I don't know how many times I have exited Michigan Stadium. I've never counted. I know that I've crossed the threshold with my hands defiantly pushed into my hoodie's front pocket in silent protest at the insanity of trading a quarter of Michigan football for less traffic. I've left the Big House with those same hands expressively communicating an important point about The Fellowship of the Ring to a fraternity brother. I've left with them running through my rain-soaked hair, left with them clutching my temples for fear my skull might come apart at the seams, and left with them pumping "It's Great to Be a Michigan Wolverine!" into the night. I have at different times in my life, walked out of that edifice gripping a smart phone, a new set of cupware, my father's farm-calloused hand, and a degree. But not once when I came to that threshold, did I ever need those hands for expressing "Farewell."
As halftime approached, we had had enough. The weather was cold. The football was miserable. Most of the rest of our crew was at a bar. It was time to join them. I was fine with that until we were actually about to leave the stadium grounds. While my friends hustled out to flag a cab on Stadium Boulevard, I froze, not wanting to pass through the exit gates the way Archie Moonlight Graham didn't want to cross over the first baseline in the movie Field Of Dreams. Moonlight knew he would not be able to play ball on the Field of Dreams anymore once he crossed over that baseline. And I was afraid that once I left Michigan Stadium, I would never return.
The author of Just Cover Blog, regular contributor to this site and the podcast, and nicest Michigan fan you'll ever meet, had what happened to Michigan happen to his body. If you passed his tailgate at the end of Fingerle or had a beer with him at Football Eve, you already know that things turned out pretty Harbaugh for him too. But as I crossed beneath a brick arch for the uncountable time, I found my hand was on my cheek, using the center finger to plug a tear duct, because after reading that diary all I could think about while walking out of the Big House was what a wonderful thing it is that Jamie still gets to.
[Deep breath, then jump for the rest of the best in reader-contributed content in the other tone]
Let me further emphasize the fact that pants are entirely optional when you go with HomeSure Lending. I mean, it's not like Matt has anything against pants. You want to go with pants, you go ahead. If you want to go with a mumu or board shorts or whatever, also fine. He can't see you. Also, excellent rates. He may have wanted me to emphasize that instead of the pants.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan went heavier in this game. I did not this week but in the future I am going to start specifying H-backs like Butt in this shot:
While TEs lined up next to other TEs are often H-backs in the offense I'm going to reserve the H designation for either the above or instances where there is a tight end near the LOS but tucked inside the edges of the line.
Michigan also had an under-center version of the diamond formations that Oklahoma State and other spread teams started implementing a year or two ago:
Generally the diamond had a tailback with a tight end and the fullback in front of him. In fall camp there was the occasional rumble of these formations featuring all tailbacks. Not yet; that would be something they hold for a tenser outing, I think.
I had no idea what to call this goal line formation with the FB and RB next to each other.
And if I call something "tight bunch" this is generally what I mean:
That's a TE, FB, and WR in the bunch. Harbaugh loves throwing out buckets of formations with 2 RB, 1 TE personnel. In the Utah game this was very frequently a pitch sweep; Michigan broke that tendency in this game by running off-tackle- ish at the bunch.
FWIW, I am designating Houma and Kerridge as FBs and listing all other blocky catchy types as TEs.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES: OL was the same as it was against Utah: Cole/Braden/Glasgow/Kalis/Magnuson. Braden got dinged and left for a play or two; David Dawson entered in his place. That's not a huge surprise but there were a couple rumbles that Blake Bars might be the first guy in the game. That may be the case if a tackle goes out; it's apparently not the case at guard.
QB Rudock; RB was Smith almost the whole way until the fourth quarter, when Isaac and Green got the stress-free time. Isaac did spot Smith at various times in the first three quarters.
WR was the same rotation between Darboh, Chesson, and Harris on the outside. Perry got less time but I think that was more an effect of playing a lot of tight ends than anything else. Moe Ways got scattered snaps as well.
At tight end, every available one played except Khalid Hill. No idea what's going on with him. Fullback was mostly Kerridge until late when Houma came in to impress us all with his running and hair; Kerridge reportedly had a stinger.
Looking at last week’s data was an exercise in finding where the minute differences were; this week’s data is an exercise in finding where there aren’t massive ones. Michigan gave up a long, low play-count drive to begin the game and then shut down the Oregon State offense. It shows in the number of plays run (M: 76, OSU: 55) and in yards per play and scoring opportunities and so on, all the way up to the final score. Michigan turned into 2007 Ohio State in the second half and experienced a strikingly similar result.
Michigan’s domination of Oregon State did have a few bumps along the way. The first drive was as bad as it looked. Oregon State averaged 7.9 yards per play and had three explosive plays (two rushes and one pass) in a seven-play drive. The drive was anything but methodical; their success rate was just 42.9%, but the two long runs and one long pass counteracted their inability to stay in favorable down-and-distance situations. Michigan wasn’t bled to death, but was definitely bludgeoned. A low success rate proved to be foreshadowing Oregon State’s undoing as their explosiveness fizzled after the first drive, and that alone was enough to take them out of the game.
Oregon State followed up their big first drive with a two-play drive that ended in a turnover and a three and out that gave Michigan the ball at their 32 yard line, which is a pretty favorable place to start. OSU pulled things together momentarily, however, and had three eight-play drives through the rest of the first half. The problem with those three drives is that only one of them ended in Michigan territory, and that resulted in a turnover on downs after moving the ball 50 yards (6.25 YPP). The other two drives went 31 yards (3.87 YPP) and –17 yards (-2.125 YPP), with the negative yardage drive the result of the snap so high above the punter’s head that it almost hit the hanging camera.
[After THE JUMP: There’s a field position section so of course I used the crazy sky snap gif]
To the turnovers with Jake [Rudock]: is that a concern, or something where you don't see him do it much in practice so…? “Well, the first game, obviously we never want to play with three turnovers. Three interceptions in that game, and then this past game with the sack-fumble and the interception. So, I guess you'd be accounted for five, which is tough because of the fact that a lot of things go into all of those. The one that I was most disappointed on probably was the sack-fumble because that was the most avoidable. He had an opportunity to kick it out there when he was hot and he held onto the ball there. But the others, you know, we’ve gotta- I think he played very smart football this past week in comparison to maybe one or two plays at Utah that you’d probably like to take back.
“But no, he's not a guy that's been prone to throw interceptions. So he's thrown four, which is two right now a game. If he can have a few games with zero he'll get right back to his average. If you throw one a game you throw 12 for the year. If you could get a few games with zero you get that number down to about six or seven, so he's got to do that. He's got to strive for that number to get to about somewhere less than 10 for the year and try to double the touchdowns. You'd like to get to a 2 to 1 ratio there or more, so we’ll look for that. But yeah, I think that he's smart with the ball. Doesn't take sacks. Only one sack in 76 pass attempts, so that's exciting.” What would you consider an optimal performance from your quarterbacks? “Yeah, well, he was close with 70% completion. I think if you could get to that number every week you’d be awfully happy. I think the interception was the second to last pass he threw on the night or day. So, you know, that was unfortunate in that situation. He certainly didn't have to cram a ball in there up 21 points, so he could've walked away from the game – had a couple touchdown pass opportunities.
“Went kind of to a different side, which they were some opportunities there that… So I'd love to walk away with A couple of touchdowns, a 70% completion, and no interceptions. Sign me up for that. And he had that one sack which was avoidable, so we could've gone two games without a sack, which is a credit to all 11.”
[After THE JUMP: Checkdowns, rub routes, and playcalling logistics]
The play of your unit so far this year: thoughts on it?
“I think the second game against Oregon State we played more like we expect to play, which was a lot more effort and a lot more- you know, we’ve always prided ourselves here on running to the football and everybody getting to the football. And that game, I think, the guys did that at a more consistent rate.
“We still have to get better at our technique. They hear that from me every day and they’re gonna hear it until we grade out on technique like we should. We’ve got to improve that.”
Fair to say a light’s gone on for Chris Wormley?
“Chris has made some plays. You know, Chris has done some good things and there’s a lot more good things to be had and he’s got to keep striving to be as good as he can be. He’s a very talented football player. You’ve got great size, great ability to run, he’s strong, and I’m looking for him every game to get better.”
Coach Harbaugh mentioned Ryan Glasgow as a guy who played well. What did he do well last game?
“Ryan just goes out there every day and plays with very, very consistent technique. Great toughness, there were a number of plays in that game where he did what we expect our defensive line to do and that’s relentless effort to the football. Made some key tackles on plays where the guy was running and came from inside out and made some good hits. He’s just every day- one thing about Ryan is every day he has come out and he works hard and tries to improve. Been very pleased with him.”
That first drive against Oregon State: what were you thinking, and then were you automatically thinking we’ve got to make certain adjustments after giving up three big plays?
“Yeah, there wasn’t any panic. You knew it was a breakdown here and there that caused it, and you knew that we were going to make the adjustments we needed to on the sideline. DJ [Durkin] does a great job making sure he knows what’s going on in all parts of it, and he just got everybody together and said, ‘This is what’s happened. This is what we can’t let happen’ and they adjusted it and they did it.
“It’s been very good, the sidelines. After every play we’re all together and DJ will call the group together and explain exactly what and then we break it down at each position, and I think that’s been good for both ball games and can even be better.”
[After THE JUMP: Rotation, ‘handsiness,’ and just where the heck is Lawrence Marshall]
Hey man like Homesure Lending is run by one of us and to be like 100% honest I was surprised that the rate I got chopped a couple hundred bucks off my mortgage. Also I got to do it without putting on pants. Pants are the worst and I have structured my life around not having to wear them very much but man I did not think getting a mortgage would get folded in there. What a world man.
FORMATION NOTES: Michigan stuck mostly with its nickel even against a run-oriented spread team. At times either Peppers or Hill would line up as a WLB:
My deeply unsatisfying nomenclature for this was "nickel 4-3." I know this is a nonsense thing to say, but this is the world we live in.
I also don't like calling this a "3-3-5 nickel" since it's really just taking a DE and having him run at the LOS:
I need better lingo for that if you've got it.
M did this some with Frank Clark last year and they're continuing to do it with Ojemudia. I kind of get the idea, but execution so far has been weak.
Oregon State used a lot of H-backs and I designated those with "H" after whatever the formation is. This is Shotgun TE H for the Beavers. Michigan is an actual 4-3 here.
PERSONNEL NOTES: Much the same as the first game, with heavy rotation on the front that justifies the OR next to Matt Godin's name. He played both DE and DT and probably got as much time as either Henry or Wormley. Glasgow probably got the most snaps on the DL; Hurst appearances were infrequent. It was mostly Ojemudia at buck, with a reasonable number of RJS appearances.
Secondary was as in the first game: Lewis, Peppers, Hill, Wilson + Stribling/Clark. When they went to a 4-3 it was Stribling/Clark coming off the field instead of Hill. After Lewis went out it was Stribling and Clark. Dymonte Thomas got some snaps in the dime.
LBs were Morgan and Bolden with Ross coming in for 4-3 snaps; Gedeon and Ross both got a couple drives as ILBs.
Yes, these posts are now everything I ever hoped they would be when Michigan hired Jim Harbaugh. There's no longer really room for words; I made 42 GIFs for this game. The righteous punt anger only accounts for three of them. Let's get right to it.
You're going to have to bear with me on the offensive UFRs this year. The last time I saw a traditional gap-blocked, regular-ol-QB offense for anything more than a one-game debacle was ten years ago. That was the first year I did UFR and most running plays of that sort were deemed "another wad of bodies" because I didn't know what I was looking at. Since then:
Two years of Debord running almost nothing but outside zone
Three years of Rodriguez running inside and outside zone with a little power frippery
Two years of Hoke trying to shoehorn Denard Robinson into a pro-style offense, giving up, and running a low-rent spread offense
Al Borges's Cheesecake Factory offense that ran everything terribly
Doug Nussmeier's inside zone-based offense.
I've seen plenty of power plays. Most of them were constraints that could be run simply and still succeed because the offense's backbone was something else. The rest were so miserably executed that they offered no knowledge about what power is actually supposed to look like. I watched a bunch of Stanford but not in the kind of detail I get down to with the UFRs.
One thing that I am pretty sure I think is that the popular conception of power as a decision-free zone in which moving guys off the ball gets you yards is incomplete. Defenses will show you a front pre-snap. You will make blocking decisions based on that front. Then the defense will blitz and slant to foul your decisions and remove the gap you want to hit. If you do not adjust to what is happening in front of you then you run into bodies and everyone is sad.
What Stanford was great at was running power that was executed so consistently well that it was largely impervious to all the games defenses played. This requires linemen who are downblocking to think on their feet, maintain their balance, and stay attached to guys who may be going in directions they were not expected to. It requires everyone off the line of scrimmage (tailback, fullback, pulling G) to see what's in front of them and adjust accordingly.
Michigan did a bad job of this against Utah. They also got blown backwards too much, complicating decisions for the backfield. The latter was not a problem against a much weaker Oregon State outfit. The former was much better, and that's the most encouraging thing to take from this game.
Here's an example. It's a six yard run in the first quarter on which Oregon State sends a blitz that Michigan recognizes and thwarts. There's no puller on this play; I think it was intended to be a weakside iso that ends up looking not very much like iso because Michigan adjusts post-snap.
M comes out in an I-Form twins formation; Oregon state is in a 4-3 that shifts away from the run strength of Michigan's formation. They are also walking a DB to the line of scrimmage:
By the time Michigan snaps the ball this DB is hanging out in a zone with no eligible receiver while both WRs get guys who look to be in man coverage. This is not disguised well unless the highlighted player is Jabrill Peppers and can teleport places after the snap:
He's going to blitz and the DL is going to slant to the run strength of the line. Michigan will pick this up, and I wonder if they IDed the likelihood of this pre-snap. No way to tell, obviously.
On the snap both the FB and RB start to the weak side of the formation; you can see Erik Magnuson start to set up as if he is going to execute a kickout block on the defensive end:
With the blitz and slant from the Oregon DL that's not going to happen. Each Oregon State DL has popped into a gap. Kerridge is taking a flight path to the gap that would normally open between Magnuson and Kalis, the right guard, on a play without this blitz. Without the blitz the DE would be the force player tasked with keeping the play inside of him; Magnuson would have a relatively easy job as he and the DE mutually agreed on where he should go.
Here the DE threatens the play's intended gap. Magnuson can't do anything about that. The D mostly gets to choose what gap they go in, and it's up to the offense to roll with the punches.
Michigan does this:
A moment later Magnuson has changed his tack from attempted kickout to an attempt to laterally displace the DE using his own momentum. Kerridge has abandoned the idea of hitting the weakside B gap and is flaring out for the blitzer.
Now, this could be successful for Oregon State still. The slant got five Michigan OL to block four guys. Nobody got downfield; the slant got a 2 for 1. But their MLB has stood stock still for much of this play, and Magnuson ends up shoving his dude past the hash mark—+1, sir. This is a ton of space to shut down, and De'Veon Smith is the kind of back that can plow through you for YAC.
Smith fends off the linebacker with a stiffarm and starts gaining yardage outside; it could be a good deal more but Chesson misses a cut* and the DB forces it back, creating a big ol' pile:
Second and four sounds a lot better than second and eleven.
*[Drake Harris will later pick up a 15-yard penalty for a similar, but more successful cut block; the genesis of that flag is probably Gary Andersen doing some screaming at the official after this play.]
Items of interest
You don't get to pick the gap even if it's gap blocking. Defenses slant constantly, and often in a specific effort to foul the intended hole and pop the back out into a place where an unblocked guy can hit. Post-snap adaptation is a must for a well-oiled power running game.
Slants win if they suck away an extra blocker. I would be peeved at the MLB if I was Oregon State UFR guy. While Michigan adapts to the slant well enough to provide a crease for Smith, the blitz means Michigan had to spend a blocker on the defensive back and the MLB is a free hitter. He should be moving to this more quickly than he does.
Slants also tend to open up giant running gaps. Adjustments like the above will often lead to a defender running in one direction suddenly getting unwanted help from an OL. If the OL can redirect and latch on just about everyone is going for a ride here. Once Magnuson locks on and Kerridge targets the DB these are two blocks that are easy to win and Smith is going to have a truck lane.
Given how much space Smith has even a linebacker playing this aggressively who shows up in the gap might lose or get his tackle run through; Michigan's getting yards here, whether it's three or six or more if Chesson gets a good block.
In the past this site has seen arguments about whether meeting an unblocked safety at or near the line of scrimmage is a win for the offense or the defense. I have largely come down on the side of "that absolutely sucks," but when the hole is so big that the defender is attempting to make an open-field tackle it's a lot more appealing.
Michigan WRs need to be more careful with the cut blocks. You can cut a guy from the "front," by which the NCAA means the area from 10 to 2 on a clock. (Seriously, that's the way it's defined in the rulebook.) This was very close to a flag, and Michigan got one later.
I wish Michigan was running pop passes, as those are good ways to get defensive backs hesitant about running hard after plays like this. Maybe in a bit.
This is a new feature this year where I track the secondary ticket market, because I'm a cheap bastard who doesn't buy season tickets. This Big House vagabodry dates back to childhood, when my dad had a lot of friends with tickets, and a son who always answered "yes" when one of them called to offer. I of course got tickets as a student, but since graduating, I've had my ear to the ground. This does not make me an expert, but I've enlisted some readers plus our ticket partners TiqIQ and a Futures analyst to talk tickets and give some away.
If you would like to give away some tix to an MGoBlogger, leave a comment here.
We are now past the pre-season demand spike, which this year saw amazing $100/ticket average climb from last year. You knew last year was bad because you were getting phone calls from my dad's friends too. But the numbers revealed in Brandon's Lasting Lessons were staggering: an average of 9,000 tickets per game were given away by the athletic department alone. Typically the ticket market for any sports team is going to be high with expectations at the beginning of the season—and last year most expected Michigan to win 8 or 9 games—but 13,000 were given away for the Horror II. That was because of the opponent, yes, but also a screaming bear of a market which would only get worse after the pasting at Notre Dame.
Michigan did right itself but the effects linger, and that showed in the Oregon State ticket market. Even with a Pac12 opponent, the first Harbaugh home game, and the home opener, there were still guys standing outside Crisler offering free tickets and getting no takers. A reader reported he got two tickets at $5 each from the Stadium & Main melee. You could get tickets the morning of the game for $20-$30 on the ticket resale sites, though a lot of people were still holding out for face. This is typical for a 1990s mid-September MAC opponent, not a home opener.
Losing to Utah was the big thing—losses always bring down ticket prices, and the first one does the most. I think we also overestimated how quickly the hole of 2014 could be filled in. While the tailgaters (and the M-14 traffic congestion after 8 a.m.) were back en force the sense of scarcity is taking its time to climb back. That's unfortunate for all those who got season tickets, but good news for secondary buyers.
By the way the student section did get pretty full even if it looked like the top was empty. Back in the day student tickets were easy enough to resell to people who actually plan on sitting in their seats. Students pack in with their friends lower down, and that's why you'll see empty spots at the top. You could tell when Grapentine welcomed the freshmen to the stadium and freshmen all over the student section went woo while all the upperclassmen to have lived through Brandon had their arms crossed and eyes rolled.
THE NEXT GAME
If you were looking for an opportunity to bring the whole family on a budget UNLV should be the cheapest ticket all year. If the opener on a beautiful day against a P5 opponent on Harbaugh's first home game still didn't fill, a high school team from Nevada that dresses like the Buckeyes and uses a mascot from losing side of the Civil Rights Movement is going to make a lot of fans go meh. And then there's this (via Weathertap):
When they say 50% that means a front is probably coming but they don't know when it will clear out by. Even if it turns out sunny, storms Friday night or Saturday morning will mean a lot of stay-homes. You can get four in Row 11 on the 50 yard line for $50 each right now. You can probably get two people in for free on Game Day, and a decent seat for $20/ticket on your walk to the stadium.
The seller's season became a buyer's season with Michigan's first loss, then more so as scarcity effect was undermined badly by the lackluster Oregon State fill.
Again, my process is I spend a week of tracking prices on TiqIQ (which collates all the smaller markets), Stubhub, and Craigslist (Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit), then post a price per ticket for two or more seats together:
See above. Buy only if you desire good seats/have a big group.
Already below face ($80-$100) now. This stock's a dog
M fans still driving up the market.
If M beats BYU start shopping.
State fans will drive up.
No idea how the Minnesota secondary market works now—last time I went was Metrodome, which had unlimited seats. Help?
People are dumping them in protest. Jump.
Hoosiers will dump tix when they start losing.
I was wrong before. Get 'em now while PSU sucks.
I believe in Harbaugh.
The games close at hand took a big dip, and MSU hit a low—remember the face on those start at $95 and that's not counting PSLs. By mid-October State fans will notice. If you see tickets near $120 and you really want to go to that game, jump.
I was so so so wrong about Penn State so please don't get mad at me if I'm wrong about the rest. I thought PSU had such an easy schedule they'd be romping to 9 wins by the time Michigan came to town, and their unreasonable fans would take that to mean they're good. Then Temple happened. I say buy now because they'll eventually have something to get excited about and prices were really high during a bad season when we went there last time.
I never buy from the ticket hucksters around town. They're way too good at their jobs and love to lie about bad seats. If you find yourself having to use the scalpers, don't ever buy the first tickets they show you, and catch them when you're walking FROM not TO the stadium—you'll have a better gauge of the market by that point. Whenever possible try to find another fan going to the game since they're motivated to get rid of those tickets and get in the building.
BEST DEAL RIGHT NOW (that I can find on the sponsor's site because let's support people who support us okay?)
The MSU ticket market is volatile right now. Leave a window open here (1 ticket for MSU) and you'll come across singles around $150 each here and there, and sometimes in the same section.
There’s no timetable for Jourdan Lewis’s return (though he was listed as a starter on the depth chart provided to the media today)
Chase Winovich, Ty Wheatley Jr., Mike McCray, and Wyatt Shallman are all injured, though three of those four could return to practice today.
Joe Kerridge was injured Saturday. Harbaugh said they’ll get more information on the injury today.
Redshirting Shane Morris is “a consideration.”
Tom Strobel switched to TE in the spring, then back to defense, then back to offense about a week ago. Harbaugh thinks he’ll stay on offense, but considers him a two-way player.
Jourdan [Lewis] exited the game with what was diagnosed as a concussion. Do you have an update on him, and how long do you think he’ll be out?
“I don’t know. Uh…never really gotten into the business of predicting, especially when it comes to concussions. He’ll be evaluated by the doctors.”
There’s been a lot of talk about progression from game one to game two. After you watched the film, what jumped out the most to you as far as steps taken between those two games?
“It was a positive step in a lot of areas. Biggest one was got the satisfaction of a win. Lot of hard work put in, and that will continue this week.”
Do you expect to have Jourdan on Saturday?
“Again, I’m just not in the…uh…predicting of that. Not my area.”
You mentioned Chris Wormley on Saturday as a guy you wanted to single out. He’s had kind of a breakout first couple games of the year. What’s been the big difference for him flipping the switch or whatever to get him where he is now?
“I think he’s a very talented player that’s, you know, improving and getting better every day. Very graphic on Saturday. Thought he played a tremendous game. Probably our best defensive performance was Chris Wormley.”
[After THE JUMP: The nervous system wages war on the body]