt forced by the usual hard reaction by the ND linebackers.

[The jump]


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-10-13: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-10-13: Al Borges Comment Count

Heiko September 11th, 2013 at 9:34 AM


MGoIcebreaker: Big win. Does that mean we get to have a word of the day? [MGoContext: Al stopped doing words of the day because "It's only cute if you win.']

" 'Big win.' Two words."

Other than the big mistake, the offense seemed to execute flawlessly. Were you pleased?

"Oh I wouldn't say flawlessly. But I think I was pleased with the result. I was certainly pleased with the effort. I mean we played pretty hard from the beginning to the end, and that was nice. We had a time during the game when the football gods were kind of frowning on us a little bit. We recovered nicely. That was probably as good as anything. That one part where we turned the ball over, had a couple bad things happen, but we recovered nicely from it, and all the coaches felt good about that."


One Frame At A Time: Notre Dame

One Frame At A Time: Notre Dame Comment Count

Ace September 10th, 2013 at 3:56 PM

This whole sequence—Hoke trying to call a timeout as Gardner barely gets the play off, Gardner scoring, Hoke shrugging—is spectacular; the ever-so-subtle smirk at the end just kills me, though. However, is this even the best GIF of the week? Hit the jump to find out my choice and vote for your favorite.

[JUMP like Funchess on a middle screen]


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-10-13: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-10-13: Greg Mattison Comment Count

Heiko September 10th, 2013 at 3:14 PM

Opening remarks: 

"Well, we're ready to go out for the next one, I guess. That was an exciting game. The thing I'd say is that I was very proud of how hard our kids played and how they were very resilient. The biggest thing -- we've talked about it all since we've been in it, is red zone defense is critical. If you can keep teams from scoring seven down there, you're going to win. There were so many opportunities down there, which is not always a great thing or a good thing, but that happens when you play a good football team, and I was really proud of our kids, the way they played down there."

How much do you take into account how good Notre Dame's offensive line is when you judge your defensive line?

"They're very good. They're strong, they're big, they're experienced. But I still believe that we should win the battles we're supposed to win. A couple times we gave up yardage that we shouldn't have given up because guys got out of their gaps. Guys didn't play the technique. When you're a young player, you have to play great technique. That's the only chance you have. I think a couple times we didn't do that. We weren't gap-sound a couple times as far as fitting our gaps. When you look at our tape, you're sitting there going, 'This should have been a hit.' I go back to the fact that they all stuck together, though, and they all played so hard during the game. Now it's time to move on to the next one."


Picture Pages: Hopped Up On Goofballs

Picture Pages: Hopped Up On Goofballs Comment Count

Brian September 10th, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I wish I'd remembered that Bob Diaco linebackers play like they're hopped up on goofballs before the game. Here's the mesh point on Michigan's first offensive snap:

hyperaggressive LBs

One ILB is almost to the line of scrimmage and the other is a yard back. This is way closer than almost any other team will be, and it is absolutely consistent. ND linebackers fire hard on any run action.

For the most part it's worked for them. Michigan won the Denard after Dentist game despite getting ten yards on eight tailback carries. ND's defense last year was lights out. Notre Dame's hyper-aggression at that spot has been a problem for Michigan's run game for the last couple years, as they haven't had effective counters. Their main one is the waggle, and we all know how that worked out last year.

Not much changed in this one early. Michigan's tailback running game was drips and drabs because of a lack of an effective counter trey. (You know, that play they showed against Central where Taylor Lewan pulled to the backside… ineffectively.) The longer runs they did acquire were almost entirely Fitzgerald Toussaint forcing errors out of ND safeties. For example, the UFR chart on Toussaint's early 14-yard sideline run has four minuses for bad blocks and no positives. Yikes.

Let's get a baseline in this one and see how Michigan responded later. This is a second-quarter zone stretch in which Michigan puts two tight ends to the top of the screen; ND responds with a rare three-man front (they were a 4-3 in this game that occasionally lined up in a 3-4 as a curveball) with a safety walked down:


This looks like a called blitz but in practice it's difficult to tell the difference between an actual blitz and the playside linebacker hauling ass at the first gap he sees. It's just alignment. Notre Dame got some TFLs out of this gap-shooting, and even when they didn't those linebackers forced Michigan to disengage from double-teams on Tuitt, Nix, and Schwenke early, with predictable results.

Meanwhile, the backside linebacker would ignore any cutback possibilities and flow parallel to the line of scrimmage at approximately the same rate the tailback did:


The overall effect is six guys at the line with one hovering behind for cleanup and that overhanging safety able to provide quick support. Even when Notre Dame screwed up this was mostly effective.

A moment post snap, Michigan opens up a gap as they go to double the two defensive tackles:


Note that the backside players on the ND DL are stepping away from the play, which they can do because the MLB is jetting into the gap they vacate. This also allows the backside LB to flow as he does.

Some of this is  tough to see, but in this frame:

  1. Miller has disengaged from Nix in an attempt to cut the charging LB, which he does not do. He does knock him off balance somewhat, possibly contributing to his overrun of the play.
  2. Meanwhile, Glasgow and Lewan try to handle two guys who have disappeared from the frame: the playside end and charging safety.
  3. Both tight ends have locked on the playside LB, who is the force player.
  4. Schofield chases the MLB, who he has no angle on, but could still block if Toussaint cuts back.


A moment later the LB flashes into the backfield wide of Toussaint and runs by; playside end got his legs caught up in traffic and ends up falling, pancaked. Both tight ends are still on the force guy:


This is one of them gap things?


Except it's got a linebacker in it.



BONUS! Here is a super slo-mo version.

(Does this help? If this helps let me know.)

Items Of Interest

Notre Dame got away with at least a couple errors here. The playside end ends up underneath Glasgow on the ground and they spent a linebacker blowing past Toussaint to little effect. (They did get Miller down but offenses will take one for one trades.) If that can happen and Michigan picks up three yards you can tell that it's tough sledding.

Tough sledding. The goofballs approach makes life tough on offensive linemen, who have to make split second decisions to leave guy and then try to block a rampant guy with tons of momentum before they are ready. This is tough, and Michigan didn't do a good job of it.

Toussaint could put his foot in the ground here and make a cut. Schofield is chasing that linebacker and you occasionally see the blocking develop such that the tailback can make a hard cut upfield behind that OL and suddenly make him relevant. Right about here…


…if Toussaint goes hard north and south aiming for the hash he may shoot past that linebacker and into open space. That's why Schofield keeps following that guy despite not having an angle. It may not work, but you're at least giving yourself a shot. Toussaint had a good day overall; here I think he missed a cut.

The offensive line… I punt. They had a very tough first half against this line, and these linebacker gap-shots don't help. Miller just barely throws off that linebacker if he does anything, but then again that linebacker zips past the play he's moving so fast. If that guy can't make a play, can the OL make a play?

Meanwhile Glasgow gets a pancake that is probably aided by the ND lineman tripping on the blitzer's feet; Lewan ends up putting a safety on the ground. Points for them. This one was a lot better blocked than some.

Funchess is very frustrating. On this play, the linebacker to the top of the screen is obviously the force player*. Butt obviously has him kicked out. Funchess continues to block the guy the whole damn play instead of releasing downfield and getting a hat on the safety. There is no way this is right.

Meanwhile, on the single inverted veer Michigan ran, Notre Dame hyperaggression bit them as one of their linebackers roared up a gap and pursued Toussaint, as did Tuitt. Gardner pulled and got a nice gain. It could have been a lot nicer, but Funchess turned around again:


Also not right, as with Kalis headed to the outside the linebacker is the optioned guy. I know Michigan's blocked guys who are supposed to be optioned before; even if that is the nominal plan, nothing good ever comes of turning 180 degrees when you're a blocker.

That left no one to take the only guy standing between Gardner and a touchdown:


I guess it's better that the play wiped out by a nonexistent holding call was nine yards instead of a thirty-one yard touchdown?

We just saw this happen against Central Michigan; it's closing in on a pattern. Funchess remains a tight end in name only. The mental stuff is more bothersome than any lack of technique. All he has to do on some of these plays is vaguely bother a guy and Michigan can break a long one. Hopefully he makes some progress here in the next few weeks, but the relative prominence of Jake Butt in this game is not a coincidence.

*[IE, the guy who sits on the end of the line and accepts a kickout block. He positions himself such that if the back tries to bounce it outside he either gets tackled for has to take such a circuitous route that by the time he gets the corner for guys are waiting for him. Since things usually go badly—very badly—for the defense if the force player is not doing his job, he is limited in how dynamic he can be what with throwing blockers away and getting TFLs, so doubling him is useless.]

Michigan did exploit this, eventually. You may notice that I'm not complaining about how Michigan didn't adjust to this. This is a tease.