Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Michigan Museday in Doctor Rocklove

Submitted by Seth on February 14th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the I


Things of offense: Manliness, shotgun, impeccable timing, and options

Over the last few seasons we've talked a lot in this space about how shotgun formations and the spread are awesome, while anything else will steal your children. This is a myth—all offenses that score points are equal—but you could almost be forgiven for thinking that we are spread zealots when we have a tag called "i am a spread zealot no foolies." Most of the time we were saying "this is what Michigan should run right now," but to say most of the authors here haven't been partial to Oregonian offenses is an insult to your bias sensors.

Part of this is because I haven't always used the most correct terminology, or used sets and formation and personnel and philosophies as interchangeable when they're not. What we haven't said very much is talk about other offensive philosophies and why they are awesome too. What I'd like to do then is rectify some of that.

HUUUGE thank you to Tyler Sellhorn and Steve Sharik for looking over this stuff, then saying "omigod this is only like 10% of what offense is." Everything below that is correct came from them, but as you read I ask you only think of them as exasperated professors watching their theories butchered by a student presentation.

I. What's the Point of Offense?

Scoring is the point. How you get there is what we're talking about, and that's strategy. Offensive strategy comes down to a fairly simple concept: find a thing that you can beat a base defense with most of the time, then build in things around it to force the defense to defend you with a base defense. Anything can be adjusted to, but adjustments are usually unsound and thus make some other aspect easier than it should be. Where coaches disagree is on what that thing is, and whether to get so good at that as to be nigh unbeatable at it, or to get good at other things that beat base defenses too. What follows is a layman's oversimplification of offensive formations, and how they relate to offensive philosophies by a layman who needs to oversimplify it to get it.

* That link is to Chris Brown's "Why Every Team Should Apply the Constraint Theory of Offense" and you should read that.


II. Terminology

When I started trying to make formations and philosophies into the same thing, two coaches I asked about it said don't do that because personnel groups matter more. A formation is two things: personnel (how many RBs and TEs vs. receivers are there) and set (how they line up). Common backfield sets are the words you're probably most familiar with: a. I-Form, b. Split-backs, c. Ace, and d. Shotgun.

a.I-form b.PRoset


But these words are only part of the set nomenclature. "I-Form" means the RB, FB, and HB are more or less in a line (though the FB is often shifted one way or another). "Split-Backs" refers to where the RBs are lined up, whereas "Shotgun" just means where the quarterback is lined up. What you know as "Ace" is actually referring to personnel, i.e. there is just 1 RB in the backfield. In the above examples both (c.) and (d.) could be called "Ace."

"Pro Set" is a specific alignment of the wide receivers, where one side has a receiver (the "flanker") plus a tight end, and the other side has just one receiver, the "split end."

The part defensive coaches are most concerned about when they're matching is not the set but the personnel. Football coaches express personnel in numeric terms you may have heard them yell at their wards but never understood: Twelve! Twenty! Twenty-One!, i.e. 12, 20, 21. These numbers, like "43" for a 4-3 defensive alignment, are combo digits where the first refers to the number of running backs out there, and the second to how many tight ends. So "12" means there's one running back and two TEs, "21" is two RBs and a TE, "11" is one RB and one TE. A third digit in the representation is the receiver count, e.g. 104 personnel means 1 RB, 0TE, 4 WRs.

So the four examples above are a.) I-form 21 Pro, b.) Split-backs 21 Pro, c.) Ace 11, and d.) Shotgun 11.


III. Why Set Matters


DeSimone c/o DetNews | Melanie Maxwell

There are tradeoffs to how you line up your backfield, especially in the running game. A running back who starts the play behind the quarterback (a., b., or c.) will get the handoff a few yards behind the line of scrimmage with a running start in the direction you want the ball to go, but if the QB's getting a shotgun snap that handoff occurs six feet behind the line of scrimmage, and if the RB is moving it's not forward. This is a considerable disadvantage—one second after the snap a ball carrier about to hit his hole at full speed is far preferable to one at a dead stop far behind the line of scrimmage.

"Spread" has virtually lost its meaning but it's basically the opposite of bunching, the idea being to trade off some of the "I can put lots of guys at any point of attack on the line really really fast" for a measure "I can make your defenders pull apart to open up more space for my athletes to beat yours in space." I couldn't find a coach to back me up on this but I see horizontal spreading as a sliding scale between how much of the line of scrimmage in the box can you attack quickly with lots of guys (less spread) or how much of the line of scrimmage outside of the tackles can you attack quickly with one guy in space (more spread). Again, this is a tradeoff between things that are (specific talents nonwithstanding) equal.

Three of the four formations above are made to threaten this quick-strike downhill runner. Having the QB under center gives the RB in an Ace formation that head start. With multiple backs you threaten such quick attacks at multiple gaps in the line (think of two chess bishops next to each other), though when you go to 20-something personnel the defense will likely match.

I-form gets the added bonus of a fullback hitting that same hole even faster, either as a lead blocker or the main attraction. This is the key to such favorite I-form plays as SLAM! and WHAM! and BUHBUHBLAM!!! So long as the O-line can do its job the speed and power with which such an attack hits a base defense can make it good for 3 or 4 yards consistently. I've just described part of the base premise of Manball philosophy.


IV. Philosophies


There are plenty more than this, but the four concepts that seem to cover most offenses  you need to know are:

  • Manball: My bigger- and stronger- and faster-than-you-are running back and his lead blocker are going to attack any spot between the tackles so fast your defenders won't get there until we're already in your backfield. Requires: Talent across the board. An OL who can't block 1-on-1 can screw up the play; an RB who loses all momentum at the moment of impact is giving up an extra YPP.
  • Timed Passing: aka "West Coast:" A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices, living and exploiting those precious seconds when your zone defender can't be in two places at once. Requires: Quick-thinking, –seeing quarterback with strong arm and laser accuracy, WRs with great hands for catching under duress, pass-pro OLs.
  • Mesh/Read Passing: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't by having QBs and receivers read your coverage and go right to the holes. Requires: Smart QB and receivers who can quickly read a defense, receivers with speed to open up those holes, incessant drilling so that QB and WRs are "in sync" or "on the same page."
  • Option: Isolate an unblocked defender so that he's forced into a Catch 22; when he makes his decision, take the option he didn't. Requires: QB with running back skills, quicker OL, WRs who can sustain blocks.

All of these are unbeatable strategies if executed properly against a base defense. And it's important to note that none are restricted to any one formation. What was so cool about the Zone Read, which uses an option philosophy, is that it does so from the same formations NFL offenses normally use for their Timed/Read passing games, preserving all of those passing advantages for the constraint plays. At Michigan Rich Rodriguez ran a ton of QB Iso out of a shotgun spread, sending a lead blocker (at times the RB, an H-back, or a pulling guard) into the intended gap and having Denard Robinson (and Feagin before him), act as his own I-back. It's also key to remember that most offenses use many concepts, in fact most NFL offenses today, though they call themselves West Coast, all use concepts that are very Air Raid.

However the formations do have some relationship to the above philosophies. To way oversimplify, here's a matrix of base effectiveness for each common formation and the four above philosophies ("1" being "Most Effective, and "4" being "Least Effective"). Also I'm comparing the formations to each other; West Coast still works quite well out of the I-form I'll have you know.

Shotgun Spread (11, 12) I-Form (21, 20, 22, 23) Split Back (20, 21, 22) Ace (12, 13)
MANBALL 4. Can work as a changeup (e.g. the delay) against defenses keying on ZR or pass, or with a great rushing QB. 1. Multiple RBs and blockers quickly hit many points of attack with forward momentum. 2. Two RBs mean either can get the handoff and get outside the tackles quickly, but any lead-blocking plays are slow to develop. 3. Single RB hits the hole with momentum, but no lead blocker. Power is mostly a check against passing.
Timed Passing (West Coast) 3. RB can stays to help with protection and QB should have time to survey, room to step up into the pocket. But because it's a pass-heavy set the defense will be keying on it, meaning less time to throw. 4. Relies a lot on play-action, rollouts, and the running game being good enough to make opponents cheat on it. Works if D must respect PA. 2. RBs and OL are already set in pocket formation. Great formation for a good Pro-style QB/WR combo to let routes develop. Usually frees a TE or RB in the flat as an outlet. Lack of spread hurts. 1. Horiz. spreading helps, drop-back is timed with routes. PA, threat of screens, end-arounds, and pre-snap motion force D to play it honest.
Mesh/Read Passing 1. QB is immediately in position to see and throw, receivers are spread horiz and vert. However lack of running threat lets D tee off with 9-techs, etc. Most NFL offenses today are this. 4. RBs are mostly limited to flat routes that you can high-low and TE is only inside receiver, but D overplaying run should get WRs good space for curls and slants. 3. Two receiver options are RBs starting far behind the line so meshing routes is difficult. Threat of run establishes pass options. 2. Receivers can be arranged to spread horizontally or bunched to flood a zone, RB acts as center threat.
Option 3. Spread 'n Shred. It gives up ground and is slower to develop. Options btw dive and QB off-tackle; Option 3 is a pre-snap read (bubble screen). Speed option gives up the dive for Options 2 or 3. 2. Nebraska under Osborne. The triple-option is often run from this set since Option 1 (the FB dive) can happen super-quick. 1. The triple-option ("Houston Veer") was born from this set. The playside RB is the dive, and you can option off of multiple front 7 players. 4. One of your "backs" is a receiver so the way to run Triple-O is to put that guy in motion (think Denard Jet), which basically means you're converting to an I-form.

No the formations are not created equal. Some are better at running, others passing. But the thing to remember here is the rule of constraints: if you can do something well from a formation that doesn't do it well, the things that formation does do well are now available to you. Oregon's offense works so well because running so effectively from the spread means defenses have to cheat against the run against an essentially passing 6180157606_e0a358684b_zformation. Meanwhile MANBALL offenses are best if filled with great passing pieces, e.g. Henne and Braylon/Avant, because if the safeties are backpedaling away from a 21 I-formation, well yipee.

When Brian complains about DeBord it's often because his playcalling was so predictable. The crime here wasn't anything to do with Manball as a Philosophy, but in not using the pass as a constraint, and in telegraphing which side the play was going—more often than not behind Long/Kraus because the other side was Mitchell/ Ciulla/ Schilling/ Ortman/ McAvoy/ Riley/ Whatever—by shifting the fullback to that side. Defenses would do the unsound thing, and there would be zero constraint. Conversely, when I was making yards-per-attempt cases from the UFRs earlier this year it again wasn't anything wrong with Manball the Philosophy, but because the offensive personnel's strengths were the wrong strengths for that philosophy. By 2015 I'm guessing that will have reversed.

Next Museday: a grossly oversimplified matrix of Rock, Paper, Scissors for each philosophy, and the RPS counters by defenses for each, then a long discussion of which philosophy I think Borges really believes in.

2012 First Look: Offense

2012 First Look: Offense

Submitted by Brian on January 10th, 2012 at 2:33 PM



Molk, Huyge, Koger

  1. C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
  2. RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
  3. TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.

    [serious worry stops here]

  4. WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
  5. WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
  6. TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.

    [slight worry stops here]

  8. WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
  9. FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
  10. WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
  11. RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.



Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald

  1. QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
  2. LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
  3. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
  4. RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
  5. WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
  6. WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
  7. OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
  8. OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
  9. RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
  10. FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.


Barnum, Kalis, Bryant

One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.

The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:

  • Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
  • Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
  • True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
  • Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
  • Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.

Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.

Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.

Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.


Stonum being indie

Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.

If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.


Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.

Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.

The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.

Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.


Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.

With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.

This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.

Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.

It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.

Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.


Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:

Formation Pass YPA Run YPA Total YPA
I-Form 8.1 3.9 5.1
Shotgun 8.1 6.7 7.2
Ace 10.6 7.4 9.1
Denard Jet 4.0 3.3 3.4
Fritz 9.4 7.3 8.6
Total 8.3 6.1 6.9

The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.

When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.

So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…

[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]

…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.

How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.

Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.


Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.

*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]

**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]

Reforged In Fire

Reforged In Fire

Submitted by Brian on January 4th, 2012 at 3:51 PM

1/3/2012 – Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20 (OT) – 11-2, 6-2 Big Ten


Michigan got outgained better than two to one and probably squeezed the last bits of magic out of Brady Hoke's rectal horseshoe, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter until the Very Serious bullets that have no time for sentiment, the Very Serious bullets that didn't feel deeply guilty for not including Junior "Junior Megatron" Hemingway amongst the hallowed group of seniors who maybe could have sort of made Michigan itself again… except insofar as "again" is inappropriate to apply to a program that has not exactly made a habit out of winning BCS games doing so. The Very Serious Bullets were not ready to declare war on God for smiting David Molk—OF ALL PEOPLE DAVID MOLK—in the moments before the culmination of his career. And screw that. Screw a Very Serious bullet. Also logic, and reason, and causality, and all the other things that had no bearing on which team walked off the Superdome field happy.

This is what matters: Molk standing on the sideline watching the first offensive series and the feeling in his gut as he watched the last 60 minutes he'd wear the uniform evaporate. Logan Thomas saying something like "damn I'm tired" or "damn you're tired" to Ryan Van Bergen in the second half after yet another play on which a broken Van Bergen harassed—but did not sack—the brobdingnagian Tech quarterback. Mike Martin slicing his way into the backfield to put Tech into another third and long. Hemingway's hands finding the three inches of space needed for a touchdown. Confetti, the right confetti, and ugly shirts, and Chris Fowler talking to Junior Megatron, and people smiling.

What matters is that when Brendan Gibbons was asked what he thought about before the winning kick, he said "brunette girls" because Brady Hoke told him that's what he should think about.

This is not the best Michigan team ever assembled. It's not the most dominant. You know a lot of it was assembled by smoke and mirrors and Jon Falk's super-secret loose-fumble-magnet gloves. You're not eyeing that Alabama game next year and thinking "those rednecks are in for an… education. [YEAAAAAAAA]."

You, cold-eyed realist who gravitates to this place, are going to tell work colleagues who went to universities other than your own that Michigan deserved to win this game in no way whatsoever. And then your shit-eating grin is going to drive them from you.


I haven't watched the NFL in going on a decade now except in somnambulant Thanksgiving not-give-a-craps, but this holiday season happened to coincide with weekends and I was a guest without remote privileges. I caught a few last week. Amongst other exercises in vacuous non-speech, I ended up watching Aaron Rodgers make his publicist very proud after he respectfully dispatched Generic Opponent and then said things about his teammates.

The things he said were not so very different from what we usually get in college—like the game itself, public relations in the NFL is metal refined from NCAA ore—but in college things are rawer, emotions felt instead of managed. The brutal look on Danny Coale's face after his redemption was overturned is evidence enough of that.


The stakes in these games come from the stories of the players, and we get a relatively honest look at them over the course of their four years. After what must have been a crushing loss, The Key Play took to the internet not to light up coaching decisions or instant replay or VT's offensive line but to do this:

That team made me proud.

No we didn't win. I'm sure a lot of y'all are pissed about some play calls. I am. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan. More carries for Logan, especially on short yardage situations. But this wasn't the Orange Bowl last year. We didn't get our balls beat in. We didn't get throttled. We didn't get out-coached. We didn't get out-played. No one punched us in the throat... And that's why it hurts.

I have an ache in my chest right now too painful for words to describe. We came sooooooooo close, but failed. That's a strong word, but it's accurate--we failed. We came to play. We came to fucking play this game.

That comes from Coale, a guy pressed into service as a punter who was asked to make a weighty decision and failed. A guy who was a centimeter away from redeeming himself by staking Virginia Tech to a seven-point lead as tall as Everest who then had his anguish revisited time and again by ESPN as Michigan positioned themselves for the identical field goal Tech had just missed.

VT fans love Danny Coale even if they hate the way his last game played out. He is why they care, even if their memories are bittersweet. God, have we been there. Entire generations of Michigan seniors came and went without beating Ohio State.

For the first time in a long time, we don't have to eulogize. Michigan beat OSU and won a bowl BCS game for the first time since the 1999 season. Martin Van Buren was president of East Rhodesia and logic gates were chiseled onto rocks the last time a group of Michigan seniors went out like this:



Or a season ended like this:


Yeah, the game was the definition of a "yes, but…" experience. In the cold-eyed light of the offseason it will dampen expectations for next year. So what? Virginia Tech fans are thinking of Danny Coale this morning.

I'm thinking of Martin and Koger and Hemingway and Molk and Van Bergen and how there is no thought of what could have been, no thought of opportunities missed or goals fallen short of. Just that they stayed, and they made a BCS bowl, and they were champions of it. In the end, the seniors of Team 132 got what they came for. Now they will break the last link on the chain and tell those who follow they can make it anew.


Smooth. In the same fashion friend of blog Jerry Hinnen said "yes, thank you, finally" to someone dubbing Oregon's shinybits in the Rose Bowl "Destro helmets," I welcome the comparison of brunette-loving, Scott-Van-Pelt*-.38-Special-comparison-inspiring, suddenly-nails kicker Brendan Gibbons to Keith Stone:


Psyching himself up for NAILS


hangin' w/ Mister Cooper

Well done, unknown Iowa fan who knows iawolve, well done. After a season in which Gibbons has been sarcastically exhorted to put the ball through the uprights in all caps and with question marks, it is only right to break out some H tags in tribute:


Yea, and it came to pass that the season preview gave the kicker spot at least a 3 next year. Now please stop probably deserving false start penalties.

*[SVP is reminiscent of the Dan & Keith ESPN heyday. He is capable of making me enjoy an hour of Sportscenter. Like Gus Johnson and Alton Brown, he is a rare being of pure awesomeness that can exist in a lowest-common-denominator setting. SVP for president.]

Further evidence. Via BWS:


Nike shirts: making you glad your school is Adidas even if they did dress the team like the bumblebee girl from "No Rain" this year. If you thought copping a Def Leppard lyric was gauche, you did not see the Fiesta postgame.


Nike is now run by the immature cheese from Cheez-It commercials.

Stop complaining about being passed over. Mathlete:

For all the K St fans upset about the Sugar Bowl snub, Michigan won this one in honor of you, can't imagine winning 10 games like that

Kansas State did play in the Sugar Bowl. They were wearing Michigan's uniforms.

This is why you're Sparty. LeVeon Bell:

UofM proud that they had 8 home games, didn't play Wisconsin OR Penn St, AND lost to us? Yall can beat a average VA Tech team, be proud then

Sparty being Sparty. Just like this guy wearing green and white in the endzone where Gibbons nailed the winner:


I hope you enjoyed the last few years, guys.


ALL RIGHT NOW WE HAVE A TALK. Holy pants the offense. This was the third time this year Michigan's offense was just beyond terrible; they lost the other two but horseshoed themselves the Sugar Bowl.

It was imperative that Michigan establish something VT had to react to, but they never did. Their big tactical innovation for this game was a not-very-spread formation with a TE, a tailback, and Odoms in motion for a jet sweep fake. That worked on the first play of the game when Odoms got the edge and then hardly ever again. I don't understand Michigan's emphasis on running to the perimeter against a defense like VT's that thrives on getting their safeties to tackle in space.

Meanwhile, Michigan receivers got zero separation all night, allowing VT to tee off on the run with impunity. Michigan needs an athleticism upgrade there.

It's apparent Borges wants to put guys in the box instead of spreading them out, forcing the opponent to respect the horizontal aspects of the defense, and then making you tackle and fill one on one; maybe that will work against a VT when Shane Morris is throwing to LaQuon Treadwell. It did not here.

Robinson likely shares some responsibility but it's hard to tell since the Sugar Bowl shorted replays for more commercials. I did notice a late third down and medium on which Robinson tried to fit it in a nonexistent window to Koger when Gallon was breaking open underneath. But mostly it just seemed like there was never anything there. It's one thing if the opponent is beating a block. Against VT it seemed like there was always an unblocked guy fitting the run and no one was ever open. Hard to move the ball like that.

Interior DL FTW. We in the M blogosphere may have been excessively optimistic about the offense but man did we peg the other side of that matchup: VT's crappy interior line pass protected well but could not get RVB or Martin blocked to save their lives. Wilson got hacked down at the line time and again, got some yardage outside when Michigan's run support on the edges was missing. Logan Thomas was not pressured much and picked Michigan's secondary apart with lethal accuracy.

This is kind of why I am worried about next year: taking away Martin and Van Bergen is going to be huge, and the rest of the defense is short of guys who seem like certainties to be players at their level next year. I've got Ryan and Kovacs and then…

Mattison's going to earn his money next year if Michigan treads water defensively despite returning eight starters.

Holy Van Bergen. Not only did RVB play every snap, and play well, he was injured early in the game and ended up like this:

"My foot just feels like rubber,” Van Bergen said after the game. “I couldn’t plant on it or anything like that.

“It actually went down, like parallel to my chin when I was in a pile. The next time I was trying to plant, I was trying to overcompensate for it, and I put it the other way and got chopped, so my toe was coming up to like the top of my ankle.”

Can we retroactively make him a captain? I'm serious. If the Bentley doesn't list RVB as a captain I might have to hack their site so it does.

Richt'd… right? Hoke game theory bits were a mixed bag. By decision:

  • Fake FG near end of first half. Yes, it was a called fake. The problem was that a big chunk of the team didn't get the call, including Dileo's intended receiver, thus resulting in the Yakety Sex that was the deflected long-snapper reception. Hoke's verging on the territory where all go/kick situations on which there's a reasonable debate seemingly decided in favor of the kick will be expected to be fakes, thus depressing the EV of faking. At this point he's going to have to kick some dumb field goals if he's going to get that back.
  • FG at end of first half. I was okay with it. A fair chunk of the reason it's a good idea to go for it on fourth down in those situations is the crappy negative-value field position it leaves your opponent in if you fail. When the half is ending that's not a factor, and given the way that half played out I was not super confident Michigan would punch the ball in from the two.
  • Sending out the punt safe team on the fake punt. Obvious move given the situation and one that paid off when Coale pulled a Zoltan-vs-MSU miscalculation on the rugby option. If you're going to go there you should put it in the hands of your huge QB, not rely on a converted WR to make a high-pressure decision he's never made in a game before. This bullet is more about Beamer than Hoke.
  • Not calling TO in an effort to get the ball back at the end of regulation. Also okay with that. Immediate TO sees you get around 35 seconds when the ball is kicked off; given Michigan's offense to that point in the game and season-long crap kickoff returns that did not seem like it had much value. Calling TO has a slight chance of flipping the opposing coach's thinking towards going for it, or at least it might if this wasn't Frank Beamer.
  • Richt-ing it in OT. It wasn't a full-on Richt. Richt idiotically threw away two downs to attempt a 42 yard field goal with a kicker who had been 6 of 16(!!!) from 40+ that range this year. Hoke/Borges at least shaved a meaningful five yards* off the attempt and went with a guy who was at that point 11/15 on the season. Given the way Michigan's offense had been moving the ball (not at all with plenty of OH SHI— near-INTs), the equation is significantly different than when you've got Aaron Murray. While I was a little annoyed they didn't flip it out to the WR and his massive cushion, I wasn't livid at the thought process.

    Still, man… let Denard run the ball with the extra blocker in a spread formation and instructions to keep both hands on the ball. Upside is greater there.

The theme here is when your offense can't pick up two yards to save its life, old-timey decisions are correct. When the game is going to end with a score worthy of 1950, playing 1950s-era football is the move.

*[The Mathlete's preview post contains an apropos FG success graph showing a whopping 15% difference in success rate between a 42 yard field goal (around 55%) and a 37-yarder (around 70%) for an average D-I kicker, which I'd say Gibbons is. Same difference for a bad one, FWIW. It's only when you've got a Kaeding or the like that playing as conservatively as Richt did makes even the slightest amount of sense.]

The not quite catch. Someone on the twitters put it best:

RT @johnegolf: @HS_BHGP no catch, but great catch.

Here it is:

It's incomplete because the tip of the ball hits the ground and it shifts in his arms when it happens. The ball has the potential to slide through his upper arms when it impacts the ground; ground aids catch; not a catch.

VT fans and players are pissed off and I can understand why. Again, they should remove the uncertainty here and say the ball hitting the ground equals no catch until you have made the proverbial "football move." That is a bright line rule that removes the controversy from plays like this and the 49% Hemingway touchdown against Iowa and the 48% Coale TD above. If it swings the game a bit towards defense that may not be a terrible idea these days.

More on the fake FG. I thought surely the refs had missed an illegal man downfield, but it does appear that when the pass is thrown Michigan linemen are within three yards of the LOS:

Whatever the screwup was it looked like VT had that well covered. Hoke's going to have to shelve the fakes for a while.

Countess. Hoo boy was that a rough ride for him. I hope you caught that first bubble screen of the second half—after Countess let his guy get to the sideline Mallory lit him up. He got burned on a double move that Thomas overthrew, generally could not match up with the extremely talented Jarrett Boykin*, and was a problem on both outside Wilson runs and a variety of 7-8 yard bubble screens.

*[Another way in which Beamer handed this game to M was continuing to run the ball when your QB is completing 70% of his passes for almost 8 YPA. M loses if Beamer pulls the Carroll and tells his OC to call no runs in the second half.]

Bubble screens. Ain't saying nothin'.


Woolfolk took a short video in the locker room and posted it to the twitter:

It's not 90 degrees off, it's artistic.

Some pregame shots from MVictors as well. AnnArbor.com has a photo gallery.


Comment of the week from beenplumb:

Go back to last year and tell us that our defense and kicker would win us a BCS bowl and try not to get punched in the face for lying.

Diarists are too hungover to chip in just yet. Seth did excellent work on the no catch in OT, but that's on the front page so you probably know about it already.


Players. Ryan tweets some photos from the field. Roh with the dudes I promised to name my firstborn after*:


*[negotiations pending.]

Roundtree and… uh… I don't know.

Screen Shot 2012-01-04 at 12.45.36 AM[1]

This is a disturbing moment. Who is that dude?

Blog substances, local. BWS bullets:

Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen, and perhaps more importantly, the Virginia Tech offensive line, were as advertised. The interior of that offensive line is dysfunctional. Martin and Van Bergen were three yards into the backfield on basically every running play. The only reason they can pass block is that they keep retreating into Logan Thomas, at least long enough for him to zip a pass to one of his many wide receivers. I have no idea how a team with an offensive line that bad can win 11 games.

Braves and Birds:

In a way, this is how the 2011 season had to end for Michigan.  At the end of the Rich Rodriguez era, Michigan was a great offfense and then a smoking heap of wreckage.  The defense was unconscionably bad.  The special teams were barely above that level, most notably because the Wolverines could not kick a field goal.  Michigan did dumb things like not knowing that a blocked field goal is a live ball.  The turnover rate was terrible.  This year was a palate cleanser in every way.  In the end, Michigan won a game despite the offense being completely stymied.  The Wolverines won by being good on defense, very good on special teams, and smart enough to avoid the mistakes that killed their otherwise superior opponent. 

Brief bit from HSR. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets.

Blog substances, national. EDSBS:

It was a complete mess in so many ways, and in so many different ways than the other BCS games thus far. the numbers were appalling in their own unique way: Michigan had 184 yards of total offense, got doubled up by VT in terms of total production, had 12 first downs to Virginia Tech's 22, and still ended up covered in maize and blue confetti watching Junior Hemingway losing his shit gloriously when Chris Fowler asked him about the long path to getting here. This is not a very good Michigan team, but they are a very good Michigan team.

That should make sense if you've watched this team dodge bullets and narrowly avoid putting the car in the ditch on so many occasions this year, or come back against Notre Dame, or hold on despite doing almost everything they could to lose a late lead to Ohio State, or in this game scratch, claw, and somehow hold a more productive Hokies team in check until the final and inevitable kicking mistakes. This team was more fun than any other team Brady Hoke will ever have because they were not supposed to have eleven wins, and could not conceivably have piled them up like this. This team is the pound dog that saved your family from the fire. They are the college car that would not die no matter what you put in its gas tank. They are the party that came out of nowhere on a Tuesday night, and resulted in no hangovers.

Easily one of our favorite teams of 2011, and not just because we like calling Brady Hoke "Ol' Pizzafarts."

Bill Connolly breaks down the numbers:

4: Tackles for loss by Michigan's Jake Ryan. Michigan's defense played the bend-don't-break routine to perfection. They allowed five yards per play and seven trips inside their 40, but they forced five field goals and a turnover on downs at their four. Part of the reason for the success was that Ryan (must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time ... must not make Sixteen Candles reference and reveal that it is one of my favorite movies of all-time...) was always around to make a big play. Ryan, Jordan Kovacs and Desmond Morgan combined for 22.5 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, and Michigan as a whole severely limited Tech's big plays. Just force them to keep inching down the field and eventually force a fourth down.


All of that sentimental bunk about Brady Hoke returning Michigan to its meat-eating essence or whatever, well, it actually worked out that way. It worked out far beyond the expectations of the most observant pilgrims of Oosterbaanian lore. No one in August was going out on a limb for a 7-6 outfit with no defense transitioning to a new coaching staff. As collapse-prone as the Wolverines were after fast starts under Rodriguez, no one was going out on a limb for them in early November, after losses at Michigan State and Iowa seemed to leave them back at square one. Since then, Michigan is 4-0 with wins over Nebraska, Ohio State and now Virginia Tech and abides in a state of Bo-like balance. Those who stayed fended off a fourth quarter Hokie rally to complete the circle.

I enjoyed this comment after the post:


This game proved that there is no pride or character in the big ten. When the only way you can win a game is by cheating and you are proud of it . I guess no one should surprised by the level of scandal in the conference. the attitude of the only real harm in disgusting behavior is being held accountable and the ends always justify the means is as base as it gets. to be beaten on the field as thoroughly as Michigan was on the field and be proud of a win that was a gift from whomever controlled that officiating crew is banal. That kid caught the ball everyone who has seen the replay from the angles available knows it including the replay officials and all of the Michigan coaching staff. ESPN made the staement that the only thing that matters is the final score. They and their Mid east Ohio valley values may be the real problem here.

Tom Fornelli has a format that demands he put words after the bullet HOW MICHIGAN WON. He begins "This is not an easy question to answer."

Mainstream folks. Staples spends most of his article on the "yes, BUT…" aspects. Wojo:

This was beyond weird, and exhausting to decipher. The Hokies controlled play, and had an apparent 20-yard touchdown pass in overtime overruled by replay. That gave the Wolverines their shot, and they took a BCS bowl victory and improbable 11-2 record with it.

Notes from AnnArbor.com include a discussion of the in-game punting switch. Hagerup needs to get it together. Florek column in the Daily. Nesbitt on Gibbons. Meinke column.

Bowl Practice Presser Transcript 12-20-11: Al Borges

Bowl Practice Presser Transcript 12-20-11: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on December 20th, 2011 at 6:07 PM

Al Borges

from file

Have you been able to regain your focus for the bowl?

“Yeah, I think so. We’ve have five or six very spirited practices, and they haven’t been clumped together so much that the kids have gotten tired. We kind of have a philosophy with bowl practices that we’re not going to practice real long anyway, so yeah, I think they’re pretty good that way.”

You’ve talked about quarterbacks taking a year or so to be comfortable with your system. Was that last game with Denard as close as it’s going to get before next season?

“Yeah. He’s getting there. The last game -- the last couple games, really Illinois to a degree, too, other than a turnover or two … but yeah, I think he’s catching on. He’s doing pretty much what every quarterback I’ve had in the first year has done. He started a little slow. Again, I said this before, is our passing game is so different from what they’ve done. There were going to be pains because there always is. He’s starting to absorb the concepts and be able to understand what we want, and it’s showing up at the end more than it did earlier.”

Is there something specific you’re looking at with Denard in terms of development going into the bowl game?

“Same stuff as always. Fundamentals. Fundamentals and basic understanding of route structure, timing the routes, it’s always the same, and it’s always a work in progress in the first year, but we’re further -- much further now than we were when we started.”

(more after the jump)

Michigan Museday Charts Shoe's Arm

Michigan Museday Charts Shoe's Arm

Submitted by Seth on December 20th, 2011 at 8:00 AM


For those tracking Denard's passing acumen the tale has been one of major progression before 2010, followed by regression in 2011 followed by re-progression as he a.) grew more comfortable in Borges's offense, b.) played more out of the shotgun, and c.) gave his staph infection time to heal.

If you were reading the weekly previews this season you would have noticed the space for Michigan's passing game was consistently fretting about Robinson's accuracy. This would be followed by a game with some flash of the laser precision he seemed to possess at times in 2010, followed by a bomb that overshot Hemingway/Roundtree by 20 yards. This was our concern. The more intelligent announcers talked about where his shoulders and toes were at their release, and Borges pressers reiterated the footwork theory.

Then sometime around Purdue-Iowa-Illinois, said all, 2010 Denard worked his way back. I'd like to use this space to test if that was really the case.

The Hennechart you know (screens and Snackycakes have been removed):

2009 2009, All Of It 1 7 4 2 4 4 - - ? 44%
2010 Connecticut 2 9 - - 3 2 - - 2 69%
  Notre Dame 3 17 2 4 1 - 3 2 - 71%
  Michigan State 4 11 1 6 1 - - 2 2 68%
  Iowa 1 8 2 2 2 - 1 - - 64%
  Penn State 3 9 1 4 2 - 1 - - 63%
  Illinois 4 8 1 4 1 3 - - - 60%
  Purdue 2 11 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
  Wisconsin 3 12 1 2 2 2 - - - 71%
2011 W. Michigan - 5 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
  Notre Dame 6 6 1 5 5 1 1 1 - 50%
  SD State - 8 - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
  Minnesota 1 10 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
  Northwestern 4 9 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
  Michigan State 1 7 3 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
  Purdue 1 6 - 1 2 1 - 2 - 64%
  Iowa 2 21 2 7 1 - 2 2 - 70%
  Illinois 1 3 1 2 - - - 1 1 67%
  Nebraska 1 9 - 2 2 1 - 1 3 67%
  Ohio State 3 7 2 1 - 2 - - 1 77%

That's lots of numbers. The easy metric to break these down metric is Brian's Downfield Success Rating at the far right. That's Dead-Ons and Catchables divided by all the rest (marginals are excised). But a few years ago, while trying to get a handle on what we had in Forcier, a few users thought to visualize this. I try that now with Denard's career:


I centered in the middle of the marginals to show how good the very goods were and how bad the very bads got. You kind of have to look hard to see it, but there is a regression apparent. Denard seemed to level off in the Big Ten season last year to a good chunk of accurate balls, one or two bad reads, and as many inaccurate as were dead on. For a good part of this year it was that one temptress of a perfectly thrown ball, one to five bad reads, and almost as many balls to Tacopants as the vicinity of his receivers. By Ohio State, on pure downfield success rating, it was just outside the UFR-era hall of fame (on many fewer attempts):

2007 HENNE Purdue W 3 20 N/A 1 1 1 1 2 29 85.20%
2007 HENNE EMU W 4 16 N/A 1 0 1 2 1 25 83.30%
2005 HENNE Ohio St L 6 27 N/A 1 1 4 1 N/A 40 82.50%
2008 SHERIDAN Minn W 2 20 4 3 2 1 0 0 32 78.60%
2005 HENNE MSU W 4 25 N/A 1 3 3 1 N/A 37 78.40%
2011 ROBINSON Ohio St W 3 7 2 1 0 2 0 0 15 76.92%

FTR by this metric, the Michigan State game this year is 3rd all time in the hall of shame, better only than Sheridan in the Badge of Fandom Endurance game vs. Northwestern, and Threet versus Purdue. Sheridan being on both lists was one (happy) fluke between games his coaches hardly let him throw more than a screen for fear of triggering an early duck season. 2011 Denard's is the opposite: one bad game amidst a bunch that range between mediocre and okay. His games aren't in the Junior Henne/Early Forcier range; they are about on par with Big Ten Forcier as a freshman, and he's better than freshman Mallett. This is without the legs.

There was also wide variance in number of throws, partly due to game-planning, but also having a lot to do with Borges leaning somewhat more on the running game when Michigan led. Look at the paucity of passes for Michigan against Purdue and Illinois, versus huge stacks for MSU (look at their pressure metric!) and Iowa. The percentages chart below can adjust for that a bit:


Click it to embiggen. I took out a few more bad defenses to make that one if you're wondering why fewer bars. Also those marks are the rankings by FEI of that opponent's pass defense—the worst pass defense would be at the very bottom, the best at the very top. Take with a huge grain of salt since FEI's weird this year. (No way Iowa and Purdue have the same secondary, nor do I believe either are 40 spots worse than Minnesota). Anyway it shows the metric is at least defense-independent.

This one has the story we've been telling: 2010 was fairly static, while 2011 was a dropoff followed by progression in the new offense (and a stinker in a trash tornado in the middle). Denard also maybe scrambled a bit more at the end of the season (the white bars). Overall you'd almost expect the two years to be flipped, with the hard learning and scrambling a sophomore campaign and the leveling off near the peak of the previous year the work of an upperclassman. If you consider time in the system, it's more like the work of a redshirt freshman followed by a true freshman.

The reads are another thing that fixed over time (Nebraska's weekly BR looks bigger in a small sample). The % of bad robinson-michiganreads this year all told took a rather scary dip from pushing Sr. Henne to Threet-ish:

Player BR/Att DSR
HENNE 2007 6.12% 71%
ROBINSON 2010 6.67% 69%
FORCIER 2009 7.73% 70%
THREET 9.09% 55%
ROBINSON 2011 9.17% 61%
SHERIDAN 10.00% 60%
MALLETT 10.69% 51%
ROBINSON 2009 14.29% 44%

I'm ready to believe this was related to the footwork thing. If the staph infection affected him, it couldn't be more than the beating he took last year blamed for the perceived reduction in Big Ten play. There is evidence of greater pressure—the 7 categorized "PR" in the MSU game is one fewer than Brian gave for all of 2010—and all that.

How much this regression "hurt" Michigan this season can be overstated. Using all plays charted in UFR, Denard averaged 6.93 yards per play, as opposed to the 7.25 yards per play in 2010. That's not about bad defenses; against real opponents Denard's 6.55 YPA is better than his 6.30 in 2010. This is a result of the long passes against Notre Dame (10.09 YPP – which is ridiculous), but if we normalize every play longer than that to a cap of 20 yards, this is what he looks like per passing attempt (2010 schedule futzed with to match comparable games):denard-robinson

2010   2011  
Connecticut 7.48 WMU 6.57
Notre Dame 6.00 Notre Dame 7.77
Bowling Green 10.75 EMU 6.55
Penn State 6.29 SD State 5.88
Massachusetts 7.56 Minnesota 8.84
Indiana 9.00 Northwestern 10.96
Michigan State 6.10 Michigan State 3.17
Purdue 5.91 Purdue 7.14
Iowa 5.79 Iowa 4.31
Illinois 7.95 Illinois 6.64
Wisconsin 6.75 Nebraska 6.73
Ohio State ??? Ohio State 7.35

Including only non-theoretical defenses (No FCS, EMU, BG, Indiana, WMU, NW), and again, counting everything over 20 yards as 20, Denard was getting 6.47 yards per attempt last year, and got 5.96 per passing attempt this year. That's still good. And it's a good bet, with a second year fusing with Mr. Borges, the performance level he got back to from Iowa through Nebraska is conceivable for the bowl game and beyond. If he can somehow sustain what he did against Ohio State he would be inconceivable.

Funes the Manballious

Funes the Manballious

Submitted by Seth on December 1st, 2011 at 7:51 AM



"Without effort, he had learned English, French, Portuguese, Latin. I suspect, nevertheless, that he was not very capable of thought. To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details."

---Jorge Luis Borges, Funes, the Memorious

The above reference is to a short story my 11th grade English teacher (Hi Mrs. Bruton!) would be very proud I remembered. In it a fictional JL Borges speaks of conversations with a young autistic savant named Funes. Funes is so mathematical he invented his own way of counting. Then he dies of congestion of the lungs. So it goes.

The other pic is from an early M presser with Al Borges when he was asked how he would use Denard. There were contiguous details: You gotta use him. We'll think up some ways to utilize those legs. We're going to run our offense. The voice was sharp, mocking.

And through the season the thoughts of the young Borges were realized:


The Fritz.


Denard Jet.

They were ways, but not the way.

We have all moved on from the last three years. We have t-shirts and memes and a competent defense and a win over Ohio and a new spiteful way of referring to our rival. Yet until Shane Morris is zipping DOs to myriad tight ends in the flat there is going to be a Godwin's Law*-ishness about discussing the offense that best fits the offensive personnel at Michigan because we fired the guys who invented it.


* Technically it's a corollary.


First a note that advanced users can skip: I'm using formation because each formation comes with a set of strengths and weaknesses selected by the guy calling the plays. Once the ball is snapped all hell breaks loose and it's way harder to judge decisions or coaching. Of the relevant formations, the I-form is great for running because you get two backs (one usually a lead blocker) immediately moving toward the line of scrimmage and your play's chosen point of attack, but not great for passing because either you're committing two eligible receivers and precious QB time to a run fake, or you're immediately showing pass when the RBs are bailing out of the QB's drop line. The Ace is basically I-form but you swap the FB for a WR or TE. It's a compromise formation, slightly better for passing, not great at either.

Formation Plays YPA
Shotgun 259 7.2
I-Form 58 4.2
Ace 36 11.4*
Denard Jet 12 3.3
Fritz 7 9.3
Pro-Set 2 2.0
The shotgun is the best for passing because the QB starts having completed his drop sequence, but bad for running because the RB is starting way in the backfield with no momentum. Unless you can run from it, lining up in the gun is an invitation for defenses to key on the pass.

The shotgun's fundamental running flaws can be somewhat mitigated by: 1) Zone Blocking, which lets the runner scan for creases like a QB instead of hitting a certain spot ASAP, 2) Backs who can see and accelerate quickly into those gaps, 3) A run-threat QB who can keep the defense from teeing off the tailback, 4) Spreading receivers out so that their defenders are too far away to help the inside running game, and 5) Optioning and the threat thereof, e.g. Rich Rodriguez's zone read.

These are kind of very specialized things to get, and you need like three or four of them just to get shotgun running on par with the natural advantages of I-form running. If you can run out of an I against eight in the box you are indefeatable; if you can run out of a shotgun AND your running QB can pass you are indefeatable. So it's not like the way is the only way. The reason your friendly bloggers are always yelping "shotgun! shotgun!" is because by the above rationale, a team with Molk, Toussaint, and Denard, and which used to have Rodriguez himself coaching them, should be pretty awesome at running from the shotgun, which is still the best passing formation.) /tutorial.


*Yes, 11.4 YPA from the Ace. Some of the biggest plays were broken this year from that formation, along with a healthy diet of throwback screens to Gallon good for 20 yards a pop (that play also worked just as well out of the I and the Fritz, going to Smith). However you can see this was mostly a change-of-pace formation, and not a base offense. You can mentally put it with Denard Jet if you like. I believe it would not have been as effective if opponents weren't preparing for Denard in the Gun runs.


Because nobody but a small nest of holdouts is going to say "we really should get a spread guy up in here," the great hope around the Arbor-y parts this year was that Young Borges the Savant would run what worked. Did Older Borges gain this perspective that Young Borges sought? This we must answer the MGoBlog way:

Chart of formation tendencies (pass & run)

Excised: Plays when the score differential >16, 4th quarters, plays inside the M or opponent's 3 yard line.

Opponent Run% Plays Gun I-Form Ace DR Jet Fritz Pro
Western Michigan 55.6% 27 70.4% 22.2% 7.4% - - -
Notre Dame 42.9% 28 75.0% 25.0% - - - -
Eastern Michigan 68.4% 38 84.2% 7.9% 7.9% - - -
San Diego State 62.1% 29 82.8% 13.8% 3.4% - - -
Minnesota 54.5% 22 68.2% 4.5% 9.1% - 18.2% -
Northwestern 55.9% 59 76.3% 10.2% 6.8% 6.8% - -
Michigan State 39.2% 51 88.2% 11.8% - - - -
Purdue 60.0% 50 48.0% 22.0% 18.0% 4.0% 8.0% -
Iowa 56.0% 50 46.0% 28.0% 18.0% 8.0% - -
Illinois 70.0% 50 80.0% 14.0% 6.0% - - -
Nebraska 64.3% 56 83.9% 7.1% 5.4% - - 3.6%
Ohio State 70.2% 47 85.1% 4.3% 6.4% 4.3% - -
Grand Total 58.8% 507 74.0% 14.0% 7.7% 2.4% 1.6% 0.4%

The games where Michigan was 25% I-form were, as predicted, at the beginning of the season. The Fritz took its place against Minnesota and then it was all shotgun ru…

hokelol[9]Okay so it was inexplicably becoming a team that passes 60% of the time in a trash tornado against MSU and then two game-plans which look absolutely identical. Because Purdue's defensive ends were pliant this worked brilliantly against Purdue as Borges called mannish plays to the end. The thing is for some odd reason he didn't stop I-forming the Purdue game away until it was the 4th quarter of the Iowa game.

Here's a weird thing though: when I run the same numbers for '09 and '10, Rich Rod was way I-Form against Iowa as well. 20% I-form in fact, when he was 96% gun all other games combined. He did it both years, and only for Iowa. Is there some Lloyd-Ferentz pact to run substantially more I-forms versus each other every year?

Anyway it went away. Illinois looks like an intermediary step but 7 of the 8 plays from the I were during that interminable 14-point lead after the defense had established itself as 2006-ian. Following that game it almost disappeared from 1st downs (chart in excessive charting area post-jump*). It's the same story just more dramatic. Red Zone is more so, as the I-form was largely abandoned in the red zone during relevant plays of the last three games of the season:


So it is at this point where Funes the Manballious makes his impression on the young Borges, or vice versa, and the rational meets the abstract, and the result is sublime.

Denard Scores

Gregory Shamus|Getty

Get Behind Me

Get Behind Me

Submitted by Brian on November 28th, 2011 at 11:18 AM

11/26/2011 – Michigan 40, Ohio State 34 – 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten

(caption) Michigan wide receiver Martavious Odoms runs to greet the fans after the victory.   *** Michigan finally beat Ohio State 40-34 at Michigan Stadium after seven losses in a row to the Buckeyes, giving head coach Brady Hoke a victory over OSU in his first season as head coach at Michigan. The victory improves Michigan's record to 10-2.  *** Michigan (9-2) tries to avenge seven losses in a row to Ohio State when they host the Buckeyes (6-5) at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor in the annual rivalry game.   Photos taken on Friday, November 25, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )6411558277_069d0304ba_z[1]6411561033_297a6cb378_z[1]

Odoms via the Detroit News. Koger/Fitzgerald and Denard via Eric Upchurch.



Slightly more than a week ago, people better-prepared than I commemorated the fifth anniversary of Bo's death. I remember where I was, sitting in the room I was renting in a house that would be foreclosed on as Tom Orr, a Buckeye fan whose wife still worked for the TV station Bo did a show for, emailed me the things I didn't want to hear.

I had a thing I'd mostly written the night before about that year's Game, the one I did and still call Football Armageddon. It was an overdramatic thing based on a Sufjan Stevens song about the apocalypse. I wasn't sure about it. As I read it, panicked because I had to say something and what would I say, two things occurred to me. One, that the overdramatic thing was now on point. Two, that the part I hadn't written the night before about my father burning into coal—because it was impossible to—now sat there, obvious.

Ryan Van Bergen was in high school. He'd committed to Lloyd Carr months before. He was going to Michigan, fergodsakes. David Molk had ten thousand zits on his face. He was going to Michigan, too. Neither had the slightest idea.


Four years and two coaches later, the two of them sat in a room. They decided. What they decided was: that was not happening again. They decided they would stay. They loved Michigan, and they weren't going out in a disjointed mess. Their new coach reinstated an old tradition and they became captains unlike any in 40 years. They found their own way. There was no one save Brandon Graham to learn from, and there's only so much Brandon Graham can do.

I'm not really sure how or why but Denard Robinson stayed, too. It's possible Molk threatened to kill him.



In these decisions, in these moments, in these actually-kind-of-idiotic thought processes that led all of these players to stay here for a second or third coach, in a place that too easily booed them when they failed to live up to the expectations set for them, Michigan became Michigan again.



What is Michigan but a succession of players who chose the winged helmet and spent their four or five years in it trying to perform to the level previous players had? And how difficult would that be when your predecessors had either not lived up to that standard or abandoned you? Who was Ryan Van Bergen supposed to look up to?

By the time everyone else came back, Molk and Van Bergen and Martin and Koger and Woolfolk and the rest of the roster had already decided. Amongst themselves, for themselves.


This program needed that to pay off. It needed to stop feeling sorry for itself, being at war with itself, sabotaging itself, stop hopping on the radio to trash this that and the other, stop needing to be trashed on the radio for this that and the other. It needed to finally bury Bo, and move past the strife caused by his absence. Only one thing could do that: beating Ohio.

They did, and now there are legacies.

That picture is David Molk to me. Hugging his quarterback and killing a press conference. Sealing a blitzing linebacker on a second-half stretch. Piloting one of the best rushing attacks in Michigan history.

That picture is Ryan Van Bergen to me. Destroying that Indiana drive after botching the call on the line; leaving OSU with his winged helmet thrust as far in the air as his 6'6" frame would take it.

Amongst the tackiness, that was real. That's what I waited for. One story of redemption from someone who did nothing wrong. I've sneered at the "Michigan Man" concept ever since it became a cudgel to use against the wrong head coach. The idea there was anything particularly special or deathlessly loyal or kind or mature about the program's alumni was ridiculous after the way the last three years played out. But no more.


These are Michigan Men; this is their season.


After the game I loitered at my family's tailgate until the champagne was gone and then walked home. These days I make the walk to and from the game by myself. The people I used to walk with aren't around anymore.

At first this seemed lonely. I remember walking down Packard behind a father and his kid after The Horror. An elderly guy who kind of seemed stoned came out onto his elaborately flowered lawn and asked "they didn't really lose, did they?" The father nodded ruefully; the elderly guy shook his head. I remember getting body-checked into a car after last year's State game. I remember shivering the whole way after Northwestern '08.

On Saturday the sky was slate, the gunmetal November sky that goes with head coaches in shirtsleeves and sleet and the grim reconciliation with the elements via which the Big Ten footprint acknowledges both winter and mortality. Being outside, in Michigan, in late November, is usually a defiant variety of stupidity—a last taste of being outdoors before December closes in and the world becomes a thing briefly tolerated between heated areas. In the Midwest, football is to winter what spit from a condemned man is to a firing squad.

Saturday was also warm, warmer than any Ohio State game in memory. As I walked, alone, past the lurid green turf the field hockey team plays on I watched fathers play with sons. A tailgate across the tracks provided play-by-play as I passed by: a speed option the kid playing quarterback turned into a trick play by going out for a pass after he pitched. He was open; he dropped it; I filed it (CA, 3, RPS +1). The tailgate burst into sympathetic "awwws."

I kind of lost it passing behind the bleachers, just then. I came out the other side, and looked back, and saw two #16s and a #1 running around, catching and throwing, four-foot-five at best. Mottled clouds passed overhead. Two shades of gray were pushed by wind. It seemed to me like the closer, darker ones were giving way to the lighter background.

It felt like spring.




Photoset from Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

This is a great shot you might see in next year's season preview:


I think that's Brandon Moore sticking up from the crowd. Eric also got a great shot of the Avery PBU/INT. Ace took some sideline shots with his phone as well.

Other photo galleries are availabe from AnnArbor.com, the official site, Maize and Blue Nation (pregame, postgame). Mike DeSimone's epic picture DB is super-sized this week.

Molk brought his trident:

Molk Chains[1]

 MVictors assembles shots of Brady Hoke's pet viking and the grenade, also pregame.


Pregame hype video:

Give it to Old Hat Creative. Two consecutive years these have been great. Aaand JBrons provides a panorama:



brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. 14/17 for 10 YPA, 3 TDs, 0 INTs, 170 rushing yards at 6.5 YPC and two more touchdowns… uh… yeah. It was Denard Robinson's day. If he'd played like that week-in, week-out he's in New York and Andrew Luck is asking for his autograph. Alas, it was not to be.

Robinson didn't eat up passing yards with screens or long busted coverages, either. His long on the day was the 28-yarder to Dileo that CJ Barnett jumped. That's a disaster if it's even a little bit off; Denard made an NFL throw into Dileo's outstretched hands. The post TD to Hemingway was a 20-yard dart and the Odoms touchdown was thrown into space so tight I'm not even sure you could call it a "window." It was more like a keyhole.

Hypothesis: do you think Borges did something to Denard's throwing motion? That might explain his progression from inept in the nonconference schedule to decent, if limited, in the Big Ten to assassin against OSU. If Denard can extend that performance across a season… holy pants. The scrambles and draws have opened up for him the past couple weeks because his passing has been enough of a threat to demand attention.

Honorable mentions: Brady Hoke (for reasons discussed below), Al Borges, Fitzgerald Toussaint.


3: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Ohio State)
2: Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue, Nebraska)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU),  Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).

Future annoying conversations may be (unsuccessfully) pre-empted by "Ohio State 2011." On the podcast last week we talked about Hoke's natural aggression and how there would be a point in the future when it does not work out, thus spawning a week of extremely annoying conversations. This game is an uzi in the math camp's arsenal.

Hoke went for it on fourth and one on the OSU 40 in the first quarter. Hopkins got it easily and Michigan punched in a touchdown. Ohio State punted on fourth and four from the Michigan 36; Michigan moved the ball to midfield before the disastrous Hagerup non-punt set Ohio State up with the same field position they'd have had if they'd picked up the first down. Later, Fickell kicked on fourth and goal from the Michigan four down six.

I punched all these decisions into Advanced NFL Stat's fourth down calculator; it spat out that Hoke was right and Fickell wrong with a total margin of 3.2 expected points and a total shift in win percentage of 7%*. And their assumptions are based on NFL models where four yards to go is an automatic passing down; taking the game situation into account (it's spread mad college and both quarterbacks are unstoppable on the ground) it seems like much, if not all, of Michigan's final margin of victory came from the decisions the head coaches made.

How much more of a travesty is the Toussaint overturn if it puts Michigan in fourth and goal from the 25 down four? Orders of magnitude. How confident are you that Michigan wins that game without the offense ripping down the field in the fourth quarter? Not at all. Michigan does not win this game without…

*[I know you can't just add WP differences up like that but the differences are small enough that it shouldn't matter.]


Eric Upchurch

Controlled aggression. How would you characterize the first year of the Hoke era if given only two words? I don't think you could do better than sniping a couple Hoke used to describe Denard's game:

"Denard went out there as a quarterback of Michigan and went out there to help his teammates and be accountable to his teammates. He couldn't do it by himself and no one ever does, but I thought he played an aggressive, controlled football game."

Controlled aggression. From Mattison's okie blitzes that get an unblocked guy while dropping seven to Borges going for points in the fourth quarter Saturday to Hoke's decisions to go for it on fourth down to Hoke's ability to not strangle Hagerup (better man than all of us), "controlled aggression" is the story of Michigan's 2011… and its future.

I could not have been more wrong about Hoke. He's not the milquetoast win-by-not-losing sort. He's not even average. He has a gut feel that is on par with every RPG minimaxing engineer out there. Forged by the fires of MAC defenses, Hoke has learned to push when he should and pull back when he should. I would not want to play poker against him.

I know Hoke talks about toughness and physicalness even if the latter isn't really a word, and that's fine and important. It's half of the equation. The other half is putting your guys in position to take advantage of that. Hoke does that. MANBALL: pretty much not pejorative anymore.

Speaking of the Toussaint overturn. So the overturn at the end had the stadium baying for blood. Mike Pereira on that:

Why they even considered overturning this as a touchdown, I’ll never know. There were two definitive replays that the booth had to look at, and in my opinion, one showed that the ball might have been a foot short and the other one looked more like it was a clear touchdown.

This decision seemed to be based on the first angle only. Even that, to me, was not conclusive, because when the video was stopped it was not clear whether the knee was down.

Pereira also tackles the Odoms catch/recatch that got Michigan down to the six, saying it was the right call. Myself, I'm not sure why they reviewed it or why it took so long. I do wonder how you align this logic with the Junior Hemingway 49% touchdown against Iowa:

The fact the ball hit the ground does not make the pass incomplete. It becomes a question of maintaining possession. Odoms’ hands remained on the ball, and though the ball moved a bit, he did not lose possession. In order to reverse this ruling, I think you have to see the ball come out of his hands after it hit the ground.

I think ball hitting ground should be no catch unless you've already made the proverbial football move. That's clear. What we've got now is ambiguous.

And, then after the game, the fans just like, start banging their hands together. Michigan's grenade celebration caught the ire of Zach Boren:

"I lost so much respect for michigan after they won [and] threw the ball in the air acting like it was a grenade.

This is a great rivalry, and to take it to that level of disrespect is just so uncalled for. Act like you have won before [and] treat this rivalry like it should be treated."

Their family would never participate in anything so crass as celebrating amongst their teammates. They are a respectful bunch.


A stoic group of respectful people, those Borens.

[HT on the bolded zinger to MichFan1997.]

To get the bags of urine thrown at you you have to be in Columbus, though. Atmosphere skeptics will not be cowed, but this is high praise from a guy who would know:

The OSU-Michigan game today was the closest thing to a big soccer game I've ever been to. Kept thinking of USA-Mexico in Mexico.

Carey has been to USA-Mexico in Mexico, which… whoah. That is a hell of a comparison to make.

Weekly Borgeswatch. Beat up or not, that was an Ohio State defense that entered the game 16th in total defense and 12th in FEI*. Michigan rolled them. Eliminate the Hagerup disaster, a sack, and the kneeldown and Michigan averaged 6.4 YPC. Denard hit 9.8 YPA. They should have scored 44. They won that game with a functional turnover margin of –2—the Hagerup disaster is a 60-yard loss of field position and the Avery INT was superfluous—and their defense giving up 34. That's fantastic.


Borges's last three weeks have been superlative. It's still frustrating that a couple of poor gameplans cost Michigan against MSU and Iowa but Borges corrected course and lit up defenses ranging from excellent to okay the last three weeks of the season. Before the season I predicted that Michigan's YPC would drop by a yard; with the bowl game to go it's only down about a quarter of that. Passing efficiency has dropped (23rd to 39th) but YPA is actually up a couple tenths of a yard. The interceptions are the major issue, and a decent chunk of those featured wide open receivers the QBs ignored.

Some regression was expected even if Rodriguez stuck around, so the net transition cost on offense kind of seems like… zero. Fumbles have been a huge factor (last year: 29, 14 lost; this year: 17, 6 lost) and I don't think there's a whole lot of coaching in that, but at this point there's no denying Borges has kept the offense humming.

Imagine how good they could have been with bubble screens!  [kidding! srs.]

*[Although… I'm getting suspicious of that metric when it has Rutgers #1 in defense and Miami(!!!) #2 in offense. Miami hasn't gone over 20 points since beating Duke; they lost to FSU 23-19 and to BC 24-17. They beat USF 6-3 and are 73rd in total offense, 64th in scoring. There is no combination of circumstances that could make them the #2 offense in the country. FEI is failing sanity tests this year.]

BCS hootenanny. Michigan actually fell a slot in the BCS standings this week thanks to Wisconsin turning Penn State into paste. They're 16th; they need to creep up two spots* to be eligible for hypothetical Sugar Bowl against Houston. One of those is a given since the Big Ten title game loser will fall behind them. The next is likely as long as Georgia loses the SEC title game.

If Georgia doesn't things get dicey. Then you're hoping for Iowa State to beat KSU or Oklahoma State to annihilate Oklahoma to the point where disgusted voters drop them immensely. With KSU a 12 point favorite and Oklahoma State a 3.5 point favorite, neither of those things seem particularly likely. Baylor is also a threat to jump Michigan if they beat Texas—if it's close the computers will likely side with the Big 12 team. Baylor's favored by around 3. MFan_in_Ohio has a complete rooting guide.

The only scenario in which Michigan feels entirely safe is Georgia and Baylor both losing. Anything else and it's going to come down to the margins. Not getting the BCS game would be disappointing, but mostly from a program prestige point of view. The likely opponent would be better in the Citrus: Arkansas, Georgia, or South Carolina. Also, New Orleans vs Orlando is a blowout.

*[Pay no attention to the ESPN expert behind the curtain. He asserts Michigan just needs to be in the top 18 to be eligible. This is wrong:

If fewer than 10 teams are eligible for selection, then the Bowls can select as an at-large team any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible, has won at least nine regular-season games and is among the top 18 teams in the final BCS Standings,

Otherwise it's top 14.]


Eric Upchurch

Fitzkrieg* III. If Brady Hoke gets It, Fitzgerald Toussaint has It. Fitz is averaging 5.8 YPC this year and that's with a majority of his carries coming against Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State. That is tied for the 14th best YPC in a single season (100 carries minimum) since 1949 and the second-best since Biakabutuka's 1995 campaign. (Denard's 2010 beats him out at an incredible 6.6 YPC. Tyrone Wheatley's 1992 season stands alone as the best in Michigan history. Wheatley picked up 1357 yards on 185 carries—eleven more than Toussaint had this year. He averaged 7.3 YPC. Holy pants.)

Player Att Yds YPC TD Year
Tyrone Wheatley 185 1357 7.3 13 1992
Rob Lytle 221 1469 6.6 14 1976
Denard Robinson 256 1702 6.6 14 2010
Steve Smith 103 667 6.5 10 1983
Tony Boles 131 839 6.4 9 1989
Jon Vaughn 216 1364 6.3 9 1990
Tshimanga Biakabutuka 126 783 6.2 7 1994
Billy Taylor 141 864 6.1 7 1969
Gordon Bell 174 1048 6 11 1974
Jamie Morris 282 1703 6 14 1987
Tshimanga Biakabutuka 303 1818 6 12 1995
Jesse Johnson 107 634 5.9 6 1991
Harlan Huckleby 155 912 5.9 11 1976
Chuck Heater 114 666 5.8 6 1973
Leroy Hoard 130 752 5.8 11 1988
Fitzgerald Toussaint 174 1011 5.8 9 2011
Butch Woolfolk 253 1459 5.8 6 1981
Russell Davis 105 596 5.7 5 1976
Carl Ward 112 639 5.7 2 1965
Rob Lytle 140 802 5.7 2 1974

[active players bolded. also players from the last 15 years.]

Adjust that for schedule strength, and… well, Toussaint is pretty good, especially when Denard Robinson is taking a lot of attention for himself. If Michigan can find a tight end (possible) and adequately replace Huyge (likely) and Molk (er…), an Al Borges with a year of experience dealing with these guys could put up some silly numbers.

Have to keep that line healthy, though.

*[Now spelled right and everything!]

I'm just sayin'. Fitz did bust a long one on I-Form power late, but it didn't exactly go as planned:

That cuts behind something that's supposed to be a downblock. Usually that's doom, though not when you've blasted the DT five yards downfield.

With Denard and Toussaint propelling Michigan to its best running game since the Big Ten was only vaguely competitive, can we assert that running quarterbacks do work in the Big Ten and that the spread is a pretty good system for running the ball? After all was said and done, Michigan beat OSU—put up more points on OSU than they ever had—by running a shotgun centered offense that tore it up with the inverted veer. Kudos to Borges for adjusting; I hope we don't say "that was interesting" and go back to statues for the next decade.

I say recruit 'em all and let Borges sort 'em out. Mobile QBs who don't pan out can turn into Marvin McNutt; I don't think M should turn down Shane Morris but if there's a Devin or a Denard around… man, this stuff really works.

Everyone's spent the last year comparing this offense to RR's last one, and saying there's no dropoff. That's true. Now let's compare it to the Carr offenses featuring oodles of NFL draft picks. Hmmm.

Facepalmin': THE REVERSAL. Facepalm guy after the OSU game:

Face Palm Guy[1]

That's goddamn right.

Epic photobomb. Via the internets, here's Josh Garnett, Jake Long, and Eric Magnuson* plus a Heisman-level photobomber:


The wife saw this picture and said "why does Jake Long look strange" and I said "because he's next to people approximately his size."

*[Hockey fans will appreciate that I almost called him "Kevin." #hardcore]

Where are the safeties? So the disturbing thing about the game was Braxton Miller trashing the secondary. It could have been a lot worse than it was, but Miller's accuracy rating is still in the 50s so he overthrew a bunch of dudes.

No one was exempt: Floyd, Countess, Woolfolk, and Gordon each got burned (Kovacs was mostly used in the box and did not have an opportunity.) Some of that is Michigan showing a consistent one-high and Bollman exploiting that with receivers that, for the first time all year, seemed way more athletic than Michigan's secondary. Other parts were just inexplicable, like whoever the free safety was on the first touchdown sucking up on a covered Posey instead of covering the deep guy. I'll have to check the tape; I'm kind of concerned this is an '06 situation where whoops we have this huge throbbing vulnerability.

Floyd getting suckered on a double move on OSU's last drive was the worst. Have to stay over the top then and make Miller execute his way down the field.

Special K's magnum opus. Piping in "Build Me Up Buttercup" during Ohio State's final drive. Well done, you flatulent twit. Eleven Warriors:

"Sweet Caroline"? "Don’t Stop Believin’"?   Nice traditions you’ve got there.  I didnt think anything could make the car keys thing less embarrassing. I stand corrected.

Chris Grovich of BSD:

Note how lame the Big House is with Journey blaring? That's you, Penn State gameday experience. A million times over.

Apparently Hunter Lochmann openly admits he's courting casual "families of four from Grand Rapids." Court casual fans and you get casual fans. Michigan's athletic department has no understanding of how to build long-term loyalty. The concept does not occur to them.


I would like to point you to Those Who Stayed, the post-Minnesota game column, again.

Inside the Box Score:

The play of the game, or at least one of them, is not recorded in the boxscore in a meaningful way. After Hagerup’s failed 4th down conversion, osu took over at our 31. They got down to our 5 yard line, and had 1st and goal. A couple strong defensive efforts lead to 3rd down.

On the next play, according to Chris Spielman (we were never shown this,) osu tried their TD pass to Stoneburner play, the one that got him TDs on ~ half his receptions this year. Only this time, Kovacs stayed with Stoneburner, and forced Miller to keep it. Jibreel Black (Jibreel Black? Yes, Jibreel Black) kept outside leverage, wrapped up Miller and forced the FG.

At the other end of the field, we did the same thing, only their 3rd string strong safety, Storm Klein, bit on the playfake leaving Koger wide open for the TD. (It may not have been Storm Klein, but for the purposes of this narrative, I’m going with Storm Klein.)

It was Zach Domicone, and it only serves him right for being such a tool on special teams. More than once I saw him attempt to goad Michigan players into personal foul penalties, but no sale.

I am also tweaked for the option fumble when they finally ran it with Odoms in motion, which fair enough. Denard got instant pressure which made the pitch a difficult one and the corner was wide open. Hopefully they get that straightened out eventually. Also we totally need to add the Braxton Miller speed option-whoops-seeya play.

Hoke for Tomorrow:

Fitz Toussaint - Denard is light-years more effective with a true home-run threat in the backfield with him.  The read option becomes almost impossible to stop if read correctly.  Only having 2 negative yards against Ohio in 20 carries is remarkable.  It is a crime that the zebras took your TD away, go get 3 next year.

There is narrative about the point that doesn't work with a blockquote but is worth clicking through for. Also more Hagerup hilarity.



[escape pauses gifs]

And MichiganMan2424's cool story bro about meeting Fitzgerald Toussaint's mom on his way home from the game spawns other cool stories on the board.


Media, as in unwashed blog masses. Hoke pointing from Hoke Points and the AP:


MGoVideo provides a Hoke Nyan Cat:

We need one of these with a Denard head and football body, I think.

Yost references Joseph Campbell:

Michigan fans had hoped for an easy victory over Ohio State.  A blowout.  A cake walk.  But that's not how good stories are told.  Even ones written not on the page, but between the lines of a college gridiron.  For after 7* consecutive losses, the task was too important.  After three years staring into the football abyss, the final push toward the mountain top demanded it be the hardest.

The hero's journey must never be easy.

For future reference, reasonable Joseph Campbell reference == autolink.

Sap's decals. TWB bullets. MVictors bullets plus cookie photo. Maize and Go Blue recap. TTB bullets. MZone autopsy. Holding the Rope gets the word "gyre" in there, one-upping Maize and Blue Nation's "whirlwind." Smiling Kovacs hug leads The Michigan Fanatic. BWS column.

The HSR is all in my head with their theme:

If you're a Michigander, you know that winter is miserable.  As much as the first snow fall of the season might be entertaining and even maybe a little bit pretty, while snow days may be a nice respite from the daily grind, the reality is that it's cold, dark, wet, and miserable.  You stay inside, you may get seasonal affective disorder, and you wait for spring.  You may be so desperate for any sign of spring, you seize false hope, only to see the snow return with a vengeance, the darkness fall.  No matter what the calendar says, the end of winter is a feeling and you know it when it happens.

Forever Saturday leads with the Van Bergen photo above:

I was briefly concerned yesterday that I would wake up at some point and realize that it was all just a dream and Michigan had in fact not beaten Ohio State for the first time since shortly after I graduated high school. It's Sunday now. It's really over.

The words: I do not have them. I just keep telling people "Michigan beat Ohio State!" and making weird sounds that apparently are some combination of exhilaration and relief. That's all I can do after that.

The national view comes from Jacobi:

WHAT MICHIGAN WON: Michigan beat Ohio State. Wait, let's try that again: MICHIGAN BEAT OHIO STATE. The 10-win season is absolutely nice for the Wolverines, but they've been circling this game on their calendars since time immemorial, and to get a win in this rivalry after eight years of futility is a major, major accomplishment for Brady Hoke and his charges.


LOSER: Michigan's classless fans
Look at them, rushing the field and celebrating after Michigan beats a 6-6 team. Act like you've been there, guys, right? The nerve of it all!
We're kidding, of course, because the cathartic value of a win like that, erasing eight years of misery and futility hard-wired into to Michigan's identity as a football program, would be off the charts even if Ohio State were coming into the game 0-11. But we're still talking about a bowl team here in OSU, and one that gave Michigan all sorts of fits over the course of the game. You have our full blessing on this field-storming, Michigan. And if anyone says otherwise, well, haters gonna hate. Feels nice to have haters again, doesn't it?

Yes. Exactly. Boren butthurt tweets == Tears of Unfathomable Sadness. So sweet.

And Hinton:

In the context of the entire season, though, it was an exclamation point on a legitimate return to form. Unlike 2007 and 2008, the Wolverines didn't endure an embarrassing flop against a major underdog. Unlike 2009 and 2010, they didn't blow their fast start with a depressing November fade against the meat of the Big Ten slate. They were never blown out, and after their dramatic comeback to beat Notre Dame in September, none of their subsequent wins were close. Last week's evisceration of Nebraska was Michigan's best game in five years, a complete win over a real opponent, and the first unmistakable line of demarcation between Brady Hoke's first team and Rich Rodriguez's last.

Media, soon to expire variety. Dispatch, you disappoint but do not surprise:

Dispatch New[1]

You tools should have the MANBALLS to reverse your cute little counter, but since you don't have the resources to find out anything about OSU's compliance, or lack thereof, it's not a surprise you don't. You suck.


It probably was tougher and crazier than they expected, but when the Wolverines finally beat the Buckeyes 40-34 Saturday and the fans swarmed the field, one thing was clear: It's back on, mercifully and manically.

Reset the clock. Reset the rivalry. After seven straight losses and 2,926 days, Michigan ended the agony against Ohio State and took another big step back to national relevance.


Michigan had just ended an eight-year drought — it was 2,926 days, to be exact, as coach Brady Hoke's sign not-so-subtly reminded his players inside Schembechler Hall — by beating archrival Ohio State. And Michigan's senior class had just ended a perfect home season the way few, if any, of them could've imagined.

So as the students came streaming onto the field to celebrate in Michigan Stadium, and the Wolverines started running off it to do the same in their locker room, a trio of defensive linemen — Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and Will Heininger — lingered just a bit longer.


Mienke assembles facts about Denard Robinson's day:

Robinson's five touchdowns are the most by a Michigan player in one game against Ohio State.

Robinson is the first Michigan player in the modern era to score at least two rushing touchdowns and two passing touchdowns in back-to-back games, and is the first Big Ten quarterback to accomplish the feat since Iowa's Brad Branks in 2002. He had two of each against Nebraska.

More at the link.

The Daily's Tim Rohan:

Those who stay will redeem themselves.

Ryan Van Bergen stayed.

While his teammates mobbed Courtney Avery, whose interception for the Michigan football team sealed the 40-34 win over Ohio State on Saturday, Van Bergen slowly walked to the sideline, his hands on his head.

He flipped off his helmet, collapsed on the blue bench and wept.

The crowd’s roar was deafening as Jake Ryan pulled Van Bergen close, whispering in his ear. Then Craig Roh did the same. They told Van Bergen how much his leadership meant, how much of an impact he had on them.

I don't think "redeem" is the right word but goddamn. Nesbitt on Koger. Wetzel on the rivalry's restoration.

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Thing of the week. Introducing Vampire Denard, as MVictors dubbed him.


Formation notes: Michigan went heavy shotgun in this game. I've only got nine I-form snaps, two of which came in garbage time. As for how those snaps worked out… more on that later.

Michigan operated with a lot of 2-back sets in this game, from which they deployed a variety of zone runs; when they went three-wide with a TE he was usually aligned as an H-back a la Rodriguez.

Substitution notes: Nothing you don't already know. Line was Lewan/Schofield/Molk/Omameh/Huyge, WR rotation was the same as usual, Denard was knocked out when he hit his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet midway through the third, Toussaint got the bulk of the carries.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Toussaint 0
Wow, good thing I didn't see this live: the NT times the first snap of the game. Anyway: Odoms is in the slot to the short side and comes in motion at the snap; he then appears to get in a pitch relationship with Robinson. Denard hands off on a dive to Toussaint; this is a mistake with the MLB headed to the dive. NT shoots past Omameh thanks to the snap timing and has time to come all the way around to tackle at the LOS. Toussaint had no other options because of the LB, who prevents a yard or two of YAC. RPS -1 for snap jump. RUN-: Robinson(2)
M20 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 65
The big run opened by the safety overplaying Robinson. M uses Koger and an H back and shoots him to the backside of the play to get a linebacker crashing down. Denard reads the exchange and hands. There are three second level defenders left with the scrape. One drops into coverage on the snap since the slot blitz left Hemingway open and Michigan threatens passes in these situations. A second tries to blitz the backside belly gap between Omameh and Huyge; Huyge(+1) just manages to get over to slow him down. LB is coming through because he's gotten in too fast but a significant slowdown is enough. The last guy is the free safety, who is still checking Denard by the time Toussaint bursts past the LOS. With Watson(+1) releasing downfield and sealing the cornerback there is nothing but grass in front of Fitz; the other S manages to grab his shirt because all long Toussaint runs this year end with someone grabbing his shirt. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) provided the frontside crease; Toussaint(+2) saw it and hit it immediately. RPS +1. I would normally give this more since there are three guys checking Denard but this is a basic spread play Illinois should not get clunked on like this. Picture paged.
RUN+: Molk, Huyge, Toussaint(2), Schofield, Robinson(0.5), Watson RUN-:
O15 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
Denard slightly in front of the TBs, implying inside zone. Hopkins motions into a pitch relationship with Denard on the snap. This pulls both linebackers to the wide side of the field; slot guy comes in to contain and Robinson hands off. Hopkins never even looks at Denard so I don't think this is a read. Schofield(+1) kicks one DT; Molk(+1) another. Omameh(+1) comes off a momentary double to seal the SLB after he stepped the wrong way on the option fake. Lewan(+2) rides a DE five yards downfield. Toussaint hits the crease provided and hops outside... I think he gives up some yards by cutting back behind Lewan instead of just running right for the corner. RPS +1.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Schofield, Molk, Omameh RUN-:
O9 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 9
Slot LB stays with the slot this time; Illinois makes it up with a safety. They blitz a LB right into the intended hole; Smith(+2) hacks him to the ground as Robinson(+1) darts around him. Molk(+1) seals the playside DT; Schofield(+1) and Koger(+1) get downfield to wall off the last two guys. Lewan(-1) almost gets it all blown up by losing his guy; Robinson(+1) glides past that guy and into the endzone.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Smith(2), Molk, Koger, Schofield RUN-: Lewan
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 13 min 1st Q. Craig James says the last play is 'almost like a designed quarterback run'. O RLY?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois keeps the LB over the slot and sends the guy on the short side; M runs another inside zone. The linebackers slide a little to the backside since Hopkins shooting into that end threatens both a Denard keeper and a Toussaint cutback; the corner has the frontside gap. Or at least he would if Gallon(+1) didn't read his blitz and crack down on him, shoving him past the hole and helping Omameh(+0.5) out on his WLB block. With Molk(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) not doing anything too bad on their blocks Toussaint hits the open hole for a good gain.
RUN+: Gallon, Huyge(0.5), Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O46 2 3 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 1
Bubble complaint lodged. Anyway, Illinois has a corner on one side of the line with no one in his zone since the TE is offset to the WR side. He can run at this as soon as he sees the RB move away from him. He does. On the playside the optioned DE heads upfield so Robinson keeps. Omameh(+1) kicks the playside LB effectively. Cutback means the corner tackles Robinson from behind; even without that Lewan(-1) lost a downblock and Schofield(-1) couldn't get out on a linebacker. RPS -1. Picture paged.
O45 3 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 1
Twinned WRs stacked over each other; Toussaint motions outside of them. No one really goes with him; Illinois is still playing a full two deep so it's six on six in the box. Illinois charges upfield, opening up a draw; a blitzing LB seems like he's supposed to deal with that possibility. Molk(+1) shoves him past the play. Mercilus beats Huyge(-1) upfield in a flash, which wouldn't normally be a problem but the guy actually catches Robinson from behind just as it looks like he's going to burst into the secondary. He can't tackle; he does redirect Denard into the DT peeling back. Omameh(-0.5) could have done a little better here and still made this a big play. Hopkins(+1) got a good block on the last LB. RPS +1; Michigan had this for big yardage but for Mercilus being great.
RUN+: Molk, Hopkins RUN-: Huyge, Omameh(0.5)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q. Boo punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 8
It's back. This one works because there isn't even a corner anywhere near the WR on the catch since Illinois bit hard on the play action and played soft behind it. Koger(-1) whiffs his block, unfortunately, and Lewan(-1) did not adjust to that reality; meanwhile Schofield(-1) also whiffs. Hard on these guys in space but man, I think one block here is a big, big gainer. RPS +2. (CA, 3, screen)
RUN+: Gallon RUN-: Koger, Schofield, Lewan
M25 2 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson -2
I think this doesn't go anywhere like where it's supposed to go because Molk(-1) cannot react quickly enough to a blitz to prevent a linebacker from getting in past him. Both RBs are headed to the left side of the line but that's no longer an option. Instead of redirecting Toussaint bangs the blitzing LB. Robinson is now alone in some space with two Illinois players. He hesitates(-2) and tries to go back to the play he had already abandoned. If he hits it up directly he may get a yard or two. Instead he loses four; the refs inexplicably say he lost only two. Refs +1, RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk, Robinson(2)
M23 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Delayed slant Hemingway 8
Lovely little route combo here as Odoms runs a drag across the field and Koger releases deep as Hemingway just kind of hangs out at the line waiting for everyone to GTFO. Denard stares down the drag, drawing a zoning DE, and then comes off on a wide open slant for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This was explained in the Football Fundamentals diary.
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone stretch Toussaint 9
Old friend. Illinois is way undershifted on the line and Molk can release immediately; Omameh(+1) cuts the NT to the ground. Molk ends up missing the MLB but only because he's charging straight upfield; he runs right by the play. Schofield(+1) adjusts to chuck the other blitzing LB to the ground; Lewan(+1) kicks the playside DE and Toussaint(+1) zips into a gaping hole. Illini have two safeties back so they combo to hold this down. RPS +1; Illinois reacted poorly to this.
M40 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 3
Illinois slants to this play, which makes life difficult. Koger gets good push on a downblock; McColgan(+1) blows up the EMLOS; the two good blocks on this play give Toussaint enough of a lane to slam it up for a first down.
RUN+: McColgan, Koger RUN-:
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint 0
Classic Molk reach(+2) sees the NT buried in the middle of the field. With the slot LB sticking to the WR and a backside blitz from the other corner plus two deep safeties there is now one player with any hope of preventing this from breaking big. Omameh(-2) runs by the guy and he makes the tackle. RPS +1.
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 25
The WTF Zook play. Illinois wants to defend this by slanting to the right and shooting a linebacker underneath into the belly gap to tackle for loss; Molk(+2) starts releasing left, reads this play that I don't know if he's ever seen before, and rudely ejects the LB from the box. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) crease the backside DT and DE and Toussaint runs fast into a gaping cavern. RPS+2, but sort of a play where I'd like to RPS-2 Zook without giving a plus to anyone else.
RUN+: Molk(3), Schofield, Lewan, Toussaint. RUN-:
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-4 even Run Power off tackle Shaw 5
I think Michigan tips this by lining McColgan to the weak side, but whateva. Illinois blitzes the MLB to no effect. Think that's a Denard blitz. Huyge(+1) does a good job on the playside DT. There's now two Illinois players to the outside and one scraping from the inside. McColgan gets an iffy bump on the outside guys; Schofield(-1) realizes he needs to turn inside to get a scraping LB too late and lets him by. Shaw(+1) makes one hard cut upfield and runs into three arm tackles. He goes down. Did well to get yardage there and if he had a little more room could have creased this for a big gain.
RUN+: Huyge, Shaw RUN-: Schofield
O27 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 4
The backside DE starts shuffling down the line to defend the belly and Robinson(+1) pulls. This is the right read and it takes a series of unfortunate events to hold this down. Event one: shuffling DE reads the pull and manages to bang Koger upfield. Event two: NT decides before the mesh point is complete that Denard is pulling and chucks his blocker to head backside. (This is why the handoff looked so open.) Event three: Hemingway's block on the slot guy is crappy. He gets upfield and takes Koger's block; Denard has to cut behind all this. Thanks to Lewan(+1) pushing that shuffling DE past the play he does have a cutback lane that he takes to the sticks. Unfortunately he puts the ball on the turf(-3). Addressed in a picture pages.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Robinson(2), Hemingway
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
WLB blitzes right at Molk(+1); Molk picks him up and walls him off. Triple option makes the MLB run upfield. Illinois is filling hard with a safety; Roundtree(+1) cracks down on him. Michigan has adapted to this Illinois strategy well; their WRs are picking up the right guys in the secondary. Change from last week. Anyway, Toussaint is now breaking free. Roundtree's block is tough and his man gets an arm tackle attempt that slows Toussaint; Huyge's man comes off to tackle with the corner. Omameh did a good job on the DT.
RUN+: Molk, Roundtree, Omameh RUN-:
O35 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 10
Schofield(+2) gets playside of a guy who is playside of him on the snap and buries him. Toussaint(+1) reads the block of Omameh and cuts inside; Robinson follows. Omameh's block is kind of crappy but as the DT is coming off he eats Toussaint. Robinson darts by. Molk(+1) takes out the MLB. Hemingway(-1) basically whiffs his block; Denard(+1) runs through that arm tackle attempt and gets a chunk more than the first.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Robinson, Molk RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Hemingway
O25 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois now scraping down the line with that DE; I think this is actually a bad read by Denard(-1). With Odoms in the slot the corner opens up; Koger is running by the DE's block and should have any scraper DOA. (Hemingway's blocking is really an issue in this game.) Anyway, the DE should snuff this out at the LOS but inexplicably derps just as the guy with the ball runs by him. Toussaint(+1) runs through an arm tackle from that guy. That done he rides behind a great diving block from Schofield(+2) that sees the playside DT deposited five yards downfield. Half of Toussaint's plus is using this block to its fullest. Molk(+0.5) helped with a momentary double and then walled off a linebacker.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Molk(0.5) RUN-: Robinson
O18 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 8
MLB blitz; Lewan(+1) shoots him down the LOS and eliminates him. Playside DT is already slanting away; Molk and Schofield help him but not plus. Hopkins(+1) walls off the DE containing Robinson. Slot LB is in no-man's land; Toussaint(+0.5) hits it up for a quality gain. RPS +1.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Hopkins, Lewan RUN-:
O10 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
With Koger pulling around it seems like Denard has a blocker for the scrape LB and is one on one with a safety. Anyway. Handoff is made. Molk(-2) is chucked to the ground by the NT; seems like it should be defensive holding but results based charting. Omameh(+1) is still blocking this guy but he's got a two for one. Schofield(-1) falls down and allows the backside DT to flow behind this business. Toussaint(-1) still has a lane thanks to a good Huyge(+1) kick but hesitates. For what reason I don't know. Angling outside and just slamming for whatever you can get seems like 4; he gets two.
RUN+: Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Molk(2), Schofield, Toussaint
O8 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Michigan's blocking changes, possibly based on opponent alignment. Lewan(+1) kicks the DE; Koger(+1) dives inside that block and picks off an aggressive LB. Schofield(+1) comes off a double to get another LB and Toussaint dances through the blocks to get down to the four. From there it's push the pile.
RUN+: Lewan, Koger, Toussaint, Schofield RUN-:
O2 3 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Speed option Robinson 2
Omameh(+2) slashes the backside DT to the ground and that is all she wrote. Molk(+1) gets the last linebacker with a chance and Robinson(+1) reads the situation for an easy six.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
Okay, now Illinois has this down. Shuffling DE comes down the line and tackles Toussaint as he cuts behind Omameh. M is running the Odoms end-around fake; without that—with a bubble—it seems like the keeper is open. As it is I don't even know if this is an option. RPS -1.
RUN-: Robinson
M41 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE Flat Koger 2
Robinson has to dump it immediately and can only be sure Koger is safe; he hits him; a cover two corner comes up to tackle on the catch. Koger fell down anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M43 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout out Hemingway 15
Man, this rollout gets three Illini defenders running at Robinson unfettered but he does have enough time to zing a great pass into a well-covered Hemingway for the first down. Hemingway has to leap for it but it's not particularly tough catch and putting it at the height Robinson does is a good way to keep it from prying hands. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Toussaint -1, team -1)
O42 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass TE wheel Koger 40
Finally we get a derp easy play based on a team overreacting to something. M runs PA and then fakes the throwback screen. When the corner comes up hard on Gallon, Koger releases downfield and gets crazy wide open a la 2010. Denard has a touchdown... and leaves it short. To be fair, an Illinois blitz did get a guy in on Robinson, forcing him to throw off the back foot. Still... lay it a little further out here, man. (MA, 3, protection ½, team -1, RPS +3)
O2 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read dive Toussaint -3
Bandit type player actually looks like a DL; he charges hard at the LOS when Molk pops that head up. Another LB blitzes behind this. Both these guys get in free. Toussaint has no chance. RPS -2; Michigan dead on snap.
O5 2 G I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint -3
Guh, man. Michigan runs a delay on the five after passing like five times in this game. I'd rather just throw here. Illinois blitzes right into it and again gets an unlbocked LB into the backfield. Molk(-2) doubled a DT and was the primary culprit. Still not a fan of the call. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk(2)
O8 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 7
No one open, Robinson finally just runs and almost gets a huge reward for it; unfortunately he does step OOB early. Review picks up the ref error. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2)
O1 4 G Shotgun trips 2 3 0 Goal line Run Speed option Robinson -4
I do think the snap takes this from a low chance to zero chance but man... they didn't try to manball once on this series. If this is a good snap Robinson might pitch and then Toussaint either gets crushed by the guy flaring out or dives inside of him and drives the unblocked LB into the endzone. Still... when RR did this he threw two TEs on the line to give his runners more gaps to probe. RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
Illinois shifts as Molk puts his head down, sliding one LB to the line and putting another guy right over the NT. Robinson has few good options once Molk(-1) gets beaten playside. He can wait and get tackled from behind by the shifted LB or not wait and get tackled by the NT. He chooses door #2. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk
M13 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Shaw -8
W/ Illlinois in a true even set Molk cannot reach anyone. Omameh(-3) is then tossed to the ground by the playside DT, which blows up the play. Normally you can cut to one side or the other other of that guy; here Omameh fails to exist and Shaw is doomed either way. Shaw(-3) compounds matters by not cutting straight upfield and accepting his loss of a couple. Instead he bounces outside and loses eight.
RUN-: Omameh(3), Shaw(3)
M21 3 18 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Sack -- -6
Zone blitz confuses the M D line; live this looked like Huyge got destroyed but really this was just a complicated protection executed poorly. Huyge sets up to maybe block an OLB who drops off; Omameh eventually peels off Mercilus because a blitzer is coming unblocked up the middle and he does not have faith—or does not know—that Smith is about to slice the guy down. Mercilus annihilates Robinson as he delays because he isn't actually looking at the dude; ball pops up and is either recovered or intercepted. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Omameh -1, Huyge -1, Team -1) No replays show the routes, but M got killed on a zone blitz and had no obvious short options. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Starts out with the triple stack; Odoms motions to the other side of the field. Illinois ends up with just six in the box; M runs at it. DE contains; handoff. Huyge(+1) picks up the WLB's blitz and kicks him out. Omameh(+2) gets an excellent driving block on the playside DT and a sizeable hole forms. Molk(-0.5) reads another LB blitz late and can't cut his guy off; he does impede him enough that Toussaint can run through an arm tackle. He cuts past a safety that Odoms isn't blocking in the back but is walling off; the delay allows the guy containing Robinson to come back and tackle from behind.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Huyge, Toussaint RUN-: Molk(0.5)
O36 2 3 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Iso Toussaint -2
Schofield(-0.5) gives too much ground here, making the angle of attack awkward. Lewan(-1) whiffs on a linebacker as he releases downfield, which spooks Toussaint into bouncing outside despite the fact that he's still got Hopkins and will probably get something by just slamming it up. As it is his bounce is a bad idea since it's into a guy with excellent position.
RUN-: Lewan, Toussaint, Schofield(0.5), Hopkins(0.5)
O38 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch tight 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Drag Odoms 19
Part II of drag-follow, this time with the drag opening up. Illinois corner starts pointing at the Odoms motion and gets no response; he ends up having to make a hopeless march through traffic and has no shot of catching Odoms as he makes the turn upfield. Pattern got M an easy first down on a dead simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS+1)
O19 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -2
Playside end dives under Koger(-1) and gets upfield into Schofield, picking off that puller. Aggressive MLB now shoots into the gap unmolested and Toussaint has nowhere to go. Hopkins had to flare out to block the blitzing slot guy, bubble complaint etc. RPS -1.
RUN-: Koger
O21 2 12 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Pass Screen Smith Inc
Smith gets bashed as he tries to get into the pattern and Mercilus gets a free run as Lewan(-1) is suckered by a zone blitz, so Robinson doesn't have time to let this set up or find a receiver. He throws it away. (TA, 0, protection ½, Lewan -1, RPS -1)
O21 3 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout fly Odoms Inc
Guhhhhhh. Odoms runs right by a zoning corner and is wide open for a touchdown. Denard throws it on a line and zips it just past the outstretched hands of Odoms. He deflects it but no way. If Odoms isn't 5'8” it's a TD easy. Still, Robinson had this and if he puts a little more arc on it this is an easy six. (IN, 0, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(39), 14-0, 1 min 2nd Q. Michigan gets the ball back for a final play; Hail Mary not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Yakety snap -- -9
On Robinson; snap is perfect.
M33 2 19 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 11
Koger(+1) drives the playside end inside. The WLB is gone upfield to the other side of the line. Toussaint(+2) gets a crushing block on the MLB that blows him downfield; Hemingway(-2) does nothing with the slot LB. Robinson feints inside as that guy threatens to do bad things upfield; Omameh(+1) pulls into him, at which point Robinson bounces back outside and jets for the corner, stiffarming a safety.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Toussaint(2), Omameh, Koger RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M44 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout what -- Inc
Rollout just gets Robinson killed when he has to pull up since the edge is not clean, which exposes him to a free run from the backside end. Robinson pulls up and ends up chucking a ball directly at an Illinois DB, which is dropped. I have no idea what he saw; should have thrown it away. Possible this was deflected? These rollouts are more trouble than they're worth. (INX, N/A, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 10 min 3rd Q. Robinson is done for the day.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Hopkins comes around for the speed option; DE forms up so Gardner hands off. Toussaint(+1) squeezes through the backside hole between the OL and that DE. That's thanks to Schofield(+1) giving him some extra room. Schofield's guy eventually spins off to get an arm tackle attempt in; that slows Toussaint and allows a LB to come from behind. Lewan(+1) did a good job to erase the MLB on the play. RPS +1. Play design gets the gain here by optioning off the DE.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield, Lewan RUN-:
M38 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Playside DT slants away from the play into Huyge, who is essentially blocked and cannot get out on the MLB. The rest of the play goes as intended but unblocked LB in the hole means a cutback into a mess for no gain because Omameh(-2) got shoved to the ground and a DT is sitting there unblocked. RPS -1.
RUN-: Omameh(2)
M38 3 1 I-Form Big 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Eight guys in the box and a safety coming down. M doubles the playside DT; Koger(+1) pops off and gets a driving block on the MLB. Playside DE slides down; Hopkins does kick him but Schofield has to slow up significantly to get through the hole. He ends up blocking the overhang corner as Toussaint(-2) runs into two unblocked players; had to follow Schofield and Koger for the first.
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Toussaint(2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 7 min 3rd Q. Runs from the I so far: 6 for -4 yards. Illinois muffs subsquent punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint 3
Corner blitz overruns the play but the guy recovers well. Toussaint finds considerable running room at first until the DE on the edge gives it up to fill the hole; Toussaint bounces out smartly only for that blitzing corner to tackle from behind. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) got good looking blocks that weren't tested; Lewan couldn't really be blamed since the DE released in a way he had no ability to combat. The corner blitz gets the play. RPS -1.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-:
M29 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout hitch Odoms Inc
Edge acquired this time but this is going to be a five yards and immediate tackle sort of pass despite the roll. Ball winged to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout cross Hemingway 20
I think the snap is too early here; a guy is coming across the formation but ends up not even getting to the center by the snap. He ends up useless when he's supposed to be a drag route underneath, I bet. Gardner gets pressure thanks to a Smith(-1) whiff on the cut but at least he whiffs to the outside and sends Mercilus inside; Gardner manages to run through the tackle attempt. Once he does that he lobs a wobbler to Hemingway that's brought in for a good gain. (CA+, 3, protection ½, Smith -1)
M9 1 G Ace 2TE tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Pitch sweep Smith 0
Pitch formation and pitch play picture paged last week, except Hemingway(-2) runs by the playside LB, leaving him to a pulling Molk, who has no chance to get this guy shooting upfield for leverage. Hemingway then whiffs on the safety. So he blocked the wrong guy and didn't even block the guy he was trying to. Smith has to cut back behind Molk because the LB has shot out to the corner; heavily flowing MLB Molk should be blocking and safety Hemingway whiffed on combine to tackle.
RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M9 2 G Shotgun trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass Rollout drag Hemingway Inc
Blitz w/ DE flying upfield and LB coming behind it cuts off the roll and forces a quick, bad throw from Gardner. Hemingway can't haul it in; it's three yards if he does. (IN, 1, protection ½, team -1, RPS -1)
M9 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Gardner 5
Give up and kick.
Drive Notes: FG(27), 17-0, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
Playside DE contains; Koger(+1) moves out on the slot LB, who is coming down. That erases him way outside. Omameh does an okay job on the backside DT; Huyge(+1) gets a good block on the MLB, and Toussaint has a huge cutback lane... that he totally misses. Instead he runs to the wrong side of Omameh's block and turns a good gain into a crappy one.
RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Huyge RUN-: Toussaint(2)
M22 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Gardner 2 (Pen -11)
Backside DE shuffles down and Gardner pulls. Depending on Hopkins's assignment his either fine or insane, because Hopkins slams that DE. Gardner now dealing with a scraping LB and a safety shooting down and has to bounce all the way outside, where he gets a couple yards. Hopkins gets a chop block PF for his block of a technically engaged DE, but I don't really blame him since the whole point of this offense is that guy is not actually blocked. So... someone's wrong. Hopkins or Gardner? I'm guessing Gardner.
RUN-: Gardner(2)
M11 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Illinois clearly backing out into safe coverage so M runs at a six man box. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) blow out the playside DT; Schofield(-1) has a tough time with his guy and he almost blows up the play but the great work on the frontside gives him a crease; Molk pops off on a LB. Toussaint does good work to make one dash cut right upfield after clearing the arm tackle attempt from the backside DE. He's into the secondary, where everybody is. Everybody tackles him.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh RUN-: Schofield
M20 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Okie Run PA Scramble Gardner 4
A blitz off the edge gets two guys in on Gardner almost before the fake mesh point and erase any thought of a throw. Gardner manages to scramble for decent yardage. PA on which you are not blocking a guy on third and ten? Come on. (PR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 13 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint -5
Yeesh: not only does the slot LB blitz but so does the corner. Both of these guys are on the playside. Slot LB charges upfield; Hopkins(+1) manages to shove him past the play and Toussaint hops past him. With the playside DE sealed and Huyge(+1) out on the playside LB this is opening up but for that blitz; Hemingway(-1) again is watching his guy make a tackle after barely or not touching him; quicker reaction here maybe gets Toussaint a bounce. As it is he almost does before getting chopped down by an ankle tackle. RPS -2.
RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Hemingway
O27 2 15 Ace 4-wide tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Whatever ??? Inc
Fake toss; WLB is blitzing upfield and is instantly in on Gardner. He chucks an ugly dangerous duck off his back foot that lands yards in front of Hemingway. He might have been open. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
O27 3 15 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Dime even Pass Dig Odoms 27
Three man rush gives Gardner all day. He gets a crease and steps up into the forever pocket, then hits a wide open Odoms breaking into the endzone. Yeesh, Zook. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2, though again this is more of an RPS -2 for Illinois than anything else.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 10 min 4th Q. Game is over when M gets the ball back but for posterity...
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 13
This is all RB. Lewan(-1) downblock is beaten by a slant; that guy cuts off the pulling Omameh. Toussaint has no crease and if he's going anywhere it's into the arms of an unblocked LB. Backside blitz should have this dead on the cutback but Illinois has two guys go after Gardner's waggle, allowing Toussaint(+2) to cut back hard and fast into the secondary. No RPSes now but this is not something that should have worked.
RUN+: Toussaint(2) RUN-: Lewan
O27 1 10 I-Form big 2 2 1 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 27
Everyone runs right at this and misses; Molk being a culprit. This is just here because Toussaint(+3) did silly things.
RUN+: Toussaint(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-14, 2 min 4th Q. M gets the ball back and kneels. EOG.


Illinois gives up 280 yards a game and hasn't had anyone score more than 21 against them save Northwestern; Michigan had more yards in the first half than OSU and PSU did in their entire games against the Illini; they spent most of the second half trying to strangle the game with their backup quarterback; one extra yard and one field goal pushed a little further inside and they put up 41.

Be happy.


Bothersome. Less bothersome than not moving the ball at all, like Iowa and MSU.


I hate the pro-style-with-Denard-and-Zoney-McOffensiveline, not the man. Are you Joe Paterno again?


Would you like to scream—



[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]

2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
Minnesota '11 1 13(3) 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
Northwestern '11 4 12(3) 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
MSU '11 1 8(1) 4(1) 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
Purdue '11 1 7(1) - 1 2 1 - 2 - 66%
Iowa '11 2 21 2 7 1 - 3(1) 2 - 69%
Illinois '11 1 4(1) 1 2 - 1(1) - 1 1 66%

Gardner had two CAs, three INs, and a PR.

Denard's DSR is an incredibly small sample size—4/6—so read as little into that as possible. His two bad throws were the "argh, why aren't you six feet tall, Odoms" overthrow and his last insane pass that was so off and wobbly it seems like it must have slipped or been deflected. He did have an impressive throw to Hemingway:

He gets an INC for his passing in this game, but if you look at his season trend he does seem to be getting better. The last three games he's been hovering in the md-60s, which is acceptable. The MSU debacle is a heavily mitigated outlier in a decent Big Ten season.

My problem with Denard's game was not in the air, but on the ground:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 8 5 3 Had some mistakes in space.
Barnum - - - DNP
Molk 14 7.5 6.5 Off to roaring start and then hit a wall on the goal line stand.
Omameh 14 7.5 6.5 Had a really good day except when getting tossed to the ground on two plays that lost a ton of yards.
Huyge 7 1 6 Very solid day against Mercilus.
Schofield 11.5 5.5 6 Doing well, solid starter.
Mealer - - - DNP
Watson 1 - 1
Koger 6 2 4 Back to the usual after fun with Purdue DEs.
TOTAL 61.5 28.5 68% A solid B day from the line against a good D.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 6.5 8 -1.5 Fumble, bad reads, hesitancy.
Gardner - 2 -2 Blew one read.
Toussaint 18.5 6.5 12 +5 on the meaningless last drive but still a quality day both running and blocking.
Shaw 1 3 -2 Turned in the ultimate Shaw run, at least.
Smith 2 - 2 Supplanted. M may have tipped screen by throwing it to him.
Hopkins 2 0.5 1.5 Marginalized in spread.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 30 20 10 Good day from Toussaint; everyone else bler.
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway - 7 -7 Huge, huge problem. I hate having him in the slot.
Odoms - - -  
Gallon 2 - -  
Roundtree 1 - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 3 7 -4 Paging Floridian mountain goats to slot STAT
Player + - T Notes
Protection 14 13 52% Team 8, Omameh 1, Toussaint 1, Huyge 1, Lewan 1, Smith 1. NO MORE ROLLOUTS
RPS 18 20 -2 +8 before goal line stand; that was  big chunk and then Borges was just bleeding the game out w/ Gardner mostly. That'll happen.

So… yeah. Denard being negative on the ground is a recipe for bad things happening. A chunk of that is the fumble, but even if you take that out he barely edges above even. He danced too much and gave up yardage, he missed reads on the zone, and he didn't have any runs on which he could truly deploy his speed. That is part of Toussaint's day, obviously, but Denard's trend on the ground is now in the land of cocked eyebrow.

When the playside LB is doing this…


…and you're handing off you have messed up. That kind of thing is getting distressingly common.

Good god, I've never even seen a relevant wide receiver. What happened?

I don't know, man, but the difference between Hemingway and the little headbutting goats from Florida is stark. Having Hemingway in the slot against an opponent that loves to bring a linebacker off the corner is asking for trouble, and then there were plays that were just bad. Michigan ran that same pitch sweep I picture paged from the Iowa game to Hemingway's side; instead of blocking the playside LB Hemingway ran right to the safety. And then he whiffed. Molk had no shot at cutting off that LB when he ran free and Smith had to cut back into bodies. And then there was this:


I get that you might not be able to seal the guy to the outside but at least shove the dude somewhere. Like… touching him would be a start.

Meanwhile, Michigan's throwing go routes into the endzone at Odoms. I get moving Hemingway around a little bit but let Odoms headbutt people and catch touchdowns from the slot. Needs moar tiny bastards.

Barely relevant WR chart?

And here's the barely relevant WR chart.

[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - 2/2 10 0/2 8/9 18/21
Roundtree - - - - 10 1/5 5/7 9/10
Odoms 2 - - 2/2 4 - - 2/2
Grady - - - - 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -


- 1/1 7 - 2/2 21/21
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/2 2/3 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
Koger - - - 1/1 6 1/3 3/4 10/11
Moore - - - - 2 - 1/1 -
Toussaint - - - - - - - 2/3
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - - - 4 0/2 1/1 7/8
Hopkins - - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

The only thing to say to this is "whatever."

I thought running Denard on the goal line was instant touchdown, smart guy?

It's a good idea when you're in a power set… maybe not so much when you've only got five blockers against seven guys. When RR wanted to power it into the endzone he would put two TEs on the line without fail, which spread the defense further out—harder to get around the edge—and gave Denard more gaps in which to cut. Heck, Borges did it:

That is tough to stop with everyone spread out and one guy going down enough to give Denard a crease. Going four wide is asking for trouble. Think of it like a power play for the defense, which always has one extra guy to tackle: would you rather be killing a 5 on 4 or 4 on 3? (Note that this equation is reversed when there's a lot of field left and two deep safeties are back: then you've got the power play.)

The snap didn't help either, obviously.

Is it just me or do you also want to cry into the pillow when they come out under center?

It is not just you. We've been tracking the efficacy of Michigan's running game from the shotgun versus under center all year. It's been a blowout in favor of shotgun most weeks, but never so much as it was on Saturday. Michigan ran ten times from under center and collected 39 yards.

It's even worse than that sounds. 40 of those yards—ie, more than all of them—came on the two Toussaint runs after the Illinois onside kick that I only charted to demonstrate how good of a back the kid is. On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass. At no point did Michigan open up the hole it wanted to from the I.

Shotgun runs averaged 5.8 yards a pop. If you take out the 65-yarder they get hacked down to 3.9… so… yeah. Take out the best run of the day and Shotgun Michigan had an average outing against the Illinois defense. Leave it in and it's the best performance of the year by over a half-yard. Under Center Michigan was two garbage time carries away for being negative on the day.

Those are the numbers.



Anecdotally, it felt like all of Michigan's under-center runs were doomed from the start and a lot of  Michigan's unsuccessful shotgun runs were close to breaking long. This Toussaint zero-yarder is one easy Omameh block from being a big gain:

Guhhhhhhhhh. Omameh gets even a weak shove on the linebacker he's way playside of and Toussaint is shooting at the safeties with a lead blocker. That's thanks to the Classic Molk Reach Block, something that just about kills any attempt to defend a stretch play and a thing I hope we see more of as the season concludes.

On another Michigan caught a double A gap blitz and ran right by it.

That's playing with fire, though given the different alignments of the QB in stretch versus inside zone alert opponents might pick up on it.

To be fair, it didn't work consistently in this game. There was a nine-yarder, the missed opportunity above, the WTF Shaw play, and a late stretch that lost a chunk of yards because M was in murder-the-clock mode and Illinois blitzed not just the slot but the corner from the playside. The numbers don't suggest using it more. But I'm telling you: with its sparse use so far this season there is a big stretch play in the near future if Michigan just runs it 6-8 more times.

So they ran the stretch. Did that feel like an RR-esque gameplan?

Moreso than any we've seen so far. The TE-as-H-back was straight out of the RR playbook and allowed Koger to attack both the frontside and backside of the line depending on what was called for. The stretch came back, and Michigan used the belly to good effect. They attacked various places along the line and didn't expose themselves to the monotonous repetition of the blitz.

Will we see something similar this weekend? Who knows. Borges changes like the wind.

Is the offensive line actually any good?

Molk is very good, Schofield has been consistently above average, Lewan is solid in the run game and people don't even bother testing him on passes. Huyge… variable. Not good in pass protection. And Omameh clearly has size and strength issues even if he had a good game this time out. Watch Akeem Spence toss him to the ground on the Shaw BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEDERP play:

That is a big no-no and it happened twice. He also biffed that block on the coulda-been stretch.

Despite all that I had him +7.5 on the day, so he's not just a liability. It's just that when he does something wrong it's very wrong.


Toussaint and the interior offensive line.


Hemingway's blocking was terrible. Michigan needs more from Denard on the ground if they're going to win the next couple weeks.

What does it mean for Nebraska and beyond?

Do you think this will be the final straw for playing from under center? I don't, either, but there's no way either of the last two games sees play distributions like the Iowa game. Probably. We'll get the usual dosage of POWER that has no POWER and is actually kind of like A GAP ADULT CONTEMPORARY. Hopefully it will be on second and third and one and actually pick up yards, unlike this game.

But anyway: this is a shotgun running team still, and seems to be doing some more shotgun running things. The triple option stuff was clearly a decoy in this game, which is why they dumped it after it worked a couple times. If I know Borges that means an actual triple option is coming. That plus a little more stretch and maybe a return to that sprint counter once the stretch is established could break some stuff open. Look for misdirection against Nebraska—Lavonte David is fast but if you get fast running the wrong way you are in business.

We didn't learn anything about the passing game on Saturday; you might be able to put a grain or two in the "Denard isn't as bad as as it seemed early in the season" pile, but that's it.

Down By The Old Mill Stream

Down By The Old Mill Stream

Submitted by Brian on November 14th, 2011 at 12:00 PM

11/12/2011 – Michigan 31, Illinois 14 – 8-2, 4-2 Big Ten



In a distant place a long time ago they played a football game in a dark and remote land. The opposing team's coach was a confused person who thought he had a pretty good team. Michigan scored a couple touchdowns but couldn't put the game away; at some point during the second half the confused coach's confused offense finally put together a touchdown drive to narrow the game, and I felt… irritated. Annoyed. Peeved.

This was a strange feeling to have about a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already, because every damn game Michigan lost against teams not named Ohio State could be described as "a suddenly close football game Michigan should have put away already." Despite this I was not casting about for pearls to clutch or pre-perforating my garments for easy rending when the time came. I was worried about the stats. This was odd.

What followed:

Then: near interception, four-yard out, incomplete, incomplete, ballgame. Instead of a roar there was but a flat, damp squeak as Michigan landed the final clubbing blows and emerged from the lion's den with a rug in tow. There are no arguments about this game. No two seconds, no questionable heels or holding calls or other fantasies about if this or that. There is no "if". Michigan has still not been threatened this year. No opponent has moved the ball except when fortunate or permitted to. Its dominance is unquestioned by the foes it leaves battered in its wake. Sometimes -- and I know this is hard to believe -- seven points is a very large lead indeed.

Yeah, that game.


Of all the magical things that Greg Mattison has done since arriving in Ann Arbor for a second tour of duty, making me think about the 2006 Michigan defense a year after… that is hard to top.

2006 happened a century ago. I looked it up. The top songs were "I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad)" and "Down By The Old Mill Stream." Long-distance communication was conducted by banging rocks together and hoping to startle a pigeon in a way that communicated "happy birthday" instead of "everyone is dead of typhoid again lol." Football games were played between competing sawmills and textile factories; a strict limit of two cattle per offensive line was still controversial. People in Alabama were accused of over-bovining. Craggy men who remembered the invention of writing like Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, and Lloyd Carr roamed the sidelines. People did not reflexively talk about real good times.

2006 was a long time ago. The ten-volume history of the intervening century is a narrative of relentless, soul-crushing decline on defense.


This summer the UM Club of Greater Detroit invited me to their kickoff dinner. There I sat on a roundtable with Greg Dooley of MVictors and Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News as various guys with nametags peppered us with questions.

These things always have a pattern: I start out nervous because I'm just this guy, really, and there's a chance someone asks "why should we listen to you?" Since my response is necessarily "I have this blog… it's on the internet!" it's not a question I look forward to. These concerns are a little more pressing when the room is full of people who look like they still get newspapers home-delivered.

But the questions remain hypothetical because I start talking about these things and it turns out that doing what I do on a weekly basis fills your head with esoteric knowledge about all things. Denard Robinson was 84th of 100 qualifying quarterbacks last year in interception percentage. That sort of thing is just in my head, ready to  be dispensed. After my head pops open and I start depositing THE KNOWLEDGE like the world's least appetizing Pez dispenser, there is a groove of confidence.

I mention it because there was one question from an elderly gentleman with a pleading edge I still remember. It was about the defense and why anyone would think it would get better. I was already on the record that this was an eight or nine win team; Dooley and Chengelis were pessimists. They cocked their heads and passed the mic.

I said that if you had only watched every play from the last three years over and over you would know. You would not know but feel the mass incoherence, the week-to-week changes, the insane personnel decisions (Demens, Roh as a LB, moving Woolfolk to corner in 2009, Cam Gordon as FS). That if you felt this thing having a guy the Ravens had coordinating their defense could only result in instant, massive improvement. At the very least they would have a plan*.

Though I believed it, as I was saying it it seemed like a reckless thing to tell people. If…that, or anything like it, happens again people will remember someone told them it was going to be all right, and then it wasn't. I hoped I wasn't telling them about the rabbits.


This was the point last year where everyone wrote off JT Floyd. It was the logical thing to do.


Twelve months later Floyd is holding AJ Jenkins to five yards a target and jumping a short route for a shoulda-been pick six for the first time since… God. A century ago. Time is working funny again. Greg Mattison has a phonebooth time machine he sent the secondary back to Charles Woodson's childhood in; they have emerged with ZZ Top beards, children, and skills.

This is a foundation for the future. Wrapping this motley crew of walk-ons, freshmen, people who were totally incompetent last year, Mike Martin, and Ryan Van Bergen into a top 20 defense is a QED achievement no matter the quality of the opposition. The level of coaching required to go from that to this is a constant Michigan can build its program on.

Last year the quality of the opposition didn't matter. Matt McGloin had the above to throw at, and he did. This year Michigan has been average at worst after Mattison figured out he didn't have Ed Reed. Some days they stroll off the field and if you squint you can just convince yourself the last century never happened. You can envision a future where Michigan isn't wondering about its place in the world.


*[Then I told everybody that Denard Robinson's turnover rate would drop like a stone. One out of two isn't bad. ]


There's also the Illinois POV. In their world Illinois wins 14-0 in a thrilling game lasting exactly 1:30. Parkinggod highlights miss the first drive thanks to ESPN sticking with the PSU press conference, but prove that Michigan's everything-is-wonderful POV still goes ten minutes.

Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is fabulous.


via the Daily's Marissa McClain and a mysterious man named Adam Glanzman

Melanie Maxwell has the usual photogallery at AnnArbor.com as well. DetNews gallery.


Borgeswatch. 95% thumbs up. As it transpired I was frustrated with the lack of play-action after Illinois started selling out on the run game, but I forgot about the wind. I much prefer that to being reminded about it every 40 seconds like we were against Michigan State. I wonder if Scheehaase's propensity to wing it wide on Jenkins out cuts was due to the wind. While he's not the most accurate guy in the world he seemed particularly off Saturday.

It may have taken two harsh wakeup calls but at least Borges got the message. Run/pass breakdowns in the three windtastic road games against teams with secondaries:

  • MSU: 39 passes, 28 runs
  • Iowa: 21 passes, 28 runs*
  • Illinois: 16 passes, 47 runs

The Gardner package also went away after its momentum-killing outing last week.

A large chunk of getting that play distribution was getting the running game to work. I don't know all of how or why that happened yet, but giving Toussaint the ball 27 times instead of two is part of it; using enough outside runs to get creases on the inside zone is part of it; making Denard a threat is part of it.

While Denard only managed 3.5 YPC on his 11 attempts it's hard to imagine what turned the #15 rush defense** into Swiss cheese if it wasn't Illinois paying too much attention to 16. This was clear on the first drive of the game. Watch the free safety who would be tackling Toussaint after ten yards but for one Denard Robinson:

By the time that dude realizes Denard does not have the ball Toussaint is gone. A similar screwup does not happen if Michigan is operating from under center.

Since I'm usually at games I'm not often able to participate in the internet zeitgeist to the extent I was the past couple weeks. Last week I was in line with everyone being real mad. This week I was surprised by the amount of heat Borges was taking for stuff that wasn't his fault at all. When Denard fumbles and Michigan misses a field goal or Huyge gets destroyed by Mercilus and Denard doesn't see the guy coming right at him, that's not on the OC. The reasons Michigan didn't score touchdowns in this game seemed to be out of Borges's hands.

*[Not counting the final three drives. I did move the two sacks, the fumble, and one Gardner scramble. I made similar adjustment to the other two games; they may be off by one or two but you get the idea.]

**[15-ish. Illinois's sacks distort that. Still a very good unit.]

Fourth and one. The 5% thumbs down, very down, was the fourth and one from the Illinois one yard line. If you're not willing to throw it when you spread them out and they don't spread out…


…I don't think you can do the wacky thing. Those guys to the top of the screen are late arriving and have no idea what they're doing. If you're going to swinging-gate them like this you've got to be able to take advantage of what they give you.

That fourth and one continues a couple trends: speed option and Borges getting cute. I wouldn't have minded it if they had lined up in one of those massive Tebow sets and tried something like this, but going without so much as a tight end in this spot is asking for trouble. The snap didn't help but I don't think it mattered much.

The immediate aftermath. Hoke calmly pointed his defense onto the field:


"Meat. Thataway."

You are experiencing an unusually calm sensation. Which reminds me:

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointEPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK. I'm terribly sorry that I inaugurated this thing and then immediately forgot about it. It returns this week because of one man being so ridiculous I thought I should have some sort of special award… oh wait I do.

Your Illinois winner: JT Floyd. AJ Jenkins may have gotten his requisite eight catches for 100 yards but Scheelhaase had to work for it. At one point they showed some Jenkins stats and noted that he had five catches… and fourteen targets. According to Adam Jacobi he ended with eight on 20. That's 5 YPA throwing to a guy who may be the best WR in the Big Ten.

Even that undersells Floyd's day. The deep ball that took Jenkins's stats from mediocre to decent was zone coverage in the middle of the field Floyd was not directly responsible for (and it came after Scheelhaase was given all day). When involved Floyd was all over double moves and jumped a third and short pass for the interception that sealed the game with a little help from Gardner and Odoms.

Even Magnus thought he was "okay for once." WHAT MORE CAN ONE MAN DO?

Honorable mentions go to Al Borges (for his gameplan and getting in on the pointing his ownself), David Molk, and Fitzgerald Toussaint.


  • Michigan State: Ryan Van Bergen, for being the only person to have a good day. HM: None.
  • Purdue: Fitzgerald Toussaint, for making the tailback spot a plus for the first time in forever. HM: Mike Martin.
  • Iowa: Mike Martin, for being GET IN THE CAR Mike Martin. HM: David Molk.


2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota), Ryan Van Bergen (MSU), Fitzgerald Toussaint (Purdue), Mike Martin (Iowa), JT Floyd(Illinois).

Weekly bubble bitchin'. Only Ron Zook could send his team out with two deep safeties and three guys tight over WRs against a team that hasn't run a bubble all year:

That's nuts. That's one reason you have that play in the playbook. If they take it away by alignment they've opened something else up. Usually not by putting five guys in the box—that's a Zook special.

What I really meant by posting "We Are ND" after Hoke hiring. I meant that we'd ride a soft schedule to an iffy BCS berth and get our faces crushed. If Michigan wins out—obviously a big if—that could happen. A 10-2 Michigan team will be second in the Big Ten pecking order since everyone other than the champ will have three losses.

Michigan will then be in competition with…

  1. Boise/Houston. Houston's 11th in the BCS standings and will get an autobid if they remain in the top 12.  Boise's actually a spot in front of the Cougars still. One or the other will get a bid. All they have to do is finish in the top 16 since the Big East winner is going to be below them.
  2. Alabama/LSU/Arkansas. The SEC will get a second bid.
  3. Stanford/Oregon. If those two win out Stanford will probably get a bid.
  4. ACC runner-up: a two-loss Clemson or Virginia Tech.
  5. Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.

Michigan's a lock to beat out a team coming off an ACC championship loss, but one-loss versions of Stanford or Oklahoma State would be tough—Jerry Palm has an all-at-large matchup of those two teams right now. If OU loses Bedlam that would also be tight.

Not making it would be just as well. I'd be happy playing Georgia in one of the infinite Big Ten/SEC matchups. I like nine wins and I cannot lie.

Special teams: actually a positive. FEI's not the only advanced stat rankings system purveyed by Football Outsiders; there's also one called F+. Last week F+ integrated special teams data for the first time; Michigan dropped from 17th to 25th. The special teams… eh… not so good.

This week they were. Matt Wile put five kickoffs in the endzone, Jeremy Gallon averaged 15 yards on four actual punt returns, and the missed field goal was off by about a foot. The only downer is Will Hagerup's persistent mediocrity. He averaged under 35 yards a kick and Michigan is now 112th in net punting. Even if you exclude all the coffin corner stuff from the MSU game he's averaging just 37.7 yards a kick. Wile was doing significantly better during Hagerup's suspension.

Unfortunately, it's likely Gallon's momentary renaissance and the Wile bombing are effects of the opponent and the wind. Illinois's punting is also in the triple digits. 

Derp du jour. Seeing some revival of the "we can't run Denard because he won't last through the season" meme, which… like… guh. He's missed a series last week and the last quarter and a half this week because he banged his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet. Twice. The first time he was back in after a series. The second time he could have come back in if necessary. Cancel the spread offense.

Denard's lasted through the bulk of the Big Ten season and with Nebraska and Ohio State left on the schedule, restricting his carries in case he gets hurt is nuts. What are you saving him for?

BONUS: Devin Gardner did two things and Michigan's offense went from racking up yards (and shooting itself in the foot) to not doing the former (and getting short fields). There is no QB controversy. If Michigan makes a 39 yard field goal and Borges doesn't get too cute on the goal line it's 24-0 at halftime and we aren't having this conversation.

Ace got so incensed at various people proclaiming a Gardner revival he broke down the YPP for each quarterback. Denard: 6.2. Devin: 5.4. Devin without the two garbage time Toussaint runs: 3.6.

Let's stop talking about this.

A permanent feature. Hoke on his decision to go from the one:

Michigan reached the Illinois 1-yard line in the second quarter and went for it on fourth down. Robinson lost 4 yards on the play.

Hoke was asked if going for it in that situation will be the norm. "Pretty much," he said. "And the defense bailed me out."


Desmond Morgan decleater. Don't hate me but I thought that was a missed cut by the RB, who had a lane outside the block. /ducks


dnak puts the defensive performance in a graph (graph):


Left axis is as a percentage of historical worst—ie, last year. That's right: Michigan's scoring defense is brushing up against '06.

Inside the Box Score on Martin going uber:

Mike Martin lead us with 9 tackles. That’s right, an interior defensive lineman lead us with NINE tackles. I’m going to miss that guy. He also got half a sack and 2 QHs. Roh also had 2 QHs. We were QH’ing Scheelhaase all game long.

That's three straight games he's crushed the opponent. Moving towards what we all thought he'd be this year. Too bad it will be tough to crack the All Big Ten team with Short, Still, and Worthy also tearing up offensive lines.

Hoke for Tomorrow brings yet another reason to laugh at Ron Zook:

Ron Zook is a bad coach, this is known.  It is remarkable how bad he is though, when looking at his record after bye weeks.  Over the past 4 seasons (2008-2011) Illinois has had 6(!) bye weeks, with two in both 2009 and 2010.  Their record following these bye weeks?  0-6:

2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24

2009: Lost to OSU 30-0, Lost to Cincinnati 49-36

2010: Lost to OSU 24-13, Lost to Fresno St 25-23

2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!)  31-14

That is epic fail.  Ron Zook should be fired.

Bye weeks aren't actually helpful, but come on.

CollegeFootball13 throws together some stats; he's too generous to the special teams (C+) but just look at that shiny justified A- next to the defense. Commenter Vasav brings up the year-to-year FEI:

2010:: Total: 8, Scoring: 25, FEI: 2

2011:: Total: 40, Scoring: 37, FEI: 17

Our youthful inexperience has been replaced by transitional inexperience - so we still are inconsistent and turnover-ridden.

The FEI is most indicative I think - we went from an O with the potential to be great (if we had any kind of ST and D) to one that is just very good. I think after Borges was hired, this is sort of where we expected to be offensively - a step back, but not disastrously.


2010:: Total: 110, Scoring: 107, FEI: 108

2011:: Total: 16, Scoring: 5, FEI: 17

Mattison == Awesome. Last year, I said that I thought our D played worse than the personnel. Nevertheless, even if they were being outcoached by say, twenty teams in FEI, and the extra year of experience is good for another twenty teams - Mattison still improved the baseline by about 50 ranks. The defense is now as good as the offense.

Keep in mind that FEI adjusts for schedule strength so a realistic benchmark for an average BCS offense is not 60th. I just chopped out all the non-BCS teams and an average offense is 48th. That's actually lower than I would have guessed. Unfortunately for Michigan, their lack of success has been highly concentrated.


Unwashed blog masses. Via Adam Jacobi, Junior Hemingway scored an imaginary touchdown:


Ron Zook can probably make this happen.

Illini blog A Lion Eye has a habit of taping himself when things are actually going on. This seems like a bad idea in general and for an Illinois fan in particular, but it is entertaining. A partial transcript:

So there's two twenty-four left. We just got the ball back down… what is it… 31-14? And I… I really have… I'm like "oh, what's my emotion? What am I going to record?"

Uhhhhm… dead inside? That doesn't sound right. But it's kind of a… I don't know. I guess the only way to describe it is—oh, and a sack.

I recommend the whole thing not necessarily for the schadenfreude (of which there is plenty) but because it's reassuring that we're not jaded. You may think you're jaded after the last century, but you have no idea. I mean: "I'm just normal right now."

The HSR decides to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald a lot:

"Life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat; the redeeming things are not happiness and pleasure but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."

I think we can all agree that yesterday's game was a classic example of "left wanting".  Though Michigan had a two score lead, on the road, against a team that considers Michigan its arch-rival*, it still felt like all of the missed red zone opportunities were going to come back to haunt Michigan, because we're taught that when you don't put the boot on the throat, it will cost you.  Except, it didn't.


Refs.  They obviously made a decision to only call holding if the offensive lineman actually removed the jersey of rusher.  And on the play where Avery picked up the ball and scored the touchdown, they made three bad mistakes on a single play.  The unholy trinity:  1.  It wasn’t a fumble in the first place, that’s somewhat forgivable.  2.  If it was a fumble, Avery was clearly on the ground (and thus down) when he picked it up, but they gave him a touchdown.  3. They didn’t adjust the clock after the play was reversed, should have been 19 or 20 seconds left instead of 14.

Hoke even complained about #3 and got nowhere. That is almost inevitably a call the refs give coaches.

Holdin' the Rope:

My first impression was one of doom and gloom, but, the more I think about it, maybe it's not so bad. Michigan put up 31 against a formidable defense, more than any other Illinois opponent save Northwestern (qualifier: yeah, those are some bad offenses on their schedule, but it's all relative at this point). This is of course not even mentioning the inopportune turnovers and the Illini's general inability to move the ball, additional reasons to not feel so bad about things. Obviously you can't just take turnovers out, but Michigan could have very easily scored in the 40s, on the road, against a pretty good defense.

There was a lot of the doom and gloom on the internets, which I don't get. Michigan failed to put up 24 in the first half on the #6 defense in the country by shooting itself in the foot. While that's frustrating, it is so much worse to have a performance like Iowa where the offense is neither scoring nor moving the ball. Sometimes bad things happen. Michigan outperformed Illinois's yardage average by 80 despite playing in adverse conditions.

BWS is eeee Mattison:

Mattison is installing this defense a lot like Rodriguez or Borges installed their offense. Week by week, Mattison introduces a new formation or coverage scheme to the defense--usually only one. Early in the season, it was a basic stunt move intended to overwhelm one side of the offensive line. Against MSU, he debuted an A-gap zone blitz. Purdue: nickel blitz. Iowa: crowding the line of scrimmage. Michigan's base defense is a 4-3 under, man-coverage look that Mattison can slowly and effectively build upon. While he doesn't go back to the cookie jar in later weeks, the hope (and my expectation) is that when Michigan plays Ohio State, they'll have an arsenal of blitzing plays that can be deployed in unison, creating a defense that is as unpredictable and consistently effective as the constantly tweaked offense under Rodriguez.

Cheers and jeers from Big House Blog. MBNB bullets. Illinois perspective from Hail to the Orange. Sap's decals are too stingy to Floyd, Martin. /shakes fist

Mainstream media type persons. The Daily's Stephen Nesbitt gets a a slice of life from the field:

As Floyd started crossing the turf toward the tunnel to the visitor’s locker room, he saw Illinois wide receiver A.J. Jenkins approaching him. The receiver-cornerback duo had battled all game long.

Floyd pulled up at the goal line.

“Heck of a game, man,” Floyd told the All-American wideout. “I think you’re a heck of a talent.”

Jenkins, in his orange No. 8 jersey, gave a big smile and tossed the same compliment back at Floyd — Michigan’s No. 8.

“Make sure you go get the rest of the (defensive backs) and give them some trouble the rest of the season,” Floyd said as he stepped away.

Chengelis on the diverse and sundry contributions:

Senior defensive lineman Mike Martin led the team with nine tackles. Linebackers Desmond Morgan and Kenny Demens had eight and seven tackles, respectively, and senior Ryan Van Bergen had 2.5 sacks.

Safety Jordan Kovacs forced a fumble, and Thomas Gordon made the recovery, his fourth of the season, and cornerback J.T. Floyd made a pivotal interception in the fourth quarter on a third-down play at the Michigan 40-yard line. He returned it 43 yards and Michigan converted into a touchdown to make it, 24-7.

That is many contributions. Kovacs's in particular was a MAKE PLAYS moment, putting his head on the ball after Michigan had found its line creased and forcing a turnover. That fumble was forced in a way that some of the previous ones haven't been.

Daily on Mattison's reaction:

“That was a Michigan defense,” Mattison said like a proud father figure, admitting it for the first time all season. “They played as hard as they could, they did whatever they had to do. Without a doubt, that was a Michigan defense.”

The Michigan football team had just won the game on defense, holding Illinois to 30 yards, including minus-14 first-half rushing yards, before ultimately allowing 14 points and just 214 yards of offense en route to a 31-14 victory on the road.

“They’re Michigan Men,” said an emotional Mattison. “We talk about it all the time, that there’s a standard at Michigan and you’ve got to live up to that, and you're judged by it. We haven’t come to that final point where you win the game on defense, and we said, ‘This is your last away trip to do it.’ I couldn’t be more proud of this group of guys.”

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Iowa

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Iowa

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2011 at 3:50 PM

Formation notes: A lot more under center in this game. I've got Michigan with 9 snaps in an ace formation, four in Denard jet, and 14 in I-Form. Michigan had 26 shotgun snaps in hurry-up time and 22 outside of it.

Of Michigan's 49 snaps in their base offense, 22 were from the shotgun, a 45% rate. Big dropoff from before the bye week.

I called this "ace tight":

form-ace tight

And this is still "shotgun trips bunch" but note that those are tight ends tight to the strong side, not WRs:

form-trips bunch

Substitution notes: Nothing you don't know. Hopkins is pretty much the only FB now, Schofield went the whole way, Toussaint and Smith were the only backs, and the WR/TE rotation was basically how it's been all year. Odoms and Grady may have gotten a little more time late for whatever reason.

Show? Show.


Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Robinson 1
Two WRs are actually TEs as M comes out in a shotgun version of their pitch formation. Iowa ends up shifting its line away from the TEs and putting a LB over Watson. Basically an under front. Michigan runs a zone read and Denard pulls with the backside DE engaging Lewan as he tries to release downfield. DE does pop up after the mesh point to force Robinson outside; Hemingway(-1) loses his block to the outside. Robinson has a lane to cut up into but slips. Something wrong with the field? Maybe. The DE also bit it without impacting anyone. Watson got away with a hold. RUN-: Robinson, Watson, Hemingway
M32 2 9 Ace 4-wide tight 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Pitch sweep Toussaint 4
Similar concept with TEs in a two point stance being all like “I'm a receiver.” M runs a pitch sweep to the short side, pulling Schofield and Molk. Omameh(-1) whiffs a cut on the backside DT, which becomes an issue later. Molk(+1) feels the DT on his back and knows if he continues through the hole Toussaint may get blown up by this guy, so he slows down and blocks him with his back. Iowa corner charges up into Schofield(+0.5) at the LOS, giving himself up to maintain leverage. Roundtree(+1) gets a good block on the playside LB, sealing him; Koger does a mediocre job he gets away with thanks to Roundtree; Lewan(-1) ends up losing the playside DT as he detaches to run downfield. Still, Toussaint has a crease he hits... that the Iowa safety can fill unmolested because Molk had to double back. Minimal gain. Picture paged.
RUN+: Molk, Schofield(0.5) Roundtree RUN-: Lewan, Omameh
M36 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Skinny post Roundtree Inc
Four man rush with a spy. Iowa stunts; Michigan sort of picks it up but it's Toussaint picking up a DE. This is a temporary solution. Worse, the DT is now free to hit as Schofield belatedly tries to pick the stunt up. No one is open; Robinson chucks it deep into double coverage but well long. I think this is just throwing the ball away. (TA, 0, protection 0/2, team 1, Schofield 1, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M23 1 10 Shotgun trips stack 1 0 4 Nickel Run Inverted veer power Robinson 5
One LB over the stack, another in the gray area between it and the box. Two deep safeties and like... five point five dudes in box. M runs the veer. Playside DE moves out on RB; keep. Schofield(-2) is the puller and gets blown up. The sole LB in the box gets into him at the LOS and gets inside, forcing Robinson into a bunch of traffic. Robinson manages to fall forward for a good gain because of the lack of dudes. RPS +1; this formation saw an opponent put five in the box against Denard.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5) RUN-: Schofield(2)
M28 2 5 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Pass Throwback screen Gallon Inc
Finally an opponent figures this out. Backside DE is sitting there waiting for the waggle action. He bats the pass down; corner had read it and beaten Koger's attempted block anyway. (BA, 0, screen, RPS -1)
M28 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Nickel Pass Hitch Hemingway Inc
Starts with a triple stack to the short side; motion takes one WR to the wide side. Iowa blitzes off the short corner and leaves Hemingway wide open for about ten. Robinson puts it there; dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 9 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Rollout hitch Hemingway 9
Michigan exploits some soft coverage to get an easy completion on first down; possible because Iowa shoved seven in the box against a three wide set. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M48 2 1 Denard Jet 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inside zone Smith 0
Gardner, and a double-A-gap blitz gets M's inside zone again. The two linebackers run into the gaps caused by OL doubles and meet Smith in the backfield. RPS –2, no chance for the O.
M48 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 2
Iowa again shooting the gaps. Michigan handles it well (Koger shoves the DE inside and pancakes him; Hopkins kicks out the CB) and Toussaint should be able to hop outside and pick up the first down easily before the safety chops him down. Instead he decides to leap into the original hole, whereupon the MLB scrapes over to nail him at the LOS. Toussaint keeps his legs pumping and manages to get it.
RUN+: Koger, Hopkins, Huyge RUN-: Toussaint
50 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 8
Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) kill the NT in the face; Hopkins(+1) stands up a blitzing LB; Toussaint cuts past that block smoothly; Lewan(+1) dealt with Binns.
RUN+: Molk, Schofield, Toussaint, Hopkins, Lewan RUN-:
O42 2 2 Ace twins 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 5
Gray area LB and two deep safeties so only six and a half in the box; M has numbers. They run at the gap between the one and five tech. Michigan gets a little lucky, as the SLB drops into a zone. This means the slant underneath that wipes out Omameh's downfield release does not give Iowa a meaningful free hitter. Huyge(+1) sealed the slanter before he became dangerous; Schofield(+1) got a good pull; Koger(+0.5) kicked out the DE. Toussaint(+0.5) makes a nice cut behind Schofield to pick up the first.
RUN+: Huyge, Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O37 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Pass Hitch Hemingway Inc
This is going to be one of those five yarders with an immediate tackle; Hemingway drops it. This could have been thrown better but it's not quite an MA. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O37 2 10 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 under Pass PA TE flat Koger 9
Play action fake sucks the linebackers in and you'd think there'd be a spot over the middle where Iowa was vulnerable, but Robinson can't find anyone. Looks like Iowa has a robber—that might be it. Robinson surveys, checks down, and hits Koger for about six. Koger can turn it upfield for some nice YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2). This is a terrible spot, BTW. Koger had the first by a yard easy.
O28 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under Run Iso Toussaint 8
Iowa very tight to the line. M runs an iso right at them. Schofield(+1) kicks a DT; Hopkins(+1) wastes a blitzing LB, giving Toussaint(+0.5) a crease. He makes a smart cut through the line for the first.
RUN+: Schofield, Hopkins, Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 10
Looks like a scrape exchange with a late-moving LB, which convinces Robinson to give. This is probably the right move. Unfortunately for Michigan, Iowa is keying on this with the safety, who is shooting upfield into the play. Toussaint(+2) cuts back. Omameh(+1), Molk(+1), and Lewan(+1) are maintaining their blocks and shove guys past the play; Toussaint cuts back further. Huyge(+1) gets one last block and Toussaint is into the secondary, where the safety chops him down as he threatens to turn this into a touchdown.
RUN+: Toussaint(2), Molk, Omameh, Lewan, Huyge RUN-:
O10 1 G I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 over Run Power sweep Toussaint 2 + 4 Pen
Koger and Lewan down block; Schofield, Molk, Hopkins lead. Koger(-2) gets beat. Hopkins(+1) has to peel off and take the DE; Toussaint does have a hole as a result of that and a great edge block by Jackson(+1). The MLB is unblocked because of the Koger miss; that guy tackles. Michigan gets lucky with a facemask.
RUN+: Hopkins, Jackson RUN-: Koger(2)
O4 1 G Shotgun trips bunch 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 0
Michigan actually blocking the backside end here; Robinson is reading the LB in the gray area over the slot. When he turns his attention to the WR, Robinson pulls. Huyge(-1) gets a crappy block and lets that end out on the edge; Robinson(-1) should just run for the edge but pulls up. Bad move. RUN-: Huyge, Robinson
O4 2 G I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 over Pass Dumpoff Toussaint 4
Play action, no one open, no one bothering to rush, Robinson has decades. As he starts rolling Toussaint breaks for the corner with him, beating the rather slow LB easily. Robinson flips it out. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown (botched XP), 6-7, 2 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M22 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 4-3 over Run Iso Toussaint 3
Molk(+1) chucks the playside DT to the ground as Omameh releases into the SLB. Hopkins(+1) blocks the MLB and gets a good push but can't seal him away (not his fault); Huyge(-1) does not seal the weakside DE, causing Toussaint to bounce out awkwardly. With the way this is set up he should just slam it up and see what happens; Huyge's block is not necessarily a killer. His bounce takes a long time and allows the D to converge.
RUN+: Molk, Hopkins RUN-: Huyge, Toussaint
M25 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Pass PA quick seam Dileo 12
LB starts creeping off the slot, indicating blitz, or at least contain. M goes inside zone play action and hits Dileo on the quick seam; Dileo gets lit up a moment after he catches the ball but hangs on. Throw could have been better here... actually, no, it almost got batted as it is. (CA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
M37 1 10 Denard Jet 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Jet sweep Robinson 3
Molk(+1) reaches and buries the playside DT. Lewan seals the playside DE; Schofield gets out on the SLB but cannot seal him; not his fault, he has no angle. He and the backside DT are flowing hard; two guys are on the backside containing Gardner. Denard cuts up and sees the cutback, which he takes... Lewan's(-1) guy has come around him and tackles just as he slips past the pursuers and is poised to move into the secondary.
RUN+: Molk RUN-: Lewan
M40 2 7 Ace twins 1 2 2 4-3 over Run Power off tackle Smith 3
Huyge(-2) loses his down block; an Iowa stunt is handled by Omameh and Molk but it ends up absorbing Omameh on the line when he should be getting out on the WLB. Still, doing that well gets Smith a cutback lane when Schofield gets submarined by Huyge's guy. Points for those two. Picture paged by BWS.
RUN+: Molk, Omameh RUN-: Huyge(2)
M43 3 4 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Dumpoff Smith Inc
Robinson looks downfield, then checks to Smith, who is breaking open for a first down. Binns knocks the pass down because he isn't even trying to rush the QB. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 12 min 2nd Q. I don't have Denard for a single bad pass or decision yet.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 4
Michigan runs at the weak side. Omameh(+0.5) and Huyge(+0.5) cave in the playside DT; Hopkins(+1) gets under and inside of Binns, shoving him out of the hole. Schofield(+1) blocks the WLB. Toussaint pops outside for a moment before diving back inside; not sure if Toussaint is pulling a guy outside intentionally or just not being patient enough. It works, though, and he gets a crease. He's through to a safety, but because of the delay that's not that far downfield. I think this is actually a minus for the back.
RUN+: Huyge(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Hopkins, Schofield RUN-: Toussaint
M35 2 6 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run QB stretch Robinson -1
Oof. Michigan destroys the playside DL. Molk, Schofield, and Lewan(+1 each) end up driving their guys yards off the LOS and get a cut on the WLB. Grady(-2) totally whiffs as he cracks down on the MLB. Huyge(-1) got nothing on the backside DT, who's flowing down the line; Robinson(-2) should risk it anyway and hit it up behind his killer frontside blocking for a decent gain. Instead he hesitates. LB maintains outside leverage when he meets Toussaint; Robinson can no longer cut behind the DT, and when he tries to go outside the LB eats him. Very disappointing.
RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Schofield RUN-: Huyge, Grady(2), Robinson(2)
M34 3 7 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout hitch Hemingway 12
Binns is let go and starts moving inside, whereupon Smith chops him. That gives Denard the edge. Unmolested, he sees Hemingway about to turn to the QB on a hitch at about ten yards and throws it before the guy comes open. Hits Hemingway in the hands, caught, first down. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1 for edge)
M46 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Pass PA Fly Roundtree Inc
This is how contain-minded the Iowa DL is: Binns remains responsible for this waggle and hardly gets anywhere near Robinson before he gets the ball off. As for the throw: three guys in the route. Koger is bracketed short. Jackson and Roundtree have steps deeper. Robinson loads up and fires to Roundtree... and it looks like he hits him right in stride but for Roundtree misjudging the pass, breaking stride, and ending up a step behind the ball. Argh. This is a DO that the WR screwed up. (DO, 2, protection N/A) Flag thrown for PI, then picked up. I don't get how that's possible but I also don't think this was PI. Prater acts like a jackass afterwards.
M46 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Smith 0
Guh... why is Grady in the game here instead of Odoms or something? Iowa shifts late, bringing the LB off the slot. Grady runs to the safety instead of doing something useful by cracking down. Robinson is reading the MLB and gives because he is sticking inside; Smith is cut off by the slot LB, who absorbs Toussaint. He cuts back inside and meets two Iowa players. He had a major cutback if he came back inside of Omameh; instead he trips over Toussaint. RPS -1. RUN-: Grady, Smith
M46 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Dime press Pass Sack Robinson -12
Guh. On third and ten Robinson has two guys running three yard circle routes and two guys running double moves deep. Iowa sends six; one guy is buried by Smith; the delayed guy finds his way past the engaged members of the line; nothing any of the OL can do about this since blocking this guy means giving up their man. Robinson pumps a dig route and then the LB is on him. He manages to break the tackle but loses the ball as he escapes and turns it over. Frustrating thing: the route he was pumping was wide open for the first down. Again Borges has no intermediate routes. Robinson had nowhere to go with the ball before a delayed blitzer got to him. (PR, 0, protection 2/3, Team -1, RPS -2)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 6-14, 4 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M49 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Comeback Hemingway 14
All day for Robinson as Iowa only rushes four, though a couple LBs bite so hard it looks like a blitz until they back out. Iowa is not coming anywhere near Denard. He waits and fires a high hard one to a covered Hemingway that he snags for a first down. Excellent coverage that the throw and catch beats. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
M35 1 10 Denard Jet 1 1 3 4-3 even -- Yakety snap -- 3
M32 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Pin and pull zone Robinson 19
Michigan has an alignment advantage here with the slot LB not on the LOS, but working on Dileo. Dileo(+1) kicks him and opens up the corner. Koger(+2) gets the key block on the playside DE, knocking him three yards off the ball and eventually sealing him when Robinson threatens to go upfield inside of the block. Smith(+0.5) and Molk(+0.5) combine to take out one linebacker flowing from the inside and Lewan(+1) pulls around to nail the safety, sending Robinson into the secondary. RPS +1.
RUN+: Dileo, Koger(2), Smith(0.5), Molk(0.5), Robinson RUN-:
M13 1 10 Denard Jet 1 1 3 4-3 even Run PA throwback screen Koger 2
This is a touchdown waiting to happen if Lewan blocks the corner; he doesn't. This is because the corner is waiting for this play and has been coached to blow it up, so I don't blame Lewan too much. (CA, 3, screen, RPS -1) RUN-: Lewan
M11 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 split Pass Slant Roundtree INT
Another planned pump, then Robinson fires a slant to a well-covered Roundtree that a DB deflects up to a safety. There is a planet on which this is called interference, but it is a planet where everyone goes the speed limit because robot birds shoot you if you go two over. Yeah, guy got there a tiny bit early. No, this is never called. The problem is Denard threw it a yard or two too far inside, allowing the DB to make a play on the ball. The INT is bad luck, but Tom Brady makes this throw. Slightly reminiscent of his second INT against MSU last year, except not as bad a throw. (MA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Interception, 6-17, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M40 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 7
Omameh(+0.5) only stands up his DT but does just enough; Hopkins(+1) does a good job of getting around that block and plugging the MLB; Molk(+2) has blasted the NT four yards downfield by the time Toussaint reaches him. Toussaint(+0.5) cuts through the gaps quickly, getting cut down by a safety.
RUN+: Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5), Molk(2), Hopkins RUN-:
M47 2 3 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Inside zone Toussaint 1
M double the backside LB, leaving the backside DE unblocked. Lewan(-2) busts. DE rushes down the LOS and makes the tackle from behind when Omameh(-1) and Molk(-1) lose their blocks. Picture paged.
RUN-: Molk, Omameh, Lewan(2).
M48 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Robinson 22

Safety walks down w/ linebacker in gray area over the slot; gray area LB then comes down before the snap. Cannot let the D do this. Have to bubble. No bubble.

With an extra player backside the S and LBs can charge at the play without delay. Schofield gets beat to the hole—not his fault—but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Koger gets beat but manages to shove the guy, who falls. Robinson slows up and pops out side a bit as these guys tumble to the ground. Toussaint(+1) redirects at the last second to kick out the S, and with the three guys on the playside either on the ground or gone, Robinson accelerates through the hole for a big gain. He reaches the 30 and runs through an arm tackle, then just kind of glides OOB when he could stay in bounds for another 10 yards, maybe more. Argh. RPS -1. Koger goes out after the play.

RUN+: Schofield, Koger(0.5), Toussaint, Robinson(3) RUN-:
O30 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 3
Omameh(-1) can't move the DT and that's the intended hole gone. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) blow up the other guy; Hopkins(-1) runs up the back of Omameh, making himself useless, and Toussaint has to cut back into an unblocked LB.
RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins
O27 2 7 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint -1
DE swims upfield of Lewan(-2) and beats him clean, then redirects down to tackle for loss. MLB met Hopkins in the backfield, which didn't help matters. RPS -1. RUN-: Lewan(2)
O28 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Dumpoff Smith 8
Safety comes down to blitz off the edge. Michigan picks it up, and then the DL goes into panic mode. Robinson finds Smith breaking to the outside on a dumpoff and hits him; Smith orbits inside the LB covering him and manages to extend for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O20 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 over Run Sweep Toussaint 0
Again: LB over slot comes down to contain zone read, opening the bubble M refuses to run. Everyone on the line loses. Schofield(-1) can't cut the backside DT. Huyge(-2) misses a down block on the playside guy. Roundtree(-1) runs by the corner. Toussaint runs to the sideline and is surrounded. RUN-: Huyge(2), Schofield, Roundtree
O20 2 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under Pass PA TE out Watson Inc
Backside DE on Denard contain; everyone covered anyway. Robinson throws it at Watson, who's covered but might be able to pick up a few yards. Binns bats it back in his face. (BA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)
O20 3 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Pass Fluke Smith 5
Iowa sends seven against six blockers (Smith is releasing downfield) and gets through clean. Robinson tries to throw and is blown up in the act. The ball miraculously falls to Smith. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: FG(32), 9-17, 6 min 3rd Q. Denard whacks his hand on a pass rusher on the final play of that drive. Gardner gets the next one.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Pass Waggle scramble Gardner 3
Gardner doesn't see anyone open downfield and decides to take off for a minimal gain. Had Hopkins late but didn't see him. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1)
M27 2 7 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Gardner checks into this... not so much. This looks like power designed to go in the A gap instead of off tackle, but that could just be because this gets blown up. Koger(-1) does not block down well and Omameh(-1) fails to recognize a linebacker blitzing from the inside; Hopkins(-1) ends up missing on the outside but it doesn't matter since the LB has forced Toussaint away from his blocking. Molk and Schofield handled a stunt well, but for naught. RPS -1
RUN+: Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-: Omameh, Hopkins, Koger
M27 3 7 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Pass Hitch Hemingway Inc
Plenty of time; Iowa has adjusted to the slot hitch Hemingway has run for good yardage (or drops) a couple times earlier. They've got a guy sitting in front of it. Gardner waits, does not check down to Smith, who's running underneath this and has a 50-50 shot of turning it up for a first down. He eventually throws it to Hemingway. It's way high, which prevents the ball from being intercepted, I guess. Hemingway stabs at it with one hand but cannot bring it in. Offsides gives M another chance. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)
M32 3 2 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 over Run Speed option Gardner 5
Molk(+1) seals the NT. Koger(+1) and Lewan(+1) momentarily combo the playside DE; Koger gets a seal and then Lewan comes off to plow a LB shooting the gap. Gardner almost takes the cheese but does see the DE reached on the outside and takes it out there; safety cuts him down as he picks up the first.
RUN+: Molk, Koger, Lewan, Gardner RUN-:
M37 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Sweep Toussaint 1
Huyge(-2) gets beaten up by this little LB on the POA, giving a bunch of ground, forcing Molk upfield inside of him, and eventually losing him outside, where he makes a tackle at the LOS. Molk(-1) ran by the MLB and even if this didn't happen Toussaint probably wasn't going anywhere. Toussaint dinged. RUN-: Huyge(2) , Molk
M38 2 9 Ace trips bunch tight 1 2 2 4-3 under Pass Scramble Gardner 1
Sweep formation except Watson flares out wide and Hemingway is the interior slot guy. Seems to tip pass. It's a straight dropback. Gardner finds no one and takes off for minimal yardage. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)
M39 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel Pass Rollout sack -- -12
Michigan runs a flood and I bet they have the second level. Hard to tell but the corner is at ten yards and I think the guy behind him should be open. Gardner again finds no one, sacked. (TA, N/A, protection ½, Smith -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 9-17, 1 min 3rd Q. Down 24-9 with ten minutes left, M goes hurry-up.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide? 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Hitch Hemingway 7
Miss most of this play for some frippery. Short pitch and catch for a decent gain. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
50 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Well covered; way long and on a line. A throwaway? I don't know. Rather see him toss it back shoulder to maybe give his guy a chance. (IN, 0, protection 2/2) He had more time, so if a TA a bad decision.
50 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power Robinson 2
Iowa ready for this. They have the line and LBs moved playside. Down block on playside DT from Omameh(-0.5) and Huyge(-0.5) is meh. Linebacker can scrape over the top of it because of the difficulty and the alignment. Robinson has to slow, at which point DT comes through to tackle. RPS -1.
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Huyge(0.5)
O48 4 1 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 5-2 tight Run Speed option Robinson 5
Smith blows the snap count and moves way, way too early; NT points him out... and Molk(+2) still reaches him. Robinson(+1) sees it and hits the gap immediately. Schofield(+1) reaches the backside DT and slows down to eliminate him. Omameh(+1) releases into the MLB; Koger also helps. Robinson picks up the first and then cuts outside... or would but for a desperation ankle tackle by the safety.
O43 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Hitch Grady 9
Grady's the slot; he does a good job of settling in a spot in the zone and then moving a bit as the linebacker comes over so that Robinson still has a lane. Robinson hits him in the numbers. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
O34 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Pin and pull zone Robinson 14
Omameh(-1) blows his zone block; Molk has to peel off to finish it. Grady(+1) gets a good kick on the slot LB, which allows Robinson to just squeeze through a crease between that and Koger zoning—barely—Binns. Smith(+1) also hopped through and hits the safety, opening up the corner. Huyge(+1) got a good whack on the playside LB as well.
RUN+: Grady, Robinson(2), Smith, Huyge RUN-: Omameh
O20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Out Grady 14
Slot LB creeps down and basically sits there; with the outside receiver going deep and running off the corner this is wide open and easy. Is this a bust? Probably. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Grady breaks a tackle for some extra.
O6 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Pass Angle Koger 6
Robinson again has forever. Koger releases, makes like he's going to run an out, then cuts back upfield on a post cut that gets a linebacker to hold him. Robinson loads up and floats it right to him or six; Koger makes the catch despite being interfered with. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 16-24, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M4 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA quick seam Hemingway 20
PA mesh point to the quick seam as the slot LB again sucks in on the run. Robinson zings it to Hemingway, who catches it for a first down, then runs through a tackle for a chunk more. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +2)
M24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Out Dileo Inc
Dileo is well covered and there is no pressure so you'd like to see Robinson keep this a bit and try to find someone else or scramble, but it's thrown. It's low and away from defenders but not accurate enough to give Dileo any chance of catching it. The lack of a potential INT prevents this from being a BR, but Robinson made this tough on himself. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M24 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB iso Robinson 1
Schofield(-1) does not get around the NT despite getting quite a bit of help from Molk; Omameh(-1) loses the playside DT after giving a bunch of ground. Robinson doesn't see it and decides to bounce. Safety comes up, Robinson has to cut back inside and gets little. Bounce was not there and he definitely didn't improve his lot by taking it; should have hit it up. RUN-: Robinson, Omameh, Schofield
M25 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Dig Roundtree Inc
Zone blitz(!) from Iowa sees a DT drop off, but it's picked up and Robinson can step and fire up the middle. Roundtree has no separation at all, Robinson throws high and a little wide, and the safety nearly picks it off. Tough life there when you've got a dig route against man that should be open and Roundtree is blanketed. Crappy route? Maybe. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 4 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M18 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read dive Smith 11
Playing off the first play of the last drive, and also you basically can't defend this with six guys in the box. Michigan doubles the backside DE—weird--and the NT. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) get push on him; Molk pops off to get playside LB. Backside guy is watching Robinson and has to remain responsible; Robinson hands off. Smith hits the hole and breaks an arm tackle to pick up a first down. RPS+1.
RUN+: Smith, Molk, Schofield, Omameh(0.5) RUN-:
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Roundtree Inc
So M blows 11 seconds before snapping the ball here. Gurg. No pressure; Robinson sets up and bombs it deep to a single-covered Roundtree, but Roundtree has run a crap route and is pushed OOB by the CB (legally). No chance. Robinson had a guy underneath open and time. Shouldn't have thrown to a guy with no shot. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Half roll with Robinson pulling up once the backside DT threatens him a bit; he finds a wide open Roundtree for six... and misses. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout hitch Odoms 13
First catch of the year for Odoms; he is on a short hitch and rotates outside as a late-arriving DB misses a tackle on him. Turned up for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Ton of time; he finds Hemingway in one on one coverage but very good one on one coverage and throws it way long. Hang that baby up there. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M42 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Penalty False start -- -5
Some confusion and the offense never fully stops moving before the snap. Roundtree was the guy who did not get set.
M37 2 15 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Dig Roundtree 18
Forever, huge pocket, zings to Roundtree as he cuts in front of coverage at the sticks. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
O45 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Cross Roundtree Inc
Ready for play is three seconds after the playclock resets. WTF. Michigan lets 15 seconds run off before the snap. MOTS: forever and a day in the pocket, zinged to Roundtree's hands for seven plus maybe some YAC, dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O45 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Drag Gallon 13
Roundtree in backfield, motions out. Again no rush. Gallon's drag comes open as Roundtree drives off the corner; Robinson hits him and Gallon turns it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Gallon stumbles and does not actually get OOB here.
O32 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Gallon Inc
Michigan huddles. Guh. Ready for play at 32 seconds, snap at 14. They blow 18 seconds. Did they think Gallon got OOB? Anyway, no rush: Robinson pumps to one side of the field and then comes to the other side where a well-covered Gallon is one on one with a corner. He throws it OOB. This may be a throwaway. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
O32 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Slant Roundtree 9 (Pen +10)
Zone blitz sees Iowa send five. Michigan biffs the protection with Huyge and Smith headed out to the corner, but Robinson's already throwing a slant. (CA, 3, protection ½, Huyge -1) Flag for holding stops the clock and gives M a first down.
O22 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Deep out Roundtree 19
Michigan lets nine seconds run off the clock from the ready to play after a penalty. No pressure. Robinson finds Roundtree inside the ten in front of a corner and nails him. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
O3 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel press Pass Fade Hemingway Inc
Massive blitz; Robinson chucks a duck off the back foot when the back corner fade to Hemingway is looking open. (IN, 0, protection 1/1) Protection only one because it's a quick throw and the free blitzer is unblockable since they're sending seven.
O3 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel press Pass Fade Hemingway Inc
Slant is first option; covered. Robinson comes off it and there's a guy eating his face, so he has to chuck it back foot. This one isn't great but it's vaguely catchable; Hemingway vaguely does not catch it. (MA, 1, protection ½, team)
O3 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel press Pass Improv Smith Inc
This time a guy gets free right up the middle; Robinson has to dodge him, which he does. He's taking more heat and has to get rid of it; he finds Smith and tosses it to him; a little low and outside but pretty catchable and away from the defender. Smith can't bring it in. (CA, 2, protection 0/3, team)
O3 4 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel press Pass Slant Roundtree Inc
The interference. Refs -2. Again no time because a guy not on the outside is coming free (CA, 0, protection 0/3, team, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 16-24, EOG.



Denard Robinson is a terrible thrower who can't throw anything.

Look, man, I'm just like… I chart—


—these things and this is what I got:

[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]

2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
Minnesota '11 1 13(3) 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
Northwestern '11 4 12(3) 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
MSU '11 1 8(1) 4(1) 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%
Purdue '11 1 7(1) - 1 2 1 - 2 - 66%
Iowa '11 2 21 2 7 1 - 3(1) 2 - 69%

Gardner had a CA on a screen, an IN, and three TAs, for a DSR of 0.0%.

I got Denard's best performance of the year against a D-I opponent. The things that happened to him that were bad were many dropped passes, Roundtree misjudging a perfectly-thrown deep ball, and plenty of batted passes.

Yeah, I said it, perfectly thrown deep ball:


Roundtree slowed up a moment before this still. If he runs through the ball this is a touchdown the DB can't do anything about. Arggggh.

What's more, I have all seven of Denard's INs and his BR in hurry-up time; most of those were the Rex Grossman deep balls it seemed like he was instructed to throw on first down just in case something worked out. All were way off but historically I've mentioned deep ball INs as less egregious because… like… they are. His BR was an OOB chuck to Roundtree when he had a shorter guy open for a chunk—there was no "WHAT ARE YOU THINKING" throw this week. If his WRs had helped him out we are talking about a different game.

There is a massive caveat: Iowa did not rush the passer. I don't mean they rushed four and didn't get there. I mean that unless Iowa was deploying one of their infrequent blitzes, they literally made no attempt to sack Denard.


That's second and fifteen with less than two minutes left and nobody is even trying. Instead they are containing. This was a near constant throughout the day. It explains many things:

  • why Denard did not even look like scrambling once (not that he does much anyway)
  • why an unusual number of passes got batted down
  • why Denard's DSR is much better

It seems like an incredibly dumb strategy but I guess it worked. Robinson did not handle the pressure well on the last series—third down was good, first and second not—and against opponents that get after you more I expect his passing to revert back to the previous not so good form.

The receivers were bleah, you say?

I say.

[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway 3 0/2 1/1 4/6 10 0/2 8/9 16/19
Roundtree 6 - 0/1 2/3 10 1/5 5/7 9/10
Odoms - - - 1/1 2 - - -
Grady - - - 2/2 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon 2


- 1/1 7 - 2/2 21/21
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - 1/1 - - - 0/2 2/3 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
Koger - - 1/1 1/1 6 1/3 3/4 9/10
Moore - - - - 2 - 1/1 -
Toussaint - - - 1/1 - - - 2/3
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - 0/1 1/1 3 0/2 1/1 7/8
Hopkins - - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

Three flat drops and two coulda-had-thems. Both of the latter were critical. The first was the Roundtree misjudge you see above, the second Smith's endzone drop of a low floater. One of Hemingway's routine drops ended a drive. It wasn't an all-time bad performance but it could have been better, especially when you consider some of the seemingly crappy routes Michigan ran. I have no way to quantify that, but trust me.

And the run game?

This is an ugly chart.

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 6 7 -1 Off day.
Barnum - - - DNP
Molk 14.5 2 12.5 Legit All-American, I think.
Omameh 4 6.5 -2.5 The usual at this point.
Huyge 5 9.5 -4.5 Binns ripped him up.
Schofield 9.5 4 4.5 Got an easier assignment against the crappy DT.
Mealer - - - DNP
Watson - 1 -1 Not a whole lot of time.
Koger 6 3 3 Still held up okay.
TOTAL 45 33 58% A struggle. Had moments, though. Bigger disappointment…
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 8 5 3 Too much bounce, not decisive enough, blew some good reaches. M needs more from him on the cuts.
Gardner 1 - 1 Meh.
Toussaint 5.5 3 2.5 Also could have done better. Had some dancing at the line that allowed safeties to help. Did have a sweet cutback.
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith 2.5 1 1.5 Eh.
Hopkins 7 2 5 Nice day. Major reason those isos were effective.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 24 11 13 Need to MAKE PLAYS here and largely did not. Ball carriers +5 on 35 carries.
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway - 1 -1  
Odoms - - -  
Gallon 1 - -  
Roundtree 1 1 0  
Grady 1 3 -2 --
Jackson 1 - 1  
Dileo 1 1 0 --
TOTAL 5 5 0 Also a disappointing day.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 57 15 79% Team 12, Schofield 1, Smith 1, Huyge 1. Blitzes an issue.
RPS 7 15 -8 Throwback screens don't work anymore. At least they got a rollout blocked.

That is Molk, Hopkins, Schofield, and disappointment. Denard is not immune to criticism here. It was on the ground more than in the air that his decision making was problematic. Cut it up, dude:

Glarg. I wonder if the change in emphasis here has made Denard rusty on his zone cuts. Once that guy comes up it's straight upfield until they tackle you.

Meanwhile, Iowa's ends won the day against the tackles—Huyge in particular could not handle Binns, or the cut block on the above play—and the receivers were crappy when called upon. Like on that play, where Grady turns a big gain into zilch. Y U NO ODOMS. Seriously: why he no Odoms? Where did Odoms go?

We can has fullback?

Maybe. Stephen Hopkins was a bright spot. He has nimble feet, especially for a fullback, and brings a load when he meets linebackers at the POA.

That's pretty good right there. Dude is hammering full speed at the LOS and gets turned out. Later he pancaked the same dude.

He's quickly supplanted McColgan and should be a useful piece the next couple years. If he can stop fumbling he could let Michigan add a triple option to their repertoire. 

Why haven't you complained about a bubble yet?

Oh mah gawd, good point. It's not really about the bubble, it's about preventing stuff like this from happening:

Not the 22 yard run part. The part where it takes two guys miraculously falling down to get the 22 yard run. Not bubbling this…


Is pretty much asking for vicious frontside flow because ain't nobody worried about the cutback with the slot LB coming down. This is the wider view from a little earlier:


That is a free first down. Take it. Take it and relieve some pressure from your run game. The only way for them to defend the bubble with that setup is to have the safety roar down at it, which opens them up to Worst Waldo counterpunches.

Can a brother get a run breakdown?

Right. I forgot last week. This week:


Total: 6 carries, 2.6 YPC.


Total: 11 carries, 3.4 YPC


Total: 15 carries, 6.3 YPC. Should be noted that the power play was fortunate, the zone read that got any yards on the last drive, and the veer that got any yards the Toussaint massive cutback. Not a whole lot went as planned.

Did you have any issues with the last drive?

We talked about this a bit earlier in the week: once you get to the three with 16 seconds left I think taking your TO and throwing is the move, at least until fourth down.

HOWEVA, there's no way it should have come to that.


Is that a freaking huddle as the ref signals the game clock with 31 seconds on the play clock? Yes.



That's Michigan snapping it seventeen seconds later. /head asplode

Two plays earlier they let fifteen seconds run off after the Roundtree conversion on second and eighteen; three plays later they let nine seconds run off after a penalty. If they chop those delays down to an average of five seconds—more than reasonable considering the last one should have been like two—Roundtree is tackled at the three with 42 seconds left, ie forever. They easily keep their time out and prevent Iowa from sending seven on four consecutive plays.

There is a slight mitigating factor on the above since I think they thought Gallon got out of bounds, so they could huddle. Once it was clear the clock was running they'd already slowed down. It's still really frustrating.

I need one more complaint for my bingo card.

Hated the playcall on Denard's fumble. M comes out in a double stack and has the foremost WRs run little out routes as M goes for a double move. Pump fake…


…to a wide open dude at the sticks…


…who is trying a double move. LB roars up; Denard escapes but fumbles as he does. He had nowhere to go with the ball.


Watch Vincent Smith advertise speed option to the entire state of Iowa and Molk still reach the DT:

I am going to miss that brilliant twinkle-toed media-hating bastard.

Also… uh… Hopkins? Yeah, Hopkins. And here's a change of pace: Denard's arm.


The rest of the line not named Schofield. The receivers somewhat. Denard's legs. (I knew I put Opposite Day in the podcast for a reason.)

What does it mean for Illinois and the rest of the season?

The line has to be better against the Illinois DL or it's going to be a long day. Can they? I don't like that Huyge-Mercilus matchup at all. Without Liuget I think they'll be vulnerable on the interior—Molk reached Akeem Spence all day last year—but will Hopkins-based isos be enough? Will Michigan use Molk's super powers or not?

I don't think Denard's passing performance is replicable. Not only does Denard screw up throws when he actually gets pressure, his inability to figure out how pressured he is has caused a lot of bad throws when players are vaguely near him. The comfort zone he was in against Iowa isn't going to be replicated against an Illinois defense that gets a ton of sacks (third nationally at 3.4 per).

I don't have a lot of faith in this offense moving the ball against the #6 D in the country, on the road. Since this is Big Ten football 2011, they will score 40 points.

  • 2 inside zone for 0.5 YPC
  • 1 jet sweep for 3 YPC
  • 1 pitch sweep for 4 YPC
  • 2 power plays for 4 YPC
  • 6 isos for 4.7 YPC
  • 4 power plays for 2 YPC
  • 1 sweep for 1 YPC
  • 2 pin and pull zone for 16.5 YPC
  • 1 power play for 22 YPC
  • 1 QB iso for 1 yard
  • 1 QB power for 2 yards
  • 1 QB stretch for –1 yards
  • 1 sweep for 0 YPC
  • 3 inverted veers for 5 YPC
  • 2 speed option for 5 YPC
  • 3 inside zone reads for 4 YPC