Substitution/Formation Notes: With regard to substitutions, the big one is Ambry Thomas taking over as the primary kick returner. We saw this in the second half against Purdue and, after this game and Chris Partridge’s comments this week, it seems like it’s going to hold for the foreseeable future.
MSU did some interesting things in response to the punt return team’s ability to bring pressure; it warrants further discussion after the charts.
[After THE JUMP: the ball itself is a focal point of the yardage-tracking charts, which will surprise exactly zero of you who sat outside for this game]
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FORMATION NOTES. Michigan did slide more heavily towards a four man front against a manball outfit. Michigan had 27 3-3-5 snaps; they had 35 in a four-man front, almost all of which feature Mone. Those 4-X snaps were split 15/20 between 4-2-5s featuring Hudson and 4-3-4s featuring Furbush.
They also had 3 dime snaps, one in a 3-2-6 and two in a 4-1-6.
Here is a picture.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Formation notes prove spoiler: Michigan had about 35 Mone snaps, give or take a substitution. Michigan chose to put out two of Mone, Hudson, and Furbush depending on the situation and Don Brown's whim. Mone got about 60% of the snaps; Hudson and Furbush 70%.
The rest of the defense was almost entirely static. Winovich, Hurst, Bush, McCray, Metellus, and Kinnel did not leave the field. Gary got almost all the snaps with just a few for Kemp. The cornerbacks rotated through their top three of Hill, Long, and Watson.
The defense had zero margin for error in this game and they deployed like that was the case.
[After THE JUMP: the inverse Fielding Yost: a point per drive.]
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With limited exceptions Michigan was not inclined to (or able to) force MSU out of their 4-3 over with two safeties at 8-10 yards, and so this happened the whole game. This could have been okay, but it was not okay, but that's what all the stuff below is about.
SUBSTITUTION NOTES. O'Korn the whole way at QB. OL was Cole/Bredeson/Kugler/Onwenu/Ulizio until just before the half when JBB came in, and remained. No Runyan or Ruiz this time out. TE rotation was fairly even between Bunting, Wheatley, Gentry, and McKeon, but the latter two got the bulk of the at-bats. Wheatley is still mostly a blocking option since he's got a cast on.
WR was DPJ, Crawford, and Perry with a number of McDoom and Ways snaps. Schoenle did not play. Injury, I assume. FB alternated between Hill and Poggi, as per usual, but Mason got maybe a half-dozen snaps.
RB was about half Higdon, half Evans, with Isaac filling out the remaining snaps. Isaac's fumble obviously limited his playing time.
Just talk about Mo Hurst’s game last game. Haven’t seen a lineman play that well probably in a long time.
“Well, yeah, Mo had a really good ballgame. Mo’s done some really, really good things. Obviously as a senior in big games you want to play your best and he’s been practicing that way to do that. I was happy for him. He’s capable of doing that a lot this year; he’s very explosive. The thing I’m proud of him is he’s been a good leader and he’s worked very, very hard. The guys look up to him and you want guys like that to have the reward of playing like that.”
How’s Mike Dwumfour coming along?
“Mike Dwumfour’s coming along very well. He has a lot of Mo in him. He really does. They both are very quick twitch, they’re explosive, they can run. You’ll see Mike a lot more as the season goes on. He played in this last game and I feel like we’re really starting to get with the D-line like we had before with the two-deep. They’ve worked hard in practice, and the only thing you can judge by is practice. The guys are working really hard in practice. Coach Brown does a great job of rotating them in practice like we do in-game, and they’re all starting to become that two-deep group like I want them to.”
This isn’t a criticism of Rashan, but it seems like he’s maybe a quarter step slow off the snap sometimes. Is that just because he’s playing next to a guy like Maurice Hurst?
“Well, I’d question anybody who would say Rashan’s a step slow. I bet you’d like to ask the people he’s played against if he’s a step slow. I think if anything it’s because he’s being very, very unselfish and very team-oriented and he’s knowing he’s playing the run first, and when you’re playing the run there’s a lot of times you have to react as you step as a D-lineman, and that’s what he’s doing.
“We could get all our guys to just come sprinting off the football if you wanted to but I don’t think you’d be happy with the outcome of that. I’m very proud of Rashan because he continues to try to work on his technique and continues to try to do what the defense asks him to do, and great things are going to happen because of that.”
[After THE JUMP: scouting a DeBord offense, the development of Solomon and Paye, and some good stories about Winovich]
What do you say to Devin Bush when he gets caught retaliating after something that happened? Just you still can’t do that?
“Yeah, control your emotions. I mean, that’s unacceptable no matter what happens prior or what your frustrations are. You can’t do that. You can’t hurt the team like that, and he’s going to have to deal with that. He’s a phenomenal player and teams are going to try to do stuff to antagonize him. It’s a growing process in maturity. It’s unacceptable.”
Going up against Patrick Ramsey, the new quarterback at Indiana, what challenges do you see from Indiana’s offense?
“They’re very well coached. They do some good things to put you in binds. The quarterback can run, he can throw it. You’ve got big receivers on the outside. The running backs run hard. The line, they get after it. They obviously have a tempo to their offense where they’re going to hurry-hurry you. I mean, there’s a lot of challenges there.”
I guess Michigan State sent film in of Devin. Is that a concern? Do you talk to him about things like that?
“No, we just play football. Not going to get into them sending film. The officials are going to officiate the game. We’re going to play football and tackle like we tackle and it’s to keep our head out of it, that’s what we teach. But I’m not going to get into what they’re going to decide to do after the game.”
Your thoughts on how your group played in that game?
“You’re talking linebackers?”
“Um… I mean, we didn’t so… I don’t know. I mean, we were okay. Not our best performance, but, again, didn’t do things to win the game either. Think we’ve got to continue to get better week in and week out.”
[After THE JUMP: linebackers coming on recently, DPJ’s development, and hang time oh glorious hang time]
There was a rather long twitter exchange earlier this week between BiSB and former player/regular MGoBlog reader Jon Duerr about this play, a ho-hum split zone that Michigan State swarmed. Both guys saw things in this play that somewhat characterized the Spartans’ approach this game, and why Michigan had to pass to counter it. So I thought I’d draw it up.
This play has been an effective counter to the base inside zone run all year. Rather than making the tight end block the DE lined up over him, the TE releases into a linebacker, leaving that end to get clobberated by a crossing TE or FB. Defenders who think they’re trying to defeat zone blocks to the frontside suddenly find themselves sealed in place, and linebackers who thought they were flowing to frontside gaps are just putting themselves in position to be blocked by free-releasing linemen who shouldn’t have an angle on them:
Regular zone rules are otherwise in effect. The covered linemen and the next closest uncovered linemen will try to combo the DTs then work their way to the Mike and Will linebackers. With split zone however play is designed to seal the tackles—who think they’re winning at preventing themselves from getting reached—in place and release the covered guys to the linebackers, who will naturally try to flow to the frontside of those blocks. Then—“whoops”—the linebackers are on the wrong side.
What you do with your receivers is up to you (and what your opponent is doing). The tight end’s crack block on the SAM is mirrored by the split end (X)’s attack on the Will, which mimics a mesh play. Michigan added the flanker (Z) cracking a safety rather than running off a cornerback, since the CB might take himself out of the play by playing man anyway.
Michigan State snuffed it out by playing super-aggressively against the run. They’re doing three things to blow this up.
The defensive line shifts over right about the time you’re snapping. What are you thinking about there?
“Well, we know it’s probably going to happen with the line shifting over. That was shown with the tight end, the Y [shift]. They showed it versus Iowa so we figured that the front was going to shift. With [Sorry, state secrets] the fullback’s going to block the widest and then the tackle’s going to pull to the alley and I’m going to pull around to the Mike and if I see [Oof, so close, Indiana. So close.]. So the guard’s going to block the 3-technique there and the backside guard’s going to have to try to reach that nose. Difficult block for him because I’m pulling around, but it’s been a very effective play for us this year. Got like, eight, nine yards on that. Was it Karan running the ball?”
Got 12. And yeah, it was Karan.
“Yeah, and he had a hell of a game. He runs that play really well. It was blocked pretty well. I was pretty comfortable on it.”
In that 4-3 Over look they’re giving you, did you see anything unusual out of it or pretty much what they put on film?
“They did what we expected them to do. That play worked out. Some didn’t, but that play was pretty effective against them.”
At that point it had been raining off and on for a little while. You do the dead-ball snap, right?
Is that tough in that kind of weather?
“No, I like it. I think it’s really accurate. He started doing that with Graham Glasgow when he was here and I adopted it. It’s just almost hard to have a bad snap with it, and the refs did a really good job of keeping the ball dry so I had no problems with my snaps.”
I know footwork near the line is intricately prescribed, but on a stretch like that does something else become more important technique-wise like hands?
“Yeah, definitely, we have placements on every play. The guard right there, he’s got to get his outside hand on the shoulder and the sternum so he can reach him and have the ability to strain him and pull out. For pulls on that, we know we’ve got to get two to two-and-a-half yards of depth just in case the Y lets up a little pressure on the D-end if he shoots upfield. If we don’t get two to two-and-a-half yards depth we’ll probably cut ourselves off. Even then, I got probably two or three yards depth on that and I still almost got cut off but then I came around and was able to block Chris Frey on that. That’s the key on that, then the backside it’s just running and being able to chop ‘em down on the backside.”
My next question is actually about that DE who shoots the gap there. Obviously you were kind of expecting it, but how are you able to track through traffic where you’re supposed to go. Is it tough to see or do you just have a feel for where you need to be?
“Yeah, you know where you’re going to. You know the fullback’s going to get the widest on this particular play, the tackle’s going to clean up anything in the alley, and I’m supposed to be pulling around for the Mike. [Really though, do your GAs search for this stuff or is it the SIDs?] It’s just a matter of getting around that Y-tight end, because that’s a very difficult block. Probably one of the hardest blocks in football, so just pulling around and getting your depth is key.”
[Ed. A- These are all conducted as huddles, so transcripts aren’t complete. Ellipses indicate a break in a line of questioning.]
How has [O’Korn] bounced back in the last 36 hours, whether it’s in the meeting room or meals?
“He’s bounced back his whole college career. He was a great player down in Houston and some things happened and he was forced to move on from there and he’s been waiting for his shot the past few years, so he’s been really battling his whole college career. I like that because that gives him some edge and I’m looking forward to getting this week in with him and seeing what he can do.”
What was his demeanor like after the game and yesterday preparing for Indiana?
“Well, we haven’t really prepared for Indiana yet. That’s what today’s for. Yesterday was more of an off day just to relax but he’s the same guy he is. We’re going to get back after it. We’re going to come back stronger.”
What do you think the biggest problems are on offense?
“I wouldn’t single out just any certain problems. I think football is, if not the most team game there is—11 people have to be doing 11 things correctly at a time so it’s on all of us. We all have to be operating smoothly for it to work.”
What’s been going through your mind since Saturday?
“I wanted that one badly. I wanted to get the trophy, to beat Michigan State, but it is what it is. We took one on the chin but we’ve got to get over that, 24 hour rule, and get ready for Indiana.”
[After THE JUMP: Patrick Kugler and Josh Metellus]
They said on the broadcast that Wilton had a couple broken vertebrae. Is he out for the year and can you comment on that?
“Multiple weeks. I don’t know that he’ll be out for the year.”
The vertebrae part is accurate though?
“Yeah, there’s some cracks in there. Yeah. And not a doctor, but think it’s similar to…yeah, I don’t want to say. Yes.”
After watching the film, would you have liked to have gotten the ball to Karan Higdon more? He was averaging 5.5 yards per carry. Should he have gotten the ball more, especially in the rain and the wind?
“Uh, yeah, he had—Karan played well.”
But no answer to my question?
“What do you—you want to question the play-calling? That usually is the case when something doesn’t work, so…”
But you don’t question that, how much he got the ball there or don’t want to with us?
“No. What I want to do is yeah, I want to look at the film, I want to learn from it. I’m not gonna get into questioning the play-calling.”
[SID calls on next person]
“It’s a very convenient thing, right? Play worked and hey, it was a great play because it worked. Play doesn’t work: would you wish you had done something else, had a different play call? Sure, that’s very easy to do. That’s a very—hindsight is 20/20.”
Just thought maybe there was something I was missing.
“That’s a standard question that when a play works, hey, great play call. You run a third-down draw against Florida and it works: hey, great call. You call a play that doesn’t work: would you wish you would have called a different play? That’s a very easy thing to do.”
[After THE JUMP: finding the offense’s identity, Indiana’s defensive standouts, and the final say on play-calling]