Mailbag: Offensive Structure x 3, Pharaoh Move

Mailbag: Offensive Structure x 3, Pharaoh Move

Submitted by Brian on November 10th, 2011 at 12:04 PM


It's clear now that Hoke's offensive staff won't stick with the schematic advantages Rodriguez established. However, Hoke has already shown he can recruit well. In regard to the offense only, how soon (if ever) will Hoke's recruiting success offset the scheme regression?


I can't tell if "schematic advantages" is a sly Weisian dig or not. Well done. Disclaimer: I don't necessarily think Borges represents a scheme regression in a general case. Just this case, and it's hard to blame Borges when his lizard brain is an entirely different lizard brain than Rodriguez's, etc.

Anyway, it's kind of depressing how long it might take. I don't think there's anyone on the roster who will excel in the framework Hoke and Borges prefer next year, and then in 2013 you've got a choice between a redshirt junior Gardner and a freshman Morris. That's either Gardner getting a lot better—obviously possible, necessary, not guaranteed—or yet another underclass starter. The most frustrating part of the double transition is not effectively using the first returning starter at the position since 2006 (2007 Henne was a shell of himself due to injury until the bowl).

And then you've got the ancillaries. In 2013 Michigan will have one upperclass tight end (Miller), zero upperclass interior linemen (there will be a couple redshirt sophomores), and two upperclass WRs (Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson).

Thanks to Rodriguez's disastrous 2010 OL class, transition issues, and a weird decision or two in the first weeks of the Hoke regime it's looking like 2014 is going to be the first year you can reasonably say Michigan has all the pieces they want in place.


I have heard many people say that Borges is making bad decisions calling running plays when the defense is stacking the box with eight, sometimes nine, players.  Borges does not have the luxury of knowing what alignment the defense will run.  Most offenses, at least when I played, rely on the quarterback to check out of a play when these types of issues are presented.  Nine men in the box, check to a pass play, five or six in the box, check to a run.

I think this is something that is really hurting the offense because, for whatever reason, Denard simply is not very good at making correct reads prior to the snap.  This is where Rich Rod’s style, everyone look at the sideline after lining up, really benefitted Denard.  What solutions, if any, do you think there are to help remedy a problem like this?

Go Blue!!

This is something I've been thinking about since I watched the Calvin Magee videos I mentioned a few weeks back. Magee talks about some philosophical differences he has with Rodriguez, most prominently that he "wants to let the kid grow" by allowing him to make pre-snap calls whereas Rodriguez strongly prefers having the kid read it out post-snap.

Is there really a gap between pro-style and spread 'n' shred offenses when it comes to pre/post-snap reads? Yes and no. Both offenses have them, but they're on different people. In the spread 'n' shred it seems like the vast bulk of the post-snap reads are on the QB. The WRs run the routes, the line blocks, and the QB decides where the ball is going. In pro-style stuff a chunk of the responsibility ends up on the shoulders of the receivers. See: killer MSU pick six. In the spread 'n' shred the bulk of the pre-snap reads are on the coaches. That is not the case in a pro-style offense.

As far as the assertion that Denard's inability to make the pre-snap reads is hurting Michigan in a way it wasn't last season, I think there's something to that. The RR style often gives that responsibility to the guys who have been running the offense for a decade. Pro-style never does that. That's another thing that Denard is being asked to do this year that he didn't do before—never had to do, really—and I'm guessing that's a chunk of the issues.

Remember that actual zone reads from Denard were rare last year. Everyone thought that was rawness, but there's a possibility he's just not good at it and won't ever be. Sad fugee face.

With the caveat that I would also love to see a few more QB isos or Gallon bubble screens per game to replace hopeless bombs, we’ve seen Denard struggle against good/good-ish defenses since last mid-season when they stack the ol’ box—regardless of who was calling the plays. 2010 and ’11 MSU, 2010 and ’11 Iowa, 2010 OSU and Miss. State. (The one notable exception is 2010 Wisconsin, which notably featured three 24-yard-plus proverbial field-stretchers from Stonum getting several steps on a corner, which our WRs this year don’t do). I’ll take for argument’s sake that RR would probably have been better equipped to counterpunch from the spread as a playcaller than Borges is. But what specifically are the kind of plays he would have called? The most notable counter play in his arsenal was the QB Oh No, which is still in the playbook. What other kind of things would work? I really am curious. Our short hitches and bubble screens weren’t cutting it in at least four games last year either.

I’m willing to concede that RR could have been a better playcaller for this year’s offense, but it’s not as if Borges is making Denard sit in the pocket and throw 50 times every game with zero designed runs. He’s using him to run some but trying to develop the RBs and find effective pass-offense changeups. That’s what RR would have been tasked with too. Sometimes it works—sometimes Hemingway can go over a drawn-up safety and post up. But we don’t have a deep threat good enough to consistently make up for Denard’s weaknesses yet. What else can we try?

I think Borges still deserves the benefit of the doubt—I believe that he IS still trying to find what works, and he only has a certain amount of plays per game to do that and sometimes it’ll work and sometimes it won’t and you lose to Iowa. I think where this debate goes next is someone saying concretely okay, here’s what RR might have done. Maybe Wisconsin offers clues. Maybe that Magee video you’ve been working through offers clues. What’s out there that we could try?


The debate about whether last year's offense was actually good is infinite and neverending and we will be talking about it in 2050 when the only thing the same about college football is Joe Pa—er.

I cannot convince anyone of anything in this matter, but I can try to explain my perspective.


There is a difference between this year's struggles and last year's. The listing of defenses above seems arbitrarily chosen to highlight the spread 'n' shred's worst performances. Michigan put up 31 against PSU, 28 against Wisconsin, and a billion against Illinois*, all of which were at least decent defenses.

In many of the crap games listed, Michigan put up yards only to be thwarted by horrible field goal kicking and turnovers. Michigan managed to give the ball away 29(!) times last year. Michigan lost 14 fumbles last year. This year they're on pace to lose 4 (and a third). To me that's just randomness. It's not like there was anything about last year's offense particularly likely to shoot itself in the face with fumbles. The interceptions were not random but since they've literally doubled this year that is not an argument in favor of the new thing.

This is not last year's offense. It is last years offense with nine returning starters and an upgrade at tailback. The line depth may be an issue but the one new guy on the line, whether it is Barnum or Schofield, has not seemed like a major dropoff from Schilling.

This is not last year's defense and special teams. FEI tracks a stat called "Field Position Advantage" that measures relative starting field position. Michigan was 89th last year. They're 68th this year. I can't find starting field position for drives, unfortunately, but I am guessing Michigan has had a good deal more short fields since they've already picked up one turnover more than they did all of last year. And the field goal kicking exists.


So, yeah, I am disappointed. The adjustments I would like:

  • taking the free yards teams give them by alignment on the bubble
  • running the blocking the line is best at (outside zone) more consistently
  • running Denard 20 times a game in important games, not Eastern Michigan
  • doing the above in such a way that it puts safeties in a bind so that guys get wide open
  • not turning the QB's back to the LOS on rollouts everyone has covered
  • avoiding under-center running, short yardage excepted
  • Rodriguez would have run a bunch of the stuff the line is designed to do, not power, forced teams to move a safety in the box by using Robinson as a threat and constraining via the bubble, and then made that other safety's life hard by using the Denard play action that is nigh unstoppable if executed. The heart of the offense would be Denard's legs instead of… well, I don't know what the heart of this offense is. Throwback screens?

    This does not constitute an endorsement of Rich Rodriguez. Hoke uber alles.

*[Debating the merits of the Wisconsin points is a popular sub-pastime in this domain. The last touchdown was garbage time; the first three were not. Michigan only got eight drives before garbage time because of the nature of the game—in one of average length it is reasonable to expect they score another TD. Plus they missed a FG. Also some of the billion Illinois points came with Forcier on the field, but by the time he left Denard had 300 yards passing and 62 rushing, so… yeah.]

On Pharaoh Brown.

Was wondering what you thought about [Pharaoh Brown's] position flip. I can't help but be disappointed. Everything I have read about him says he is a terrific athlete. Isn't DE or WR more important than TE if you have a great athlete?


I wouldn't regard Brown's position as set until he's seeing the field somewhere. With guys like him you don't really know where he's going to end up permanently before college coaches get ahold of him. They'll put him wherever he'll work out best.

In any case, I think you're unfairly downplaying the importance of TE. Tight ends are more involved down-to-down since they are key components of the run game; wide receivers are only relevant when everyone else does their job well and the play breaks into the secondary. After going up against Rudolph and Eifert the past few years I'd love to have a 6'6" guy with sticky hands who can play security blanket for QB du jour.

I get the vibe that tight end is going to be a big deal with Borges. If we're headed to a collection-of-plays Boise-style offense, having a diverse set of tight ends is a key component. Having a 6'6" guy who can run some is a major help in your effort to whiplash the defense from huge power running sets to spread passing attacks. What do you do when the opposition has a guy who can block a defensive end but can't be covered by a linebacker? Brown may be that guy.

Combine the above with the depth charts at the two positions and I get it. WDE next year is Roh, Black, Clark, and Ojemudia with the potential addition of Beyer if he beefs up a bit. Tight end is Moore, Miller, Funchess, and maybe AJ Williams but it increasingly sounds like he's a tackle.

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Al Borges

Tuesday Presser Transcript 11-8-11: Al Borges

Submitted by Heiko on November 8th, 2011 at 8:27 PM

We're splitting the coordinators now, so Greg Mattison's transcript will be up after I eat something.

Al Borges

from file

On the last four plays, do you wish you would have been able to call a run or a roll-out? “Yeah, you were going to struggle rolling out. They were in full blitz. Guys coming outside. I mean, you could roll out but your odds were not very good. Your best -- in four straight full blitzes, your best case scenario was the single coverage matchups. We got our hands on three out of four balls, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out. But not a lot of reservation about that. Like I said, rolling out conceptually sounds good, but when the edge isn’t clean, it doesn’t look as good as it sounds.”

Any thoughts of running on first down? “No. Absolutely not. 16 seconds with no timeouts? What’re you going to do? If you run the football inside of 18 seconds, your odds, if you fail, of getting back lined up to run another play are very very slim, not to mention you eliminate probably two calls. So that would be bad playcalling. Bad strategy.”

What about the last play, with two seconds left? “That’s a possibility. That’s a possibility, and it was a couple different options we could have used there. We chose the one we chose and it didn’t work out. I wish it would have. But that’s viable, but at three yards, again, if you don’t make it, you’re going to look silly. When you have a seven-man pressure staring at you in the eyes, superman’s going to struggle running through that.”

Has Denard gotten tentative running the ball? He looks slower. “I don’t think so. I haven’t timed him, but he doesn’t look any slower to me. So my answer to that is I don’t think he has. No. Not really.”

MGoInterjection: I did notice that on the outside runs, he constantly looks for the cutback … “Well, what’s happening on those is he’s got to start cutting off his outside foot. We talked about that. That’s happened twice now, maybe three times when we’re cutting off our inside foot and he slipped. So we’re getting that corrected.”

(more after the jump)

Michigan Museday Won't Be That Guy

Michigan Museday Won't Be That Guy

Submitted by Seth on November 8th, 2011 at 8:54 AM


Remember, remember the 5th of November, the Manball treason and plot. 
There's plenty good reason the Manball treason should ever be forgot.

After Notre Dame I picked out Michigan's success running the ball under center versus from a shotgun and found this:

Formation   Plays RUSH YPA
I-Form 3 2.33
Ace 0 n/a
Shotgun 14 7.46
Total 17 6.06

That was two games into the Hoke and Borges era, in the first test against a real defense. A bit of clunky install was expected, if not such a big disparity. Also expected was that Borges would at that point still be running a lot of Power before inevitably realizing the personnel is simply way better at spreading and shredding. Runs from under center that weren't in goal line or 3rd/4th down situations were throwaway downs to set up passes. Runs from the shotgun were mostly 1st down plays that went for good yardage.GunpowderPlot Once Michigan got down early it was sit back and turn on the guns.

Here's Michigan's ninth game of the season:

Formation   Plays RUSH YPA
I-Form 8 3.25
Ace 6 2.67
Shotgun 10 6.20
Total 24 4.33

… and this is why a small subclass of zealots are already plotting to blow up Parliament.

The ace (not THAT Ace) stuff was 1/3 Denard Jet, which Iowa was prepared for. I tried breaking this up further into inside and outside runs but the sample sizes got too small to be of any use. However I did find that the seven inside runs from the I-form got about 3.57 YPA. It was around 5 until Iowa started sending the linebackers right into it, which counts as making them cheat and opening up some of those passes . So let's not pretend Borges doesn't have an offense when he ISOs with Hopkins followed by Toussaint; it's just nowhere near as good as putting Denard in the gun.

A Desperate Disease Requires a Dangerous Remedy

Melanie Maxwell |

I believe King Hoke and Lord Borgesham are aware of this, which is why the 4th quarter comeback was 27 plays of straight shotgun.* Why they are doing it is the real question. If they're really Manball zealots like Hoke's been telling us they are since he got here, this year doesn't end well.

There's an alternative hypothesis, one I've been hesitant to mention because it would need a mountain more data than we have (or a quote from the coaches…Heiko?).civil2

Perhaps each week the offense game plan is preparing the defense?

If there has been any rhyme or reason to the Borges grab bag (except the Denard Jet package which has five complimentary plays) it's that Michigan's offense tends to come out running its version of what the opponent does a lot of.


* There's one play where they cut back too late from another game and missed the formation – it was a pass to Hemingway I think.


See: trend. Against interior zone loving Iowa, Michigan ran I-form ISOs almost like a base play. Against Purdue it was outside running (although the Wolverines could do whatever they wanted really). The offense versus MSU was slants and TE flares set against the occasional (QB) power off tackle, exactly what Dantonio does with Cousins and Baker. With Northwestern he lined up in all sorts of formations and ran zone to pass, calling everything but Kitchen Sink Z Right while Denard did his best impression of Dan Persa. SD State uses the tunnel screen and I-form and got this started



…in the UFR. Minnesota…I don't know, they don't have an offense so we made one up.

All of these plays are Michigan offense plays, for example they ran a lot of the power off-tackle using Denard against MSU. But they're also the closest plays to what the opponent is running.

I need way way way more data to make this more than a hypothesis. It's not a theory. But if we do have a mimic offense, it's not hard to find a reason: Defensive Improvement. Getting this defense from the bottom to gloriously better-than-mediocre has something to do with linebacker alignment and coachspeak words filled with hard consonants, but it also might have a little sacrifice coming with it in the form of offensive grab-bagginess. article-0-0716A6D6000005DC-281_964x670Perhaps the parts of the Michigan offense most like the opponent's are emphasized each week in order to maximize both units' preparation for that opponent?

That's the best reason I can think of for why, nine games in, Michigan is still going with offensive game-planning that doesn't maximize the talent available to them, until it's the 4th quarter and it's time to cut them loose. Hopefully they've also been using the time saved having the 1st team defense face the 1st Team Mimics to be preparing like hell for Ohio State. Maybe they're preserving Denard so that they can unleash the Denard and Toussaint interior running game from hell. If all this beats that backwards, filthy, imperialist scoundrel of a nation to the south, it'll be worth it to this subject at least.

Handle note: Everyone else uses their name these days, so Internet mask removed. I'm Seth. Misopogon=Seth. No, I never learned how to pronounce "Misopogon" – I think the first and last o's are short and middle one is long.

Crimes Against Manpanda

Crimes Against Manpanda

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2011 at 11:24 AM

11/5/2011 – Michigan 16, Iowa 24 – 7-2, 3-2 Big Ten


Melanie Maxwell/

When Iowa punched in their final touchdown on Saturday the clock read 10:42 and Michigan had acquired 166 yards of offense. Forced into a hurry-up shotgun on their final three drives, Michigan matched their production from the first 50 minutes in the last ten. Denard Robinson ran 4 times for 23 yards; Vincent Smith had an 11 yard carry. Robinson was 10 of 18 for 126 yards* as Michigan scored, punted, and then wound their way down to the Iowa three.

You know what happens from there: with space compressed, no time to run, and Iowa blitzing up the middle on every play Robinson chucks one out of the endzone on first down, gets 49% of a touchdown on second, sees Smith drop 100% of a touchdown on third, and watches Roy Roundtree get interfered with on fourth. Ballgame.

Shifting circumstances make drawing judgments difficult… or at least they would if the late surge hadn't brought Michigan up to 323 yards, seventy-five less than Penn State, twenty-five less than Louisiana-Monroe, and better than only Tennessee Tech amongst Iowa opponents.

This now a trend. Michigan's played three games against BCS teams with winning records. In each they've fallen behind by multiple scores. Yardage in those games before entering desperation chuck mode: 130 (Notre Dame), 226 (MSU), and 166 (Iowa). Whatever the plan is, it doesn't seem to be working against teams better than Minnesota.

Better than Minnesota most weekends, anyway.


In retrospect, the red carpet laid out by the Purdue defensive ends was MANBAIT with Iowa City the trap. Running against Purdue was easy from any formation, in any direction. This naturally got Michigan's coaches thinking they had ironed out the issues from earlier in the year, so they did more of it. It even worked for a bit. When Michigan came out with a bunch of I-Form in the first half they got yardage on a series of pounding iso plays.

The outside stuff went nowhere, though, and eventually Iowa adjusted to the iso thumping. When the dust cleared Smith and Toussaint averaged 3.6 yards a carry between them. Sacks excluded, Robinson nearly doubled that at 6.6. He got 11 carries, just like he did against Michigan State.

I just don't get it, man. The next person to draw a contrast between how Rodriguez adapted his offense to Threet/Sheridan and Borges did to Robinson gets the mother of all eyebrows cocked at them. On a team with one reasonable tight end, half a fullback, and Denard Robinson, Michigan goes play action from the I-form… a lot. They run Robinson about as often as their third down back. Game over.

This was the fear throughout many (many) offseason columns full of fretting and spread zealotry. It was the fear after the delirious Notre Dame game:

The thing I really really hated about the first three quarters (other than everything) was the way the offense made Denard mortal. This extended beyond the usual reasons 90 yards of offense in a half make you homicidal. Not only were we lost and hopeless in our first serious game after returning nine starters from one of the nation's most explosive offenses, but the guy who didn't transfer when his offense got fired out from under him was busy playing out everyone's worst-case scenarios.

I don't think I can take football games in which I'd rather have Alex Carder than Denard Robinson. A return of freshman Denard looking like a sad panda is too depressing for a multitude of reasons but mostly because just look at him:


Shoehorning him into an offense that doesn't fit him is a crime against man and panda and manpanda. He had to be dying in the first half as he flung balls to Tacopants and ran waggles the entire stadium could predict. People twittered me about moving him to RB so Gardner can get on the field.

Iowa 2011 is to "Denard Robinson can't play QB for Brady Hoke" as Ohio State 2006 is to "Jim Tressel owns Michigan." It's the moment the premise goes from fear to fact.

There's still time to change this, like there was still time for someone, anyone, to beat Ohio State after Football Armageddon went the wrong way. But… man, it doesn't look good. Michigan has three games left plus a bowl of some variety. If they're going to avoid tailspin part three they'll have to figure out a way to pick up more than 200 yards in the first three quarters against the #6, #41, and #14 total defenses. The only way they've managed to crack 20 points against anyone of similar caliber is by closing their eyes and playing 500.

We've gone from a world in which Robinson is a genre-redefining All-American "back" to one in which the only reason there isn't a full-fledged quarterback controversy is because we've seen the backup go full Mallett whenever inserted into the game—this weekend it was usually after the actual offense picked up 20 yards. Robinson's legs have been relegated to sideshow, and the main event isn't pretty.

*[This does count the eight-yard completion that was wiped away by a defensive holding call. While you're down here in this aside I should explain that I picked the points at which to determine "chuck it" time like so:

ND: Michigan goes down 24-7 and gets the ball back at the tail end of the third. If you want to move that out a possession Michigan squeaks over 200 thanks to the 77-yard Hemingway catch and run and subsequent TD.
MSU: Pick six. Not that it mattered; M had 250 for the game.
Iowa: The hurry-up touchdown drive.]


Good thing we avoided that second-half collapse thanks to the toughy tough toughness instilled by Brady Hoke. Like the second-half adjustments, that meme isn't looking so hot. At least the second-half thing had something more than a win over Purdue arguing for it.

On playing 500. I took a lot of crap the week of the Notre Dame game for having reservations about the offense. Crap-throwers are wrong: a more experienced Robinson surrounded by returning starters has doubled his INT rate. He's dropped to 54th in passer efficiency, shed 0.3 YPC, and still has three of the five toughest defenses on the schedule to play.

Denard has limitations. They are severe. He has assets that offset those. They are not being used effectively. He was an All-American last year and is being derided as plain "not very good" on blogs; he won't sniff a Heisman vote. He's gone backwards. The question is why. Candidate answers:

  • Losing Martell Webb, Darryl Stonum, and Steve Schilling.
  • Losing Rich Rodriguez.
  • Aging backwards like Benjamin Button.

I'll take door B. [usual tedious disclaimers for people who aren't arguing with things I actually write anyway]

On whatever that was. BWS brings some ugly numbers on a day with plenty to choose from:

In the first three quarters against Iowa, Michigan had 20 first downs. They ran the ball on 14 of them and gained only 50 yards for 3.57 YPC, mostly because Iowa broke tendency and played a single-high safety defensive front, stacked against the run.

I don't know everything that's ailing the rushing offense but you can't live with that paltry return if you've got Denard at QB.

I'll have to hit the tape for a full breakdown but Rothstein($) says Michigan ran their three-wide shotgun set 31 times, which is not many when you consider the final three drives had 24 shotgun snaps on them. He doesn't appear to be counting four wide shotgun stuff in that number, because Michigan ran plays from the spread on more than seven of their other 51 snaps. Right? I don't even know anymore.

The bipolar defense. Usually a 300 yard day will not see the opponent put up 24 points unless there's a ton of turnovers or a non-offensive touchdown or two. Michigan managed to cough up that many points despite the yardage because all other drives went nowhere. Drives in rough categories:

  • Long touchdown marches of 76, 78, and 62 yards.
  • 17 and 28 yard four-and-outs (ie: first down on a chunk play on first play of drive, then bupkis).
  • Five drives of nothing. One ends in a FG after the fumble.

Not a whole lot of in-between. This has no significance, it's just weird. If Michigan had been able to move the ball at all the defense's ability to boot Iowa right off the field would have set them up with some short stuff eventually. We've come full circle when the offense's ineptness is making the defense's performance look worse than it actually was.

I guess no turnovers is a bummer.

The first thing I loathe about the Hoke era. Second-and-long I-form big play action. So unbelievably predictable it hurts. Last week it ended up in a sack that put Michigan in third and twenty; this week no one was open and there was an end in Robinson's face because everyone in the state knew it was coming.

Devin package. If Michigan can't run a straight dropback pass with Devin Gardner in the game because they don't trust him to throw and don't trust Robinson to be a real receiving threat, the Gardner package—which has devolved from a potentially confusing Mad Magicians reincarnate to "watch us run or not run this jet sweep"—is no longer viable, if it was ever viable at anything other than throwback screens.

Since when do you know how to gamble? I do not like the version of Kirk Ferentz that realizes it is not 1960. I was counting on Ferentz spurning expectation three or four times in this game; instead he goes on fourth and one from the Michigan 39 (the unsuccessful sneak), goes on fourth and seven(!) from the Michigan 34, and is about to go for it on fourth and one on the Michigan 43 when his kid picks up a false start. His profit from the two decisions to go: the game-winning points. Boo.

If Zook goes on fourth and three from the Michigan 40 I'm going to have a fit.

Wither Jake Ryan? I don't know what to make of Jake Ryan's absence. Michigan went with Beyer (SLB) and Clark (nickel DE) instead early, then worked Ryan in a little bit as the game got late. He didn't seem injured—he made the play on the late third-and-one that set up Michigan's unsuccessful last-ditch drive. Suspension? There has to be some external factor.

Second alarming thing: even with Ryan limited, Cam Gordon did not appear. That's a precipitous drop. He is moving towards Bolivian.


Des Moines Register

Martin. Balling. Pretty much the only thing Iowa fans were mad about was the play of a particular guard of theirs; this was because Martin was lighting him up all day. If the linebackers had played well Coker would have had a 3 YPC day because so many plays hardly got to them.

Linebackers did not have a good day. There is a downside of having Chris Spielman doing color for your game when you are a person who purveys football analysis for a living: he steals your thunder. About two seconds after I declared that Desmond Morgan was "killing" Michigan, Spielman was pointing it out in telestrated glory. A big chunk of Iowa's second touchdown drive was on Morgan. He was pulled shortly after for Hawthorne and returned later, presumably chided.

That's life with freshmen. Good thing we won't be starting any next—aw, hamburgers. /shakes fist at Rodriguez

Scrambling. The universe believes Denard Robinson should be very good at scrambling and thus asserts he is. Unfortunately, repeating this enough does not make it true. However, in this game it seemed like there was nowhere to go. With certain limited exceptions Iowa was barely pretending to rush Robinson, instead sitting their defensive linemen around the LOS in a picket fence. In that situation Denard should have surveyed and hit his checkdowns, which he did on Michigan's first-half touchdown drive and would have a few more times if the Iowa DEs weren't so intent on this contain business that they can leap up and bat down floaters to Smith.

Going for two. A not-very-important game theory note: Michigan should have gone for two when they scored to cut the lead to nine. You have to go for two sooner or later; going earlier allows you to adjust your strategy based on the result. There were a couple people arguing that you need to "keep it a one score game" by kicking the extra point, but it's not a one-score game if you're down eight. It's a one-score game 40% of the time and a two-score game 60% of the time. Knowing which one helps you play correctly when you get the ball with five minutes left, for example.

Second game theory note. Ace and I had an argument on the podcast about the playcalling on the last series, with Ace taking the same position MGoFootball does:

What you do with :16 to go after getting a first down at the 3 yard line…

Hindsight, just sayin’, etc., but I don’t think the timeout should have been used before you give Denard a shot to either run a power play or rollout and find a running lane on 1st down. Ideally, Michigan hurries to the line of scrimmage, gets set faster than the defense, and off Denard goes.  TD’s may have ensued. So, as the day would have it, Michigan calls their final timeout with 16 seconds left on the clock.

I side with the coaches here. The fourth down play came with two seconds left. Unless you are snapping the ball on the ready for play—not feasible—you are giving away your fourth down. I'd rather keep it than have the ability to run once in three downs instead of four. YMMV.

The thing that rankled was watching Michigan run 10 to 15 seconds off the clock on a play earlier in that drive. If they get that play off quickly Michigan can save their timeout and threaten Iowa with a run.


Obligatory ref section. It's never good when you lose and Mike Pereira is featuring your game above the fold. Pereira says "punt" on the Hemingway catch:

I love it when replay stays with the call on the field when there is judgment involved, along with facts. In my mind, whatever ended being called on the field — incomplete or a touchdown — would have stood in replay. That’s how close this play was. …

The call in Michigan-Iowa game Saturday involved more than just facts. It involved the issue of control, before and after the ball hit the ground. Adding that element makes this ruling far more difficult than just a ball just breaking a plane. It’s questionable whether Hemingway had total control of the ball when his arm hit the ground. And it’s also questionable if he maintained control after the ball contacted the ground. If 50 people were in a bar watching this play, half of them would rule it an incomplete pass and the other half would rule it a touchdown. That’s reason alone to leave the call the way it was called on the field, and I agree with that decision 100 percent.

You can replay that until the sun expands and it's still going to be too close to call. It was going to stand whichever way it was called on the field. That's life.

But I totally disagree with Pereira about the fourth down play…

And, by the way, forget the notion of pass interference on this play — either defensive or offensive. There was not enough to make either call. Same thing on the final play of the game on the slant pattern. The contact by the Iowa defender was not enough for pass interference, no matter what time of the game it was — the first quarter or the fourth quarter.

Bull. I mean:


Wrapping that hand around the back of the player is a call all day, every day.

So that sucks. As ref screwage goes it's only a 3 out of 10 since it probably wouldn't have mattered. Even if the call is made, Michigan still has to score, get a two-point conversion, and win in overtime to make it matter. That's a 10-20% shot.

I'll have to look at the interception more closely but I didn't think that was egregious. Guy did get there early but that's the kind of play that often gets let go.

McNutt. Pimp.


Des Moines Register

Iowa wide receivers are in a fertile period, aren't they? Someone should just follow Eric Campbell around offering whoever Iowa does. Sign me up for Amara Darboh.

BONUS Iowa skill player coveting! I remember Marcus Coker as a recruit who was vaguely on Michigan's radar in 2010 but things never got serious. Michigan grabbed Stephen Hopkins; Coker floated out there hoping for a single decent offer before committing to Iowa in August. Other suitors: Wake Forest, Minnesota, Kansas State, and Maryland.

I don't get that. Coker's the sort of physical package that should be drawing offers from most of the Big Ten and he played at Maryland power DeMatha. It's not like RR was the only coach to whiff on the guy, I guess.


I thought this was the most interesting bit about the press conference:

What went wrong on Coker’s last TD run when nobody even touched him? “Well they got to the edge and we were really trying to stack up the middle. It was a bear defense. Without seeing it, I have a feeling that the six probably got scooped out of his gap and then [Coker] got downhill pretty fast.”

Six == just outside the tackle and presumably the "bear" LB.

Inside the Box Score is oddly formatted but on point about a weird personnel decision:

Thomas Gordon had zero tackles. There was a board post on this topic yesterday. I don’t understand how you take your 2nd leading tackler out of the lineup. I get that his getting a lot of tackles is part of the position he plays, but he sure looks like one of our best 11 defenders to me. Additionally, Gordon is listed at 208 pounds on the roster, and Woolfolk is 191. When you are playing against Coker and those corn-fed hawkeyes, I want MOAR BEEF on defense. I’m not going to complain about Woolfolk. I understand wanting to get an experienced, 5th year senior, and team leader on the field, but if I was Gordon and lost my job due to intangibles I’d be “upset”. (The actual word is “pissed,” but I recently learned Mom is reading my diaries. If you notice a change in tone, that’s the reason.)

Gordon was upset, and posted something about "P O L I T I C S" on twitter/facebook/whatever his social network poison is.

I must disagree with Hoke for Tomorrow:

So that happened.  I had promised myself before the game that I wasn't going to get all emotionally invested in the outcome.  I could feel the disappointment coming all week.  Iowa was coming off of a loss that made them look much worse than they really are and Michigan was traveling to their house.  Michigan was coming off of a "validating" win over an overmatched Purdue squad, were already assured of a bowl invite, and had equaled last year's win total already.  There was no question which team had the most to play for and the game was sure to reflect that.  No surprise: it did.

Michigan had a good shot at a division title before the weekend. I award them 16 Wanting It points to Iowa's 13 in a totally made up exercise I just executed.

And the Denard slide started a long time ago.


Media. Photo gallery from I enjoyed Kevin Koger's Bruce Lee impression:


Melanie Maxwell/

Unwashed blog masses. MVictors:

My line lately to people who ask before the game is this—Denard’s going to get six to eight opportunities to really hurt the opponent with his arm.  He’s got to cash in on two, maybe three.   He didn’t Saturday and I’m getting more and more frustrated.   Despite Brian’s speculation, I’m sure they travelled to Iowa City and East Lansing with Borges’ head completely in tact but I don’t get the insistence to put Denard behind center.

Speaking of Denard, something not there with his wheels.  Michael Spath tweeted that’s he’s become a “cutter”, as opposed to just beating people to the edge.  I’ve noticed this too and since Michigan State I just haven’t seen that extra burst. 

The Iowa perspective is rapturous about their defense since we managed to score less than Indiana and Minnesota. The commenters deploy the usual defensiveness about the refereeing. This list of grievances is something:

i usually don't like complaining about the officiating, it's a part of the game, it is what it is

but them complaining is just not right when you look at the whole picture. we got one slight favor at the end of the game. there were a slew of terrible calls throughout the game that went in Michigan’s favor.

the refs lost track of what down it was while michigan was driving in the first quarter, effectively giving them a free timeout, the official threw a pi flag on the wrong receiver, which was thankfully called back, we got nailed on a questionable offsides that kept a Michigan drive alive in the third, and they got away with a pretty blatant chest bump on a fair catch that should have been interference. I can remember very few calls during the game that went our way unti lthe very end.

When your most outrageous outrages include a flag that was picked up and the refs resetting the clock you might be protesting too much.

Doctor Saturday:

There's a lot to question about this offense, specifically: Denard Robinson's run:pass ratio; the persistent presence of backup QB Devin Gardner, to no apparent effect; the persistent absence of an every-down tailback. But it all seems to stem from the basic uncertainty that follows a coaching change: How does a coaching staff with a specific, ingrained philosophy integrate a lineup built for a completely divergent philosophy? Before the season, coach Brady Hoke and offensive coordinator Al Borges promised they weren't stupid enough to ask the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year — as a sophomore, no less — to be something he's not. For the most part, that's been true — especially when the offense has sputtered early against the likes of Eastern Michigan, San Diego State and Northwestern.

Against the best teams on the schedule, though, manageable second half deficits have been cause for a makeshift air show. Against Notre Dame, incredibly, heaving the ball almost indiscriminately after three stagnant quarters actually worked in the fourth. Against Michigan State, it didn't even come close. Today, at least, it came close before coming up short.

Various bullets from Maize 'n' Blue Nation, Touch The Banner, and the MZone. Holdin' The Rope has flashbacks:

It's hard to be mad when you've seen this story over and over again; if you're surprised by the ending then you should probably pay a little closer attention. This is what Michigan has done for years. In the interest of putting a name to it, we'll simply call this the Ben Chappell Theorem; that is, that if Michigan plays a team with multiple glaring weaknesses/an air of general incompetency that has already failed in the face of the opposition of other inferior teams, then, it must necessarily follow, that not only will Michigan not exploit those weaknesses (or what are ostensibly weaknesses, i.e. Michigan State's offensive line) effectively (usually not for lack of some trying, though), they will make certain players look like All-Americans in the process. An enormous shadow of a mouse becomes something much worse in the shifting tectonic plates of light and dark. Just as Michigan made former Indiana QB Ben Chappell look like the greatest thing ever on one afternoon, Michigan continues to make the mediocre look exceptional.

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Formation notes: Nothing new save the Denard Jet formation moving back to shotgun.

Substitution notes: Almost all Smith at RB, with cameos from Toussaint and Hopkins playing FB when one was needed, whether that was out of the I or in a two-back shotgun set. No Barnum; Mealer came in for Lewan after Gholston judo chopped him off the field for a couple plays.

You know about the QB rotation; WRs were the usual.

Argh? Argh.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Hemingway 5 (Pen +5)
They are running curl/flat here but Robinson doesn't have time to let the corner truly pick one as the LBs are flying up hard into gaps into the line. This would be wide open for nice yardage if it was a slant. As it is the zoning corner doesn't drop back far enough to give up the edge and can come up to tackle. Pickleman offsides anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
M25 1 5 I-form 2 1 2 4-3 over Pass Throwback screen Gallon 1
MSU shows man as Gallon motions across the formation. Michigan runs an iso fake that sucks in the backside LB, who's blitzing, and Denard runs the throwback. Lewan(-2) whiffs on the corner and Schofield was late getting out because of traffic; two guys converge for no gain. (CA, 3, screen) RUN-: Lewan(2)
M26 2 4 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet QB power Gardner 5
Jet fake pulls a safety down and forces the other guy to go one-high. Michigan pulls to the backside; Koger(+0.5) kicks out Gholston as Lewan(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) club Worthy to the ground. Smith leads into the WLB as Omameh pulls around into... also the WLB(-2). MLB is sitting unblocked in a big hole; Gardner(+1) hops outside and gets the edge thanks to Hemingway(+1) sustaining a block downfield. RPS+1; if Omameh makes a block on the MLB this could be a big chunk.
RUN+: Koger(0.5), Huyge(0.5), Lewan, Hemingway, Gardner RUN-: Omameh(2)
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 9
Just the basic zone read. Worthy fights outside and upfield of Huyge(+0.5), which is not what you're supposed to do. Because of that there's a big cutback Smith(+1) hits; it also looks like Michigan might have creased the frontside but why risk it. Smith cuts back; Omameh(+1) gets a pop on the MLB and Smith gets to the safeties.
RUN+: Smith(0.5), Huyge(0.5), Omameh RUN-:
M40 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 26
Double A gap blitz on which they time the snap based on Molk's head motion. Molk(-1) goes down, comes back up, and immediately snaps so he has no concept of the blitz and moves out on a DT, which lets a LB right through. Denard is looking at a containing DE so hands off. Smith(+1) breaks the tackle from the over-aggressive WLB; Lewan(+2) gets a great seal on Worthy, and Schofield(+1) kicks the MLB. Once Smith is past the line there isn't anyone on the second level and he grabs a big gain. Koger(+1) adjusted to kick a DB once he noticed there isn't anyone on the second level. RPS -1. Picture paged.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith(2), Schofield, Koger RUN-: Molk(2)
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA TE seam Koger Inc (Pen +5)
Not so aggressive is the WLB this time; he drops into coverage as Koger tries to release. Robinson has the slot guy wide open and isn't pressured as he releases the ball but he still goes to the covered guy; I guess he might have to get this out fast because linemen are getting downfield on their blocks. Still, pass to covered guy instead of open guy. (BR, 0, protection N/A) LB interferes and is flagged. This is the Lewan-Gholston judo chop play, which is not flagged.
O29 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 0
Mealer in at RT as Huyge flips. They run at him. Weird. He loses his down block(-2) to a spin move and that guy gets in the hole; Schofield comes up to hit him but there's nowhere to go. Robinson tries to cut back, at which point Koger also gets his block spun through; wasn't going anywhere anyway. RUN-: Mealer(2), Koger
O29 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Hemingway 9
Same play as the first one; this time Michigan gets a man coverage look so when Hemingway breaks for the flat there is no one to hit him on the catch. He turns it up for some YAC. This was wobbly and upfield because the DE got a fingertip on it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O20 3 1 Maryland I 2 3 0 Base 4-3 Penalty Delay -- -5
This play never happened but they got most of the way through it before they whistled it dead, so you could see that it was a power counter to the iso look NW blew up that would have worked, possibly for a touchdown, thanks in large part to Koger annihilating Gholston on the edge; dude got pancaked. The linebackers were gone and Toussaint would have been one on one with a safety for six. Oh well. RPS +1? Sure.
O25 3 6 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Speed option Smith 3
WLB overhanging on the weak side. Michigan goes option and gets the playside sealed except Omameh(-1) getting out late from his block, allowing the MLB to flow unimpeded. Robinson cuts upfield of the overhang guy, has to pitch when the MLB comes up, and Smith is not fast enough to get the edge.
RUN+: Molk, Huyge RUN-: Omameh, Schofield(0.5)
O22 4 3 Field goal - - - Field goal Run Fake FG Dileo 3
This is actually a pass. It's not wide open so Dileo quickly decides to hit it up, just picking up the first. I'm not going to grade this for obvious reasons.
O19 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over Run Pitch sweep Toussaint 4
Koger standing up a little outside the tackle. MSU brings the corner down; Roundtree points him out but I don't think Denard sees him. Michigan motions in Hemingway; the FB is offset to the strongside, this screams outside run, they run outside. Lewan(+1) seals Worthy. Koger(-0.5) does a mediocre job on the DE, eventually getting a crease but giving ground and heading outside, delaying the point at which Toussaint can hit it up. Hemingway(+1) takes out the playside LB; Hopkins gets a push on the edge guy; MLB scrapes from the interior to tackle. No one on him; Schofield(-0.5) was leading through and ran through to the safety instead of peeling.
RUN+: Lewan, Hemingway RUN-: Koger(0.5), Schofield(0.5)
O15 2 6 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Pass Scramble Robinson 15
Surprise, except no not surprise. Two man route, one of them Hopkins, both covered. Molk(-2) thinks he has help behind him, which he does not because of an MSU corner blitz, and lets a DT through to pressure Robinson. Molk manages to recover to shove the guy past after he reaches out to tackle, and then Robinson's scrambling around and doing his Robinson thing. (SCR, N/A, protection 0/2, Molk)
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q. Goodbye offense.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M37 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Sprint counter Smith -2
Man... WTF. Lewan(-2) lets DE inside of him on the playside and Molk(-2) lets the WLB upfield of him without getting a hat on him. That's inexplicably bad play from our best two OL. Schofield is pulling around and shoves Rush, allowing Smith the cutback that isn't there because of Molk's screwup. Line opened up big time on this and Michigan just didn't block it. RUN-: Molk(2), Lewan(2)
M35 2 12 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout out Gardner Inc
Gardner, in, play fake, rollout, pulling Schofield gets a block and the pocket is decent but everyone deep is covered in man; Gardner throws to Odoms anyway and it's broken up. Insert usual rant about rolling away half the field here. The checkdown to Hopkins was there for at least a few and possibly a rumble up the sideline. Everyone's Rex Grossman. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
M34 3 12 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Another half roll doesn't get anyone open quickly and finds pressure from the backside; Robinson has to step up and chucks a bomb to Roundtree. Roundtree has a step but the pass isn't anywhere near him. (IN, 0, protection ½, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M6 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Hemingway 29
With an interior blitz two of the three guys to this side of the field are open. This does not include Hemingway. LB jumps the route and is headed for a pick six; Denard throws it high and it's over his hand and caught. Hemingway picks up a big chunk of YAC. I cannot condone this throw even though the result is good—the other two guys are open. (BR, 2, protection 1/1)
M35 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 0
Double A gap blitz again. Michigan never checks. This play cannot work with two LBs roaring up the field at the snap. Molk(-1) goes to double a DT because Michigan does not realize this is coming; Omameh can't get over to block the LB, and Smith gets eaten. (RPS -2) This is not getting out-toughed, it's out-stupiding MSU. RUN-: Molk
M35 2 10 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Reverse scramble Gallon 8 + 15 pen
Intended to be a pass but never develops since Worthy got way upfield. That wasn't a good play by Worthy, he's just overrunning everything like whoah, but it means Gallon has to start making evasive maneuvers before he can even consider passing. Because it's a pass no one got downfield to block guys and MSU folk are charging from the inside. Gallon heads out to a couple of guys hanging out near the numbers, points at them to block, and picks up some yardage. We get stupid MSU personal foul #2 (first one was a horsecollar on special teams) afterwards.
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Koger 4
Not the jet package with a WR lined up behind Robinson; still jet motion as Robinson heads for the 2WR side. Michigan runs a play action rollout off this; two guys in Gardner's face with no support so he has to dump it off. Four yards. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
O38 2 6 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Penalty Offsides -- 5
Michigan goes under center for a hard count and Worthy jumps it.
O33 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith -3
Pickleman slants under Molk(-2) and destroys the play. RUN-: Molk(2)
O36 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Gallon Inc
DB runs Gallon's route for him and breaks it up. Excellent play. Not sure if Denard should get blamed here or not. (MA, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA FB Flat Hopkins Inc
Corner blitz catches Michigan running a play that has the QB facing backwards. This is a terrible omen. Everybody in the world is open here but it doesn't matter because it's all Denard can do to get the pass off without getting sacked. It is wide of Hopkins in the flat. (PR, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M32 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Screen Smith Inc (Pen +15)
Toussaint runs a flare to one side that Robinson fakes to before coming back to Smith on the other side. I think Smith got caught up trying to get out of the backfield because the MSU DL is slanting hard. He has to wait on Worthy and by the time he gets out he finds himself too far inside. He is well inside the OL pulling out, which means the WLB can hit him without worrying about those guys. The throw is hard and inside; Smith drops it. (MA, 2, screen) Worthy gets a derp penalty.
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 5
Denard takes a counter step that gets the MLB and SLB. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) blow out Pickelman big time, but Omameh(-1) is too freaking slow to get to the vast hole; Denard is running past him as he nears the LOS. MLB unblocked but because of the counter step Denard can burst outside for a good gain thanks to Koger(+1) kicking out Rush well.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Koger, Schofield RUN-: Omameh
O48 2 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 3
Another double A gap blitz timed on Molk putting his head down. No check. Michigan's running power. Omameh pulls into the WLB and has no chance to get playside; Schofield(+1) does a good job to kick the MLB. Lewan(-1) loses Worthy to the outside; there is a cutback but WLB is bearing down and the safety attacking no longer has a blocker with an angle on him. RPS -1.
O45 3 2 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Speed option Robinson 2
Late move with two guys on the backside of the line; State slants under and sends linebackers playside. Koger just manages to push Gholston past the play; Robinson has to circle around, giving some time. Omameh(-1) failed to read the situation and releases downfield into no players as Huyge has no chance of dealing with backside DT. Lewan(+1) gets a driving block on the WLB that gives Robinson just enough room for the first down.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-: Omameh
O43 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Robinson overthrows Hemingway by ten yards, in part because he got tangled up with the DB, who fell and knocked Hemingway off stride. Still way long even without that. Koger was open by yards shorter. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
O43 2 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Gardner. He throws deep to a somewhat open Hemingway, missing; he did not see Hopkins blitheringly wide open for an easy touchdown. A better throw here and this is still good; wind problematic. (BR, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2) This was the play to punish these linebackers and safeties and for the love of God, why isn't Gardner looking for Hopkins first?
O43 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Random heave -- Inc
Corner blitz is not recognized by Smith(-2), forcing Robinson to scramble out of the pocket. At this point he should just run, maybe set Michigan up with a makeable fourth down. Instead he makes a crazy heave that three MSU players have a better shot at than anyone on Michigan. One of them drops an easy INT. (BRX, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M46 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA out Grady Inc
You know, if you're going to run three wide you have to make them respect the slot—here three wide is just one fewer blocker since MSU doesn't care. And as I type this Michigan does make them respect the slot, running the pop pass out they've run a few times already. Denard throws it wide. Probably 6-8 if accurate (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
M46 2 10 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet sweep Robinson 15
Linebackers blitz up the middle, but this time they tip it early—just a screwup as Molk didn't put his head down yet. As a result Michigan can actually block these guys. Omameh(+1) cuts Allen; Molk(+1) moves over to wall of Bullough. DT playside falls in all the wreckage; Smith(+2) annihilates Rush with a cut block, sending Denard into acres of space. Lewan is running downfield to try to get a block; safety fills and Robinson tries to cut back right into Lewan's path. Safety manages to get a diving arm tackle on Robinson. Left a bunch of yards on the field here.
RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Robinson, Smith(2) RUN-:
O39 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 1 2 4-3 over Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Corner blitz is picked up. Lewan shoves the guy out into the flare Toussaint is running, which dissuades Denard from throwing that, his first read. Found the open spot and it was not open. Robinson has a good pocket and starts stepping up into it in case there is pressure from behind; as DTs converge on him he throws a short post to Roundtree that's just outside and is dropped. I may have complained about this not being a run but I was wrong, Robinson was right to throw here. The throw was too far inside, though. (IN, 1, protection 3/3)
O39 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run? QB iso/seam Robinson 2
You know that short pass to run thing from Smart Football? This is it. M has a run play on and is optioning Bullough. He stays inside, so throw, but Denard has lost the plot. He panics a bit because Worthy is slanting but that's not relevant, just get the ball out. He doesn't, running outside, stopping, and coming back under to the gap that was already there; blocking angles killed he picks up two. Either hit it up in the big seam or throw it. Don't do this. (BR, N/A, protection N/A)
O37 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Hitch Gallon Inc
Four man rush; Michigan picks it up, though Schofield gets bulled back a bit. Robinson pumps, then airmails a hitch into the sidelines. Not a first down if accurate but definitely in go-for-it territory. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 2 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 2
Worthy slants under Schofield(-2), which makes Smith think he's got an alley but Worthy comes around from behind to tackle, forcing him upfield into Bullough for a minimal gain. RUN-: Schofield(2)
M29 2 8 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass Dig Roundtree Inc
Play action and max protect; two man route with Smith leaking out late. Robinson has forever and finds Roundtree breaking open for a big gain; airmailed. AAAAAAAARGH (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Scramble Robinson 5 + 15 pen
Huyge(-2) smoked by the blitzing Allen, Robinson has to roll out and scramble as a result. Omameh(-1) got bowled over backwards and Schofield(-1) let a stunt through; this was a comprehensive crapfest. (PR, 0, protection 0/4) Gholston does the helmet rip after.
M49 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -9
Double blitz off the backside and a late developing play; Robinson has no chance. (PR, 0, protection N/A, RPS -2)
M40 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 11
MSU stunting; Schofield(+1) comes off Worthy and shoves Gholston past the play. This does force Robinson away from lead blocking but with the SLB dropping into coverage there is no one to make him pay and he runs back to said blocking. Koger and Molk both got good, extended downfield blocks.
RUN+: Robinson, Schofield, Molk, Koger RUN-:
O49 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch 1 0 4 Okie off Pass Improv Roundtree 15
Nice pocket momentarily despite a blitz but Smith(-1) gets shoved back and doesn't cut Allen and a stunt starts coming through so Robinson has to roll. He does so and heaves one that Roundtree manages to get up and grab as he continued his route across the field. (MA, 2, protection ½, Smith -1)
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 2
Koger as an H-back. He pulls backside. Huyge(-1) fails to get around and seal the backside DT despite that guy moving backside as the play starts and Omameh helping. Smith(-1) still has a lane up the middle he might be able to hit; instead he bounces to the frontside of the play, where SLB is sitting unblocked because he's loitering around the LOS without having to care about the slot. Bubble grumble.
O36 2 8 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Hitch Gallon Inc
Double A gap blitz. Molk whiffs so both guys get up the middle of the field; Denard has to start backing up and chucks a duck well short of an open Gallon. (IN, 0, protection 0/3, Molk -1, team -2, RPS -2)
O36 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie off Pass In Grady 10 (Pen -10)
Huyge(-2) destroyed by Allen, who times the snap (RPS -1) and gets in. Huyge holds. Robinson rolls out and manages to throw back across his body to Grady on an in route that would be a first down, though he only got the opportunity because of the hold. (CA+, 3, protection 0/3, Huyge -1, team -2)
O46 3 18 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Okie press Pass Post Grady Inc
Press man, which is odd, and Denard throws it to an open-ish Grady on a post that would pick up the first. CB gets playside and breaks the pass up—great play. I don't mind the decision or the throw here since it's third and 18. It could work, you have nothing to lose, go for it. (CA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Angle Hopkins Inc
Gardner in; Koger covered. Michigan runs a power fake to play action that MSU has covered because of their playcall; Gholston upfield of Lewan and into Gardner; same thing with SLB getting underneath Toussaint. Gardner has to chuck it to Hopkins, it's yards off. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Lewan -1, Toussaint -1, RPS -1)
O41 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Okie off Run Speed option Robinson 2
MSU jumping around in a three man line. Michigan does get them to show the blitz and then they motion Toussaint behind Robinson before the snap—kind of a giveaway. Still, Huyge(-2) is playside of Bullough and just has to release downfield and seal him to make this play; he does not. Smith(+1) slashes Gholston to the ground; Robinson(-1) should pitch as the edge man is too close to him but fakes it and Huyge's guy manages to make the tackle as Robinson can't cut back far enough inside to burst upfield.
RUN+: Smith RUN-: Robinson, Huyge(2)
O39 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Sack -- -7
Huyge(-3) destroyed by Allen on four man rush. Woo third and long; amazing how this got covered up last year. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Huyge -3)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA out Hemingway Inc
Major shift late sends two guys in on the backside of the play. Robinson throws it to the out; deep slant wide open as well; blitzer leaps to bat it down. Would like Denard to read the coverage and go deeper but this was open-ish and he had three guys in his face quickly. (BA, 0, protection 0/1, team)
M20 2 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Power off tackle Toussaint 3
RB power; key here is Norman, the backside LB, immediately shifting playside when he sees the pull.This prevents Lewan from getting a block on him. M opens up the hole as Schofield(+1) gets to the POA in time and blocks Allen; he does not force it back to Bullough and spills it outside so Toussaint is through despite not having a real lead block; Norman scrapes over and tackles. The initial movements of the MSU LBs are much better than those of the M LBs.
RUN+: Schofield, Omameh(0.5) RUN-:
M23 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Deep cross Roundtree 8 + 15 pen
Four man rush; good protection. Robinson steps up and has his space restricted. He finds Roundtree running his cross past all of the zones to the sideline and hits him as he clears the last LB; his throw is a wobbly duck but it does get there. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Gholston gets punchy afterwards.
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Penalty Offsides -- 5
The slight compensation. Three of four MSU DL jump offsides! THREE!
O49 1 5 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet stretch Robinson 13
Double A-gap blitz that gets through again one play after a freaking offsides penalty. Come on, people. Come on. Michigan has a playcall on that works against it but barely. Playing with fire. After being burned with fire. Molk(+1) is stepping playside in the bucket fashion; he sees the blitz and peels off to shove Allen; this prevents him from deathsacking Denard in the backfield. Schofield(+1) gets a seal on the playside DT; Smith(+1) kicks out the DE. Lewan has no one to block so he trundles downfield. Robinson is cutting back behind his blocks when Bullough chops him down from behind.
RUN+: Robinson, Schofield, Molk, Smith RUN-:
O36 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Gardner 3
Gardner QB; TE covered. Blocked well; Gardner screws it up. Watson(+1) doubles and then releases into MLB; sealing him. Toussaint(+0.5) kicks out WLB. Koger(-0.5) lets playside DE inside off him but Schofield(+1) is hitting it up quickly and can wall him off; SLB is going to flow down the line to tackle but this is 5-8. Gardner(-1) bounces. This exposes him to the safety and costs Michigan 3-4 yards.
RUN+: Watson, Schofield RUN-: Gardner, Koger(0.5)
O33 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Hitch Roundtree 9
Play action and a zing to the sideline for the first down. Genuinely impressive throw in context. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
O24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB iso Robinson 0
Robinson back in. Omameh(-2) and Molk double Worthy; Omameh does not bucket step around the DT when Molk is blocking down. He's in the hole; Robinson stops and is swallowed. RUN-: Omameh(2)
O24 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -1
Jesus. S walks down and is obviously blitzing along with WLB. Telegraphed, Michigan checks out of nothing and runs play action they cannot block because the edge guy has to cut the blitzing safety and leaves Gholston alone on the edge. Robinson has no time to deal. RPS -2. (PR, 0, protection N/A) This is Gholston's sack, BTW: unblocked. MSU will not miss him against UW. He's the fifth or sixth best player in their front seven.
O25 3 11 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Yakety sax Gardner -6
Gardner fumbles a perfect snap.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Roundtree 34
With no deep safety, if a WR breaks a tackle on this route it is six. Robinson zings a deadly accurate pass to Roundtree and 'Tree breaks that tackle; six. Much better route than Gallon's earlier failed slant. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 9 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack Robinson -8
Double A-gap blitz is a little better picked up because it's not timed quite as well. Molk takes Bullough; Smith takes... Bullough. Allen unblocked up the middle, sack. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
O40 2 18 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Drag Hemingway 5
Four man rush is held off and Robinson has plenty of time to throw. He can't find anyone significantly downfield and ends up hitting Hemingway for a few. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O35 3 13 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Drag Koger 12
Omameh(-1) fails to read the play and lets Gholston by him. Smith comes over to pick him up. Everyone else is blocked, so Robinson can move past him in the pocket; he finds Koger open and tosses a duck that almost hits the ground. Koger still has time to turn it up and create fourth and short. (MA, 2, protection ½, Omameh -1)
O23 4 In Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
Yet another double A-gap blitz gets straight through, with Molk(-2) failing to read it and letting Allen in. Robinson(+3) appears to make a brilliant improvisation here; there is a contain guy but Robinson sees Allen tackling Smith at the mesh point and yanks the ball out, cutting inside of that tackle and finding space because Omameh(+1) got over to block Bullough; Bullough then falls over the legs of Huyge. Robinson has a crack he uses to get the first down. RPS -2.
O18 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Yakety sax Robinson -1
Fumbled snap.
O19 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Quick seam Koger Inc
Double A-gap. Not perfectly timed so Molk's head is up and he gets a block; Smith(-1) shoulders Bullough but only gets a piece; Robinson has to throw. He has a quick seam to Koger that he misses. May be a timing issue because Koger got chucked coming out, but results based charting. (IN, 0, protection ½, Smith -1)
O19 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Cross Gallon 10
Decent time until Omameh(-1) is beaten on a bull rush; Robinson steps around the rusher and he falls. He sets up again and zings a tough throw into a covered Gallon. Gallon brings it in. Q: is this the right spot? Is it where he catches it or where he hits the ground? (DO, 2, protection 1/2, Omameh -1)
O9 4 In Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Pass Sack -- -9
DOOM. Hopkins lined up as the deep back and Toussaint the FB. Moore(-3) fails to even get out of his stance on the snap and lets the blitzing LB through untouched, doom. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Moore –3, RPS -3)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-21, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M35 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Smith INT
Double A gap doom; picture paged already. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, team -3, RPS -2)
Drive Notes: Interception, defensive TD, 14-28, 4 min 4th Q

Is this blood running down my cheeks or have my tears turned to rust waiting for this?

You are a jerk. And apparently a robot. A robotic jerk. So it's rust, I guess.

Are you any calmer about the snap thing?

I am less calm. A full review of the game tape reveals ten(!) of Michigan State's double-A-gap LB blitzes. Plays on which one of the two guys was unblocked into the backfield are bolded:

  1. Smith dodges tackle in backfield, picks up 26.
  2. Zero yard inside zone from Smith
  3. Three yard power from Robinson*
  4. 15-yard jet sweep as M picks up blitzers
  5. Incomplete hitch to Gallon as both guys come unblocked up the middle.
  6. 13 yard jet stretch (ie: outside zone blocking)
  7. Eight yard sack.
  8. Five yards on fourth and one when Robinson saves Borges's bacon with a brilliant late pull
  9. Quick seam to Koger incomplete as M picks up 1.5 of the linebackers.
  10. DOOM

Michigan picked the blitz up two, maybe three times: on the two jet sweeps and on the second-to-last one. On the first jet sweep they picked it up because MSU screwed up by revealing their blitz before Molk put his head down. On the second one they let a guy through but managed to adjust after he was in the backfield, so I'm being generous(!).

By the time the pick six arrived Michigan had literally seen this blitz nine times and they still had no adjustment to their timing so that Molk would be able to see what was directly in front of him. This was well over half of MSU's penetration and Michigan had no clue what to do with it even deep into the fourth quarter. They did not check out of a single play because they didn't check at all. They didn't run a freeze or attempt to change the timing of the snap after the second quarter.

I mean… when Worthy bowled over Omameh to pick up their third and final offsides call, three of the four DL were across the line.


That is a snap-jumping machine. This was the last time Michigan altered their snap count.

They should have been doing so several times a drive. Not doing so led to all the problems above and made the OL's job very tough in pass protection. This would end up a holding call on Huyge after Denicos Allen shot past him:


Huyge is beaten and the ball isn't even to the QB yet.

No checks, no answers, no ability to address an obvious issue. That was a total failure by the coaching staff.

Now for the tedious disclaimers: I like Borges, I like the coaches, I think MSU fans declaring epic gameday domination for all time based on a single matchup are getting way ahead of themselves. But there is no gray area here.

*[Counting this because Allen shot into the backfield and picked off a pulling guard, FWIW.]

This is fun. Now show me the chart in which Denard Robinson makes angels tear off their wings.

Chart in which Denard Robinson makes angels tear off their wings.

[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%

Yeah, so that was like putting freshman Denard out there. Note the huge PR number. If he had happy feet he had good reason to have them. The protection metric is incredible in this game.

But first, receivers:

[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 - 1/1 3/3 7 - 7/8 12/13
Roundtree - 0/1 1/1 3/3 4 1/4 5/6 7/7
Odoms 1 - - - 2 - - -
Grady 2 - - - 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon 2


1/1 1/1 4 - 1/1 18/18
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/2 1/2 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 -
Koger 1 - - 1/1 3 1/3 2/3 8/9
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
Toussaint - - - - - - - 1/2
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - 0/1 - 2 0/1 - 5/6
Hopkins 1 - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

It was Oprah out there: YOU get an uncatchable ball, YOU get an uncatchable ball, YOU get an uncatchable ball.

And now the ugliest run chart I've put together (in the year and a half I've been doing them):

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 6 5 1 Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.
Barnum - - - DNP
Omameh 3.5 7 -3.5 Watching him pull is like watching an iceberg wander around the titanic.
Huyge 2 3 -1 Pass blocking not so good.
Schofield 7 3 4 Easy winner for best performer.
Mealer - 2 -2 One snap did not go well.
Watson 1 - 1 Eh.
Koger 3.5 2 1.5 So… yeah.
TOTAL 27 30 -3 But wait, there's more.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 11 1 10 Yay running him 12 times.
Gardner 1 1 0 One good bounce, one bad bounce.
Toussaint 0.5 - - Two carries!
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith 7 1 6 Most of this was on a couple plus runs.
Hopkins - - - Did play.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 19.5 3 16.5 Denard still has legs.
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway 2 - 2  
Odoms - - -  
Gallon -- - - --
Roundtree - - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 2 - 2 Hardly anything got to them.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 30 32 48% Team 9, Huyge 7, Smith 6, Omameh 4, Molk 3, Schofield 1, Lewan 1, Toussaint 1
RPS 4 14 -10 See above.

Last week against NW there were 39 protection points. Here 62, which the team acquired less than half of.

Good hopping Lord in a pickle can.


I mean, sweet clod-kicking Jesus knickers.


That is just… something.

It was a—

Holy baboon-faced god of ancient river peoples spinning around on a pogo stick screaming "hey dilly dilly hey-o."

We get it.

I mean, where do you go from the above? Michigan was comprehensively annihilated. Denard was awful, Borges was awful, the line was awful, everything was awful. So… yeah, the players shoulder a lot of the blame. Borges got guys open with frequency only to see them ignored.

What happened to Omameh?

Michigan pulled him in this game, seemingly to prove once and for all that for whatever reason he can't pull. He's a light, quick lineman who gets to the hole slightly slower than Tom Harmon, who is dead:

Combining him with the lightning-quick Robinson is not so good. This is frustrating because last year he was a killer scooping dudes with Molk and heading to the second level. This year he looks like a guy who'd be benched if there was a plausible backup. Chalk it up to transition costs.

Should there have even been a fourth and one?

I'm not sure. Are they supposed to spot it where you catch the ball or where you touch the ground? If it's on the catch they screwed up the spot. If it's where the ball is when you get a foot down they are relatively close.


I'm guessing it's the latter, because that's where they put the ball.


Yes, yes.


Michael Schofield. I guess the receivers didn't drop anything.


Literally everyone else.

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

It means we have to change our snap counts, figure out some new ways to run the ball, and hope like hell this is by far the worst game of Denard's career.

Lizard Brain Tornado Apocalypse Derp Derp Derp

Lizard Brain Tornado Apocalypse Derp Derp Derp

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2011 at 11:49 AM

10/15/2011 – Michigan 14, Michigan State 28 – 10/15/2011, 6-1, 2-1 Big Ten


right via Melanie Maxwell/

RUN THE FOOTBALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Brian Cook's brain channeling Mike Valenti, 3:07 PM 10/15/2011


The now rapidly developing lizard brain theory of college football coaching states that there is a certain level of pressure above which rationality goes out the window and coaches revert to who they really are. It came to me in a horrible epiphany when Lloyd Carr punted in the 2005 Ohio State game less than a quarter after going for it on his side of the field. Coaches panic, go to their binkies, and then try to convince you otherwise in the post-game.

Different coaches have different levels. Ron Zook reverts to the lizard brain on the opening kickoff of every game. Kirk Ferentz makes it about five minutes in. We don't know about Tressel because he constructed his team such that the lizard brain was right. Les Miles exists on an entirely different axis with taffy on one end and victory on the other. He is the only one who escapes. The lizard brain is unavoidable.

Al Borges's lizard brain kicked in after Vincent Smith ran for two yards on Michigan's first offensive play of the second half. First and ten after that:

  1. Robinson sacked for –9 yards
  2. Smith rush for two yards
  3. Gardner incomplete
  4. Robinson incomplete
  5. Offsides MSU
  6. Gardner rush for four yards
  7. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  8. Robinson slant complete for 34 yard touchdown
  9. Robinson sacked
  10. Robinson rush for –1 yard
  11. Robinson INT

While this doesn't paint a pretty picture for the run game, either, after halftime Michigan passed on 60% of its first downs, got one completion on a short route that turned into a big gain when Roundtree broke a tackle, and did nothing else.

For the game Michigan tried to pass at least 41 times*, averaging 2.8 yards per attempt and giving up a defensive touchdown.

Sorry. Sorry.

Michigan tried to run the ball 26 times and averaged… oh, Jesus… 5.2 yards per carry. Fitzgerald Toussaint got two carries, Denard twelve.

I just realized this is what it's like to be Walter Sobchak.


MARK IT 2.8.
(This is not a threat against anyone's person. Do I look like Will Gholston?)

So, yeah. There is no way to put this without getting an email from some guy concerned about his eleven year old without resorting to Bloom County methods. That was the dumbest goddamned $%&*^-*$#*ing #&!$brained dip*&%$ mother*(%$ing horse_+$# goat-&^%t &%$*y-infested $%^&stick playcalling I have ever &*$ing seen in my life. I see you, Valenti. I get it now. I get it.








Okay, okay… sorry. Sorry. I'm vented.

What we have to deal with now is the cold certainty that the honeymoon is over and our football coaches are football coaches, like they always are, and we cannot assume that everything will be honeydew and game theory from now on. Hoke punted on fourth and short-ish from inside the opponent 40. Borges did that above.

That's okay, really. Given the crapfest we endured on offense I almost can't blame Hoke for the punts. And in many other situations I prefer an offensive coordinator who wants to throw when he's in trouble to one who wants to go into a shell. The Morris/upperclass Gardner offense won't put the Ferrari in neutral until the second half. Recruit like they're recruiting and coach like it seems they can and eventually we'll get to a nice place to be.

In the near term, though, those happy thoughts over the first few weeks about Borges adjusting to Denard evaporated in a flurry of sacks after which you look at the receivers and there are three guys thirty yards downfield with no one between them and the carnage. You can fake it against defenses that can't play, but when it comes down to it the combination of Borges and Denard makes everyone wonder that bad old question about whether he should really play QB. IE: the worst-case scenario from the offseason.

A certain genre of Michigan fan will say this was always who Denard was, but last year he completed 58% of his passes for 9.3 YPA and a 12-9 TD:INT ratio in the Big Ten. Whatever his limitations were they seemed a lot less limiting last year, when Michigan stressed the defense to the edges and exploited the ruthless equation of the spread: a running quarterback means someone's open if you can just find him.

I don't blame Borges for that. You can't up and be someone else at the drop of a hat. If we are again pointing the finger of blame it's aiming at Rich Rodriguez for not deserving a fourth year. I do blame Borges for throwing almost two-thirds of the time when that should be inverted. The incoherent grab-bagginess of the offense is a natural effect of hiring a pro-style guy with a spread offense. Running Denard twelve times in a trash tornado is not.

So here we are, with football coaches instead of magical fairies who can do anything. That sucks. The honeymoon over, life re-asserts itself.

*[I'm not sure how many QB carries were scrambles. I counted the 8-yard Gallon scramble as a pass.]

Non-Bullets of I Wish They Were Real Bullets

Hurray clowniformz! So much for a one-time thing. It's as if they knew they would need to both play and look like Yakety Sax:

That's the third time this year we've had a uniform stunt, this one the ugliest and stupidest of them all*. It's like Dave Brandon took in the majesty that is the Spartan Stadium game experience and said "someday this will be mine." Chengelis's headline on the subject

Spartans, Wolverines compete with fashion statements, too

…is even more evidence that Dave Brandon Gets It less than anyone has ever not Gotten It before.

I had a wow experience. Did you? Everyone looking forward to the analwowing in Dallas next year when we take our freshman defensive tackles and paper-thin offensive line into a game we are absolutely not prepared for? CEOs are psychopaths.

[Bonus: last time we did this was 1976, the very heart of the era when people lost their minds about fashion. We lost then, too.]

*[No, that guy on every message board who could spin Denard Robinson's arm being torn off by William Gholston as a positive for the program, they did not look good. A sane political system would prevent you from voting. You suck. I'm sure you've got a comment all lined up to complain about the complaining. Bring it, I've got an itchy trigger finger today.]

Obligatory personal foul section. Yeah, it was ugly. The truly sad thing was that band of morons getting away with 120 yards in penalties without losing. If we had a sane offensive plan and/or a plan to deal with snap jumping those personal fouls are only 10% enraging—the intent to injure bits—and 90% hilarious Sparty being Sparty. That's where we are as a program right now: we can play the stupidest 85 people ever assembled on one football team and still lose by two touchdowns.

Gholston should obviously be suspended at least two games for the helmet rip—as bad an intent-to-injure play as the Reynolds-Sorgi incident—and the punch, which has been established by the great Jonas Mouton Suspension Fiasco as a one-gamer. There was also a less obvious judo chop that forced Lewan out of the game for a few plays. I bet nothing happens, because that's the way life goes.

This is the second consecutive year a player has been knocked out late after the game is decided by a dirty hit. Look at Dantonio's jaw… you are feeling very sleepy… you cannot put together incidents to see a pattern forming… so much… fake… bible… Spock.

I guess targeting other football players is progress relative to beating up mechanical engineers en masse.

Edge destruction. Early candidates for big negative days in the defense UFR: Roh and Ryan, who were targeted by the MSU offensive coaching staff to good effect. MSU's first TD drive was a series of easy outside runs as those two got destroyed. They improved a bit as the day went on but were clearly a weak spot targeted effectively.

Woolfolk also got pulled after a series or two; he's obviously hurt. Avery was the nickel corner since MSU doesn't spread to run much.

Man, Baker. It kills me whenever I see a really good running back go against Michigan because the mind immediately plugs that guy into rotation at the RB spot post-Minor and groans. Baker is one of those guys, a leg-churning tackle-breaker who would turn a lot of Michigan's two yard runs into five or six or more.

Penetration. They had it. Michigan didn't. Why not?

One part: It's clear all these late-developing passing routes are exposing the Mark Huyge we saw trying and failing to block for Tate Forcier as a sophomore. After a year of being covered up by the spread 'n' shred he's back to allowing sacks on a three man rush.

But the interior line? I saw Molk ole guys. Molk! How is this year four of MSU using a simple parlor trick of slanting under at the snap without two different coaching staffs being able to do anything about it?

Old school punting. Positive of a sort: When asked to coffin-corner punts Will Hagerup does a pretty good job. Haven't seen that in 15 years—you know it's old school when Sap is referencing Harry Kipke when handing out helmet stickers.

Why "of a sort": if you can coffin-corner a punt you probably shouldn't be punting.

The Minnesota plays. Doesn't seem too smart to have run a zillion new things against Minnesota now, does it? Michigan brought out the sprint counter once and it got stuffed—would MSU have been prepared for it if they hadn't seen it against Minnesota? Since Michigan isn't running the QB stretch that motion was a tipoff the counter was coming and an expected counter is a dead counter.


Inside the Box Score points out a huge swing play:

The refs did miss one backwards pass from Cousins, who clearly let go of the ball on state’s 37 and hit his receiver’s hands on the 36. The explanation was really lame, something along the lines of Michigan didn’t recover the football right away. The way I saw it, the ball hit the ground and the Michigan defender bent down and picked it up. What am I missing?

With no one around the ball except Wolverines if that's correctly called that is a potentially game-changing defensive score. This isn't a bad offsides penalty or uncalled false start, it's a touchdown being wiped off the board because the refs blew it dead too early. Very frustrating. I thought they were supposed to let it go if it was too close to be sure about now.

Also there is this:

Our leading tacklers were Gordon, Kovacs, Roh, and Countess, with 8, 6, 6, and 6, respectively. Do you notice what’s missing? Linebackers. Demens was the leading tackler among the linebackers with 5. I noticed this week that Touch the Banner was high on Demens for last week’s performance against NU, but Brian was critical of him in the UFRs. I think this game was the tie-breaker. I don’t think our LBs were productive enough. Baker gashed us all day long. His longest run was only 25 yards, yet he gained 167 yards on 26 carries. State was consistently able to pound the football against us.

How many times did MSU linebackers shoot out to the sideline on plays that looked like they were going to work and hold them down to a few yards, and how many times did Michigan linebackers do that? That's not always on the linebackers—could be on the M OL not getting out or DL not taking on doubles effectively—but given what we saw against Northwestern I'm betting some of the big chunk plays from Baker see linebacker minuses aplenty.

Hoke for Tomorrow is briefer. I would like to interject about this amongst the things learned:

That strong winds + Kirk Cousins > strong winds + Denard Robinson.

Cousins averaged 5 YPA and threw a backwards pass that should have been a disaster. Drops had a lot to do with it but it's possible the wind messed with both WR and QB, which is even more reason that throwing 41 times in the trash tornado was inexplicably dumb.


Media, as in stuff. The official site valiantly found highlight-type-substances in the wreckage:

There are also postgame interviews if you'd like to watch everyone on Michigan's team refusing to answer questions about the personal fouls. Mike DeSimone collects pictures from across the world.

Blogs. Come on, Braves and Birds picture comparison. Come on. The Hoover Street Rag does something long and complicated that I don't understand. Parody of a bad NBC hour-long drama? Mathlete says Michigan underperformed expectations by 28 points, his worst number of the season for all of I-A. Various bullets from MVictors. Touch the Banner also has them.

BWS says something about little brother, which no offense whenever I hear the word "brother" in relation to Michigan State now my eyes glaze over. Holdin' the Rope recaps. MZone as well.

National variety from Doctor Saturday:

On seven trips into MSU territory after the opening possession, Michigan punted on five and turned it over on downs on a sixth.

Series by series, punt by punt, the sense of progress over the first half of the season dissolved into a disheveled mess. The running game stalled. The two-quarterback shuffle failed to gin up any semblance of a steady passing game, or a big play with Robinson lined up as a wide receiver. The pass protection broke down. In almost every aspect, it was Michigan's worst nightmare: At the exact point on the calendar that optimistic starts began to give way to collapse each of the last two years, the Wolverines  looked like a team on the verge of collapse.

Newspapers. Michigan fell to 17th/18th in the polls. I did not find anything else of a newspapery variety that is open in my tabs.

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-11-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-11-11: Coordinators

Submitted by Heiko on October 11th, 2011 at 9:44 PM

Al Borges

File photo by Tim. Because today was a hat day.

Did you have to make significant adjustments at halftime, or was it more just settling down and refocusing? “Well, yeah, there’s some adjustments. There’s always some adjustments. But I think for the most part in the second half we kind of stuck with the plan, we just didn’t turn the ball over. That’s really the difference. When we didn’t turn the ball over, we were much better. Everybody is. That’s not news. We did a couple things differently, but I think sometimes halftime adjustments can be a little bit overrated. Sometimes they’re not. Sometimes they’re critical.”

Denard said he was just too excited on some of his throws. How much of an issue is that for him in that kind of environment? “Yeah, that can happen to any quarterback. He’s not the first guy to have that happen to him. He was fired up. He’s coming off a really good game, and he really wanted to show up and kind of pick up where he left off. Eventually he did. Early on, when he had a little bit of early trouble getting into rhythm. Once he did, he was really good. We just have to limit our mistakes to incomplete passes. Because incomplete passes -- you can recover from incomplete passes. But when you turn the ball over that hurts a bit more. He knew every time the mistake he made. We went over the tape and doggone it we beat it up one side and down the other. I think he’s getting better. He really is. Other than the turnovers, but in terms of his passing, and his fundamentals were improving. Hence his numbers were gradually going up a little bit.”

(a lot more after the jump.)

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-4-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-4-11: Coordinators

Submitted by Heiko on October 4th, 2011 at 10:31 PM

Al Borges

Thoughts on Denard’s improvement? “We worked on it pretty good, you know. And he took it to heart. He was stressing that he wasn’t throwing well. He’s a better passer, I’ve told you that before. Like I said, part of it is we had to get him some throws that he could make early and then he got into rhythm, and it was lights out after a while. Yeah he was feeling good. But his fundamentals were so much better other than two throws, okay -- there were two throws and both of them were pocket movements to the left where I think he didn’t get turned very well, and part of that was protection. But he got his screws in the ground pretty good and transferred through most of the throws, and he was pretty much on the money. And he touched a few balls nice, too. He dropped a couple balls in, and the key to passing is it’s a finesse art.”

How did you come up with the diamond thingy and what can we expect to see from that in the future? “Well I’m not going to tell you that. But it’s something -- Devin Gardner’s a talented kid, and we just wanted to give him a chance to feature him a little bit in a couple of deals. [With] Big Ten play, we’ll empty the drawer more as we go now. Our first four games, we’re still learning the offense. That’s still a work in progress. We’re going to have our deals. They’re not all going to work. Some are going to be good, some of them aren’t. But that was just one of them.”

Is it based off anything or did you just kind of pull it out of thin air? “Well, it goes way back. There was a series [that the] Chargers ran back in I think was the 80s or early 90s with Buford Jordan, where he was a quarterback in college and we took a piece of that and expanded it a little bit. I think Dan Fouts was playing back then. Part of that’s kind of old Ernie Zampese would have done that. The other piece is that we just kind of built some stuff off it that they didn’t do back then. The option part of it was a piece from the past.”

(more after the jump.)

Monday Presser Transcript 10-3-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 10-3-11: Brady Hoke

Submitted by Heiko on October 3rd, 2011 at 4:35 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important things:

  • Barnum is still day to day.
  • Woolfolk is fine, even though he may or may not have been limping at the end of the game.
  • Cam Gordon will practice more. Sounds like he has to fight for his job back.
  • McColgan should be back for Northwestern.
  • Hoke voted for Michigan to be in top 25.

Press Conference

Opening remarks: “It was good to start the Big Ten season winning the football game on Saturday. It was good to keep the Brown Jug. I think the score got painted on this morning at eleven. It’s good to have the Jug here in Ann Arbor.

"Everything gets tougher. Northwestern, they’re 2-2 as you all know. They lost a heartbreaker down in Champaign last week, but they have a football team that’s very well coached. Pat’s probably as good a coach as there is in the league and a guy that feels strongly about that program, being an alumnus of Northwestern and being a tremendous player there. I also think when you look at them from an offensive and defensive standpoint, they’re a team that’s going to play physical. They’re going to play 60 minutes of football. Defensively, they run very well to the ball. Offensively, Persa was back, played most of the game, was pretty productive. But Coulter is also a guy who’s moved them offensively and done a nice job. So when you look at it and playing away, we haven’t been away. It’ll be a little bit different for us because we’ve been fortunate enough to play five games in Michigan Stadium.”

Does being tied for second in the country in ppg allowed mean anything to you? Also, can you point to any tangible improvements in the defense between the spring and now? “Well, it’s like anything else. It doesn’t mean anything right now. I mean, none of those things matter. We’re 1-0 right now. I think when you look at our front the last two weeks, we’ve been a little more disruptive. That’s enabled the linebackers to do their job. I think we put a little bit more pressure at times on the quarterback. We still don’t blitz worth a dog, period. And that’s got to improve. Guys are playing together. I think they’re understanding the roles. I think the defensive staff has done a good job in preparation, and the guys are doing a good job preparing themselves.”

How did Denard look in the passing game on film? “I think mechanically he was better. I think the routes were better. I think the timing of the offense was better. There was a good tempo and good flow when you look at him and his footwork and all those things that are part of the mechanics of throwing. I think it was better. I thought it wasn’t bad versus Notre Dame, either. I think he’s a prideful guy, he’s a competitive guy … He wants to be good for his teammates.”

How do you work on timing in practice? “Well it’s just the routes and the timing, and if it’s five-step or three-step drop, from the gun or under center. Just the mechanics of that and when the ball should be thrown, on what step.”

(more after the jump around.)

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs EMU

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs EMU

Submitted by Brian on September 22nd, 2011 at 1:26 PM

Gratuitous Video:

So my youtube account has been closed after a series of copyright claims by one of the companies that goes around doing that. Thus no video as I try to sort it out with them. They did get back to my email and I should get a call in w/ a relevant person shortly. We'll see how that goes.

Substitution notes: Status quo, mostly. Smith and Toussaint are obviously the top two backs this instant. Odoms is still an infrequent participant because of the cast; Dileo appears to be in front of Jackson and Jerald Robinson (who we still haven't seen) beyond Hemingway/Roundtree/Gallon on the depth chart.

Schofield got in a bit, once as a goal-line tight end and once spotting Barnum late. I believe that was a shoe issue.

Formation notes: A heavier dose of shotgun than Borges was calling for for obvious reasons. Michigan's using a little motion from the gun now, something RR never did, and this semi-stack formation is making somewhat frequent appearances:


That's still shotgun trips to me, FWIW.

Show? Depleted show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M35 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 under Run Iso Toussaint 8
Running at the backside gap left by the under shift. Good combo block by Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) kicks out a DT and gets Omameh on to the MLB. Huyge(+1) locks out playside DT; McColgan(+1) crumbles WLB. Toussaint can just go straight upfield.
RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Huyge, McColgan RUN-:
M43 2 2 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-5 under Run Pin and pull zone Robinson 4
Both safeties in the box. Michigan goes to the pin and pull we've seen a few times that is apparently their preferred outside running play. EMU slants to it and prevents any of their guys from getting sealed(RPS -1). They have this killed, basically, except the backside DT gets way upfield and stumbles when he should be tackling Robinson on his slow-as-hell cutback. No points for anyone. Lucky. Q: why not throw the long handoff here? Or a hitch or something?
M47 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel under Pass Tunnel screen Robinson 14
Denard pulls it down. I'm not sure why since the WR seems open. Hesitant after last week, or can he see this is going to get crushed because a DT is going to release right into it? I guess I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Screen gone he's got guys in his face and Denards it for a first down. (SCR, N/A, N/A. Target: Gallon)
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-:
O39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-4 under Run Zone read dive Toussaint 4
Linebackers are already sprinting at the mesh point, so this is tough. Backside DE forms up; correct handoff. Omameh and Huyge(+1) execute a good combo block on the local DT, kicking him out. Omameh is about to release into the second level when the sprinting linebacker is in his face. Omameh manages to get a shove on him. Unblocked MLB sitting in the hole now; Toussaint cuts back, where Huyge's block and the delay on the backside DE by the read fake get him a few yards. RPS -1.
RUN+: Omameh, Huyge RUN-:
O35 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie? Run QB power Robinson 1
No one in a three point stance here as EMU gets fancy. Michigan runs power at it and has a huge hole... and a guy running at Robinson right behind the down-blocking Barnum(-2). Barnum's fault, sure, but also an RPS -1. The other blocks are easy by design here so no pluses. RUN-: Barnum(2)
O34 3 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel press Pass Dumpoff Smith Inc
Huyge(-1) beaten by the EMU DE. Bodes unwell. Robinson does have enough time to get to a second read after he doesn't like the first. Why? Not sure. Hemingway had separation and was running an open in for a first down, but the two(!) spies EMU is running are reading his eyes and might leap to bat it or worse. He checks to Smith running an out in front of a linebacker. Throw is a little bit off but Smith just drops this. (CA, 3, protection ½, Huyge)
O34 4 5 Shotgun trips 1 0 3 Nickel press Pass Hitch Hemingway Int
EMU sends two up the middle and it's picked up well enough by the rest of the line; Smith(-1) gets chucked on his block attempt and only delays his guy briefly. Denard throws a hitch to a pretty well covered Hemingway. He's got a window if he throws it a bit upfield; instead it's way too far inside and the EMU DB has a play on the ball. To his credit, he makes it. (IN, 0, protection 2/3, Smith –1)
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 9 min 1st Q. Both of these last two passes were accurate-ish but made more difficult by tight coverage.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M1 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 1
Koger(-2) stood up by the DE he's assigned to on the goal line; DE fights his way inside of him and completely prevents any hole outside. Toussaint sees this and starts cutting backside. He may have a hole but Koger's block was so poor his guy comes up to tackle. RUN-: Koger(2)
M2 2 9 I-Form 2 1 2 4-4 even Pass Hitch Roundtree Inc
Batted back in his face. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
M2 3 9 Shotgun trips 1 0 3 Nickel Pass Rollout sack Robinson 0
Smith(-2) whiffs his cut on the edge and these routes, which all look long, do not have a chance to develop. Denard steps up and is swarmed. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -1
Moore(-2) is blown up by the DE opposite him, who plows into the backfield and removes blockers and any semblance of a hole. Also they're running from the I against nine in the box. I remember handing out RPS -1s for these in the DeBord era. RUN-: Moore(2)
M20 2 11 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Wheel Koger Inc
Yay second and 11 play action from a formation we average 2 YPC from. EMU has two deep safeties, a rarity, and the linebackers don't bite at all. One of them gets a chuck on Koger just as Denard releases the ball on his wheel route. This is pretty awesome: Koger fake blocks for three seconds and then releases and the EMU LB is right there waiting for him. I think this (no PI) is legit since the contact started before the ball was in the air and was not maintained too long. Actually a good throw without the coverage. The rare (CA, 0, protection 2/2, RPS -1)
M20 3 11 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel Pass Panic ??? Inc
Four man rush on which Omameh and Molk block a guy, and then both stop blocking him. In Molk's case it was to peel off and block a guy who had beaten Barnum; Omameh blocks air. Denard is pressured, avoids a sack, avoids another sack, steps up, and rifles a ball eight yards over someone's head. Not even sure who. Tacopants special. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Barnum -1, Omameh -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-3, 13 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M3 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 52
Why everyone has forgotten how to defend this I'll never know. Basic zone read, DE crashes down, TE heads for OLB, other LBs rush to frontside of play, Denard in open field. He accelerates past two guys and rips off a big one. Tree gets a great block AAAAAH. RPS +3.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Roundtree(2) RUN-:
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Down G Robinson 4
EMU DE does a great job recognizing the pull and backing out once he's left unblocked; he drops out, gets wide, picks off Toussaint, and forces the play inside. +2 that guy. Since Omameh and Molk have both pulled the backside D is running down the line—Barnum has no shot—and tackles from behind. They still get some yards because there's no one in front of Denard thanks to Huyge(+1) getting a good seal on the other NT and Koger(+1) improvising to peel off and block a linebacker after the DE exited stage left.
RUN+: Huyge, Koger RUN-:
O41 2 6 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power Robinson -2
Barnum(-3) pulls and inexplicably runs by the blitzing LB, who plasters Denard. If that's picked up he might be able to dance for considerable yardage.
O43 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel press Run QB draw Robinson 22
This is a complete fiasco (RPS -1). EMU sends two blitzers; Michigan lets one through and picks up another at the expense of letting a DT through unblocked. Smith(+1) picks off one LB, and Denard(+3) jets past that DT—lucky. I think Barnum was right there to get the LB—closest to the play—and Lewan(-1) had to slide to make the far side DE the threat. After Denard passes the DT he's got smooth sailing since Molk(+2) and Omameh(+2) have kicked the crap out of two defenders. Denard cuts back for extra yardage, then fumbles(-3) because he's not carrying it high and tight.
RUN+: Robinson(3), Molk(2), Omameh(2), Smith RUN-: Lewan, Robinson(3)
O21 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE flat Koger 12
EMU in man; guy on Koger blasts into one of his own guys and falls. Wide open. Denard's getting quick pressure and flicks a soft one to Koger; he turns it up for good yardage. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O9 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 0
Denard checks into a bad play; EMU slants to this. Molk(-1) senses the slant and tries to pass his guy off to Omameh(-1), who is unprepared. This is for no purpose since Lewan has handled the backside DE. Robinson cuts back right into this dude and gets planted. RUN-: Omameh, Molk
O9 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA quick seam Koger 9
Zone read fake into a quick seam. LBs take one step to the LOS and that's all M needs. Good timing, catch, touchdown. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-3, 9 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 Zone read dive Toussaint 5
EMU scrape exchange does not sucker Denard; he hands off. EMU slants playside; Toussaint(+1) cuts behind it. Unfortunately, Koger is blocking the backside DE along with Huyge so the MLB is unblocked and can react to the cutback. Need one of those guys to hit it up in the hole and Toussaint is into the secondary. I want to minus one of Koger or Huyge for a missed assignment but no idea who. Ohh: team. RUN-: Team
RUN+: Omameh, Toussaint RUN-: Team
M18 2 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-4 under Run Pin and pull zone Robinson -2
All right, I'm officially annoyed at this play. It's crap. It's hard to execute, never gives you cutbacks, and doesn't allow Molk to reach fools. Why not use the stretch? Here a blitzer off the edge gets past three blockers, forcing a cutback, where hard-flowing EMU defenders cut Denard down. RPS -2. RUN-: Shaw(2)
M16 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout fly Hemingway Inc
Too long. Stupid route package on third and medium-ish. Literally no short routes (RPS -1). (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Robinson 12
Derpity doo. Backside DE plunges inside; no scrape. Denard pulls. Slot LB chucks Dileo. Denard pulls, runs, etc. Stupidly easy. RPS +2.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-:
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Down G Robinson 12
Omameh and Molk pull; Huyge(-1) ignores the playside DT. That's a problem, but it's kind of his job since he's pulling (RPS –1). DT gets into the pullers way fast. Denard has to hold up, reverse field, and beat everyone to the backside of the play. He breaks a kid's ankles out there for fun. No video : (
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-: Huyge(2)
M37 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 ??? Run Down G Smith 38
Finally they execute this stuff correctly, or at least I think so. It's possible Omameh still screwed up but we come to the play late as Lewan(+2) is plowing the playside DE inside and pullers are pulling. Barnum(+1) nails a linebacker. Koger(+2) kicks out a defensive end authoritatively. Smith(+1)... runs behind this stuff. Molk has no one to block, even. Hemingway(+2) plows an EMU DB into the sideline, allowing Smith to cut back behind him(+1) again, wherupon Molk(+1) whacks some pursuers. Keys here are Koger and Lewan and Barnum.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan(2), Koger, Barnum, Molk, Hemingway RUN-:
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 3
This opens up beautifully as EMU's dudes get way upfield (RPS +1) but Robinson cuts it backside when he's got Tousssaint leading him through a huge hole frontside. This kills all the blocking angles.
RUN+: Molk RUN-: Robinson(2)
O22 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 11
This is a lovely little run. EMU WLB is scraping on Robinson, albeit slowly. EMU is slanting over the top. Omameh(+1) pancakes his guy and Huyge(+1) controls his, shooting him down the line; Toussaint(+2) reads the blocking and has the darting agility to cut back behind the Huyge block, avoid the scraping LB's tackle as he recovers, come back inside Molk's block of the MLB, and almost burst into the secondary before an ankle tackle takes him down.
RUN+: Toussaint(2), Huyge, Omameh RUN-:
O11 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB power Robinson 11
EMU slants hard and M adjusts well. Playside DT slants past Lewan; Barnum(+1) finds him and kicks him down the line. He dead. Molk(+1) buries the other guy. Lewan(+2) releases straight downfield and clobberates the MLB, but it's Koger(+2) who wins block of the play by adjusting to a DE slanting under him and pounding him inside to pancake. From there it's easy.
RUN+: Koger(2), Lewan(2), Barnum, Molk RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-3, 39 sec 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power read Robinson 8
Insert scare quotes around read in that play description—I don't think this is an actual read. Line blocks down and Huyge pulls around, aiming for the hole between Barnum and Lewan. Both those guys get great kickout blocks(+1 each). Molk(+1) is aided by the sweep action that sucks the MLB a step the wrong way; he gets position and spends a long time controlling him. Huyge(+1) picks off the other LB and Denard has acres. Safety comes down quickly to hold the play down. RPS +1 for the ease of these blocks thanks to the misdirection.
RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Huyge, Barnum, Omameh RUN-:
M25 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
EMU has a playcall on to defeat this play, with two guys on the backside of the defense. One heads right for Robinson; handoff. The inside guy hands right for Toussaint, who has to cut back because the over-shifted DL is slanting under the blocks. Toussaint gets nailed by the DT. RPS -2. No chance of this getting yards.
M25 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 2
Running at a crowded area. Adequate kickout from Koger; Omameh is also doing his job on a DT. Huyge(-1) gets chucked by the playside DE, who is now sitting playside where Barnum and Toussaint are trying to block guys. Denard cuts back behind this directly into a charging safety, who gives him a stiff shot. Denard manages to spin off it and just gets the first down.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh RUN-: Huyge
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel under Pass Wheel oh noes Toussaint Inc
Draw fake into play action. Denard doesn't have much time because there's an unblocked DE in on him; he has to step back and loft one. Linebackers have sucked up, though, and Toussaint's wheel is open for a nice chunk. Denard gets it to him but Toussaint drops it. He then gets lit up because either the throw is too lofted (probably not) or late (probably); still, this should have been 15 yards or so. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
M27 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read dive Smith 27
Again Smith is blessed with acres of space as EMU blitzes a linebacker to the frontside of the play; Huyge(+1) kicks him way upfield. Omameh(+1) controls the DT to that side and there's a big gap that opens with no one there to contain. Smith(+1) reads it and is off, his little legs bumping and his little head waving back and forth as he just tries to go so fast. And it does seem like he's outrunning this EMU safety just before he uses the last bits of his angle to tackle. RPS+2; there are like three dudes on the backside surrounding Robinson by the time Smith breaks outside.
RUN+: Omameh, Huyge, Smith RUN-:
O46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Smith 5
LBs slide to the Denard side of a hypothetical zone read. This is a spot where there should be an auto-check to a bubble. EMU line slants playside; backside DE pulls up for contain and Denard hands off. Barnum(+1) is not going to seal his guy and so adjusts, blowing him down the line and providing a cutback lane. Omameh(+1) and Molk(+1) blow up their dudes; Lewan(-1) gets a second level block but that guy pops off to the interior to tackle.
RUN+: Barnum, Omameh, Molk RUN-: Lewan
O41 2 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 3-4 base Run Zone read keeper Robinson 8
And then EMU forgets how to defend this again. EMLOS is kicked out by Koger; playside LB blitzes at the RB. Backside DT gets so hammered by Huyge(+1) that Omameh gets nailed by that block as he tries to get out on the MLB, so he can scrape. Robinson sees this and tries to pop outside Koger, does, stops when the contain comes, pops back inside the now-helmetless Koger(+1 for picking up another block), and shoots up for a first down. I think he basically had the first down if he just slams it up, but +1 for entertainment value alone. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Koger, Huyge RUN-:
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass PA TE flat Koger Inc
Don't like this PA because it's stretch action. Michigan hasn't run a stretch this year. The backside LB does not bite and backs off. Koger is still open; Denard wings it high. Would have been five yards and an instant tackle if accurate. (IN, 2, protection N/A)
O33 2 10 I-Form twins 1 2 2 4-4 even Pass Fake dive to pitch Smith 14
I have no idea why this should work. It's second and ten. If M hands it to the fullback, EMU OLB, you don't have to care. Unblocked EMLOS sucks in; playside LB does too; Lewan(+1) kills that guy; Molk(+1) gets the other LB, doesn't really matter because the EMLOS is now chasing Smith outside. Once on the corner he gets a fantastic mountain goat block from Odoms(+2) and an almost as good block from Gallon(+1) to pick up the first. He's actually tackled by the pursuing DE; he gets through that and he could be going a long way. RPS +1.
RUN+: Odoms(2), Lewan, Molk, Gallon RUN-:
O19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 12
Opens up as Barnum(+1) blows the DT past his intended spot and Robinson holds the EMLOS outside. Molk(+1) and Lewan(+1) get linebackers and this opens up cavernously. Toussaint makes an inexplicable decision to cut back outside instead of trying to shoot past the safety for the endzone but makes up for it by spinning through three(!) EMU tacklers and picking up the first.
RUN+: Barnum, Molk, Lewan, Toussaint RUN-:
O7 1 G Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 0
Molk(+1) and Barnum(+1) seal and erase the backside DL; big cutback hole. EMU has overloaded the frontside and prevented a gap from forming despite decent blocking out there; Omameh(-1) does not adjust to the reality of the play and runs up Lewan's back; Robinson(-2) misses an obvious cutback lane that would be six points.
RUN+: Molk, Barnum RUN-: Omameh, Robinson(2)
O7 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA rollout scramble Robinson 6
Again: stretch action we only use for PA. This is the same play we scored that TD with in the first RR game except this time instead of Shaw releasing into the flat it's Koger. Opponents have this scouted and Koger is blanketed, as is Grady. Robinson engages Tate Mode, starts running around like a lunatic, totally fails to see Toussaint alone in the endzone, and runs down to the one. That's just how he do. (SCR, N/A, N/A)
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Barnum RUN-:
O1 3 G Goal line 2 0 3 Goal line Run FB dive Toussaint 1
The third TE is actually Schofield, lined up at LT while Lewan lines up next to Huyge on the right. Borges loves FB dives from the one and orders one up; Toussaint leaps over the pile before EMU defenders can react.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-3, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB draw Robinson 0
More of a last year play than the power stuff we've gotten a lot of; Rawls(-1) is the RB and his lead block is running straight into the secondary. Omameh(-1) is shoved back and can't get much of a handle on his DT; Koger(-1) runs straight up his back instead of adjusting, and Denard runs into Koger. Last year these QB draw-type plays were MANBALL plays with both DTs getting doubled, and usually blown off the ball... this draw action is a little goofy given the context. RUN-: Omameh, Rawls, Koger
M25 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
I don't understand defenses this year! DE crashes down, no scraper, pull, problems for D. The playside LB does get outside Lewan, forcing a cutback that's relevant because Molk got confused because he had no one to block, looked around, and ended up not taking the overhang guy to the short side. That guy tackles. RPS +1
RUN+: Robinson RUN-: Molk
M30 3 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Drag Gallon 18
Gallon motions in from the outside to more of a slot-type position. EMU sends five on a zone blitz; picked up. Denard has a great pocket and finds Gallon on his drag in front of the zone. Gallon grabs the ball, runs through a tackle, and picks up a nice gain. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
M48 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Pin and pull zone Smith 5
Argh. The totally unblocked NT follows Molk's pull, causes Molk to peel off to block. Unblocked playside DE takes out the other puller. Lewan(+2) got a great sealing block that gives the weakside LB a terrible choice; he goes upfield and around and erases himself, except he doesn't because a filling safety forces Smith back inside and gets him. This gets five yards with great play from virtually the entire O. RPS -1.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith, Molk RUN-:
O47 2 5 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Tunnel screen Gallon 1
This never works. You know what would be more effective than this? Throwing it directly to Gallon. His corner is ten yards off him. RPS -1. Also EMU zone blitzes such that they have a DL in a short zone right in front of this. No chance; Gallon does well to get a yard and gets lit up for his trouble. (CA, 3, screen)
O48 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 19
EMU sends five; picked up. They're in man behind it, so when Omameh blasts the DT way upfield and a lane opens it's easy for Denard to pick up the first. RPS +1.
RUN+: Robinson, Omameh RUN-:
O29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone read dive Smith 6
Blitzer off the corner for contain; Robinson hands it off. Another guy on the edge is there for the cutback and gets inside of Koger, but it's not his fault. Lewan(+1) gets a good block to shove the slanting DL down the line and Smith(+1) sees the lane, hitting it for decent yardage. EMU had a good call on and M still got yards. RPS: confused.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan RUN-:
O23 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA Rollout comeback Roundtree Inc
More PA that uses stretch action M never runs. DE out in Robinson's face because he knows Rawls isn't getting the ball. Robinson forms up and has to throw; it's upfield of Roundtree and not a super great throw but he has to get it away from the DB and this isn't that difficult a catch. It's a 2, but with a guy in your face a 16 yard 2 is okay. The real problem is Hemingway was wiiide open for a TD because of a bust and Robinson missed him. Guy in his face, though. (CA, 2, protection N/A, RPS -1)
O23 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB iso Robinson 4
Schofield in. This is closer to last year's play. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) double the NT and proceed to drive him back. Molk(+1) then peels off to nail the MLB. The play seems to be going off tackle behind Omameh(-1) but he just passively sits and accepts the opponent like it's a draw. Last year he'd be doubling with the tackle. Denard has to cut behind Omameh, is hesitant, and then hits it up; Lewan(-1) did not control his guy and he comes off to tackle at the sticks.
RUN+: Molk(2), Schofield RUN-: Lewan, Omameh
O19 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Pin and pull zone Smith 0
Clown show: Omameh(-2) pulls and gets three yards upfield, blocking no one ever. Molk was trying to pull too and couldn't because doing so would let the NT into the backfield. Two unblocked LBs tackle Smith at the LOS. RPS -2.
RUN-: Omameh(2), Koger
O19 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Oh Noes Dileo 19
QB iso to throw, you know the drill. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS +3)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-3, 1 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M12 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Shaw 3
Linebackers crashing on handoff, whatever, 28-3, no more RPS. Still think Denard should keep since his contain guy is getting nailed by Dileo; the handoff ain't right. Barnum does okay with his guy but he's slanting; cutback. The contain guy destined for Shaw thumps him. Any yards available because of Lewan.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Robinson
M15 2 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 under Pass PA Hitch Jackson 12
This is the kind of thing I am talking about. PA zone read sucks six EMU defenders in because it is an inside zone and Robinson has his choice of targets. Dileo looks tantalizing again, but Denard goes with Jackson on a five-yard hitch. Denard hits him, Jackson makes an orbit step around the defender trying to tackle and picks up the first. Vintage 2010. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run QB power Robinson 9
An accidental combo block from Huyge, who is taking on the playside DE, and Barnum, who is pulling on the power. Huyge blocks the DE and slides off him. He finds himself downfield, so he blocks the MLB who has slid playside. Barnum(+1) comes around to kick out the DE who slid off Huyge. This gives Denard a lane because Omameh(+1) sealed the playside DT away. Denard(+1) sees the lane and makes the cut for near first down yardage.
RUN+: Huyge, Barnum, Omameh, Robinson RUN-:
M36 2 1 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Pin and pull zone Toussaint -1
I really hate this play. The playside EMU DT reads the pull over him and pulls himself, avoiding Lewan's block and turning himself into an extra defender. EMU LB gets outside Barnum, another takes on Molk, and there is nowhere for Toussaint to go. Pulling DT(!) makes a TFL. RPS -2.
M35 3 2 Ace trips bunch 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Pitch sweep Smith 11
I called this from the stands: again, this is a play that has no relation to anything M has previously run and almost gives itself away by formation. Still works. It does so because Huyge(+2) gets playside of the playside DE and when he threatens to come under to flow down the line he adjusts beautifully to kick him away, which also gets rid of the playside DT. A sad Jackson(-1) cut block just gets him out of the play and EMU is flowing hard down the line, but Smith(+2) reads all this and cuts behind it, then jukes a safety for a good chunk more.
RUN+: Smith(2), Huyge(2) RUN-: Jackson
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 under Run Zone read dive Smith 12
Good kickout of playside DT by Barnum(+1); Molk(+1) gets out on the MLB and nails him. Omameh can't get playside of his DT, which would be hard; Smith(+2) is able to slice through the narrow gap that results. Secondary converges.
RUN+: Smith(2), Barnum, Molk RUN-:
M44 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-4 under Pass PA Post Roundtree Inc
Motion into twins reveals man. Robinson makes a terrible decision to throw into double coverage when he had acres of space to run in and maybe Koger if he really insisted on throwing. Pass is broken up. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
M44 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-4 over Run QB power Robinson 5
Late motion seems to confuse EMU D. Koger(+1) gets a good seal on the playside DE. Dileo(-1) whiffs on the nickelback and this forces Denard(+1) to cut outside, evading the guy. Bounce robs Odoms of an angle on his guy; that guy runs Robinson OOB.
RUN+: Robinson, Koger RUN-: Dileo
M49 3 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 0 4 Okie? Pass Post Gallon 38
EMU blitzes for five rushers; picked up. With a great pocket, Denard's first read is Gallon on a post similar to the one he missed against ND late. This time he zings it into Gallon for tons of yards. (DO, 3, protection 3/3)
O13 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Momentary double from Molk helps Barnum(+1) destroy the playside DT; Molk(+2) then gets out on the LB. That's basically the play. Omameh does okay with the other DT, but he flows down the line. Toussaint has room afforded by the annihilation of the other dude and does all he can to hit that hole fast for good yardage.
RUN+: Molk(2), Barnum RUN-:
O7 2 4 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 3
It seems like these guys are way more mechanical on the power than they are on the zone. Here Omameh pulls around. Okay, fine. Barnum blocks down on the playside DT, he gets a little penetration, Omameh has a tough angle to get around. He does. And then he runs right into Lewan for no friggin reason, because Lewan is blocking a dude and EMU has two LB/S types to the inside. Slow your roll, block a dude. Lewan's excellent push and Denard keeping his balance after being hit gets this near the sticks.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-: Omameh
O4 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Pass PA TE out Koger Inc
PA fake to waggle gets Koger open, but Robinson just misses. (IN, 0, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: FG, 31-3, 4 min 4th Q. Last drive not charted.

Let's get to the spread/shotgun comparison.

Impatient, I see. This week the run breakdown is close: 7.8 yards from the shotgun and 7.2 from under center. Vincent Smith helped by ripping off a 38-yarder from an ace three-wide set. Here's another number: Michigan averaged 11.2 yards per carry on the zone read, which was called 15(!) times. A full breakdown follows.

  • Down G: 3 carries at 18 YPC thanks to long Smith run, 12 yarder from Robinson.
  • Pin and pull zone: 5 carries at 1.2 YPC. I may have confused some of these with Down G. I picked up an ID point in the comments of the linked Smart Football post so I'll be better about it in the future.
  • Pitch sweep: 1 for 11 yards.
  • Iso: 2 for 6 YPC.
  • Traditional QB draws: 3 for 8.3 YPC, though the bulk of those were on a "complete fiasco" Denard turned into magic.
  • Power: 12 for 3.1 YPC. This includes a single "power read"
  • Inside zone read: 15 at 11.2 YPC.

Opponents' sudden inability to defend the zone read, which seemed like a solved problem, remains mystifying. Borges isn't doing anything fancy: the TE flares out to hit the playside LB, they run inside zone, and four times a game Robinson has no one covering him. Is it a combo with all the (unsuccessful) power from the shotgun? I don't know yet, but I'll try to figure it out.

So, here you make the complaints about MANBALL.

The numbers speak for themselves, I think. I'll look into the possibility the heavy dose of power is opening up the zone reads.

And Denard?

Here we must—

I'm afraid. Hold me.


[Hey: sorry about dropping the table legend out the past couple weeks. It returns. Hit the UFR FAQ for a fuller explanation of the abbreviations, but basically the first five columns are regular old throws in decreasing order of quality (dead on, catchable, marginal, inaccurate, and bad read) and the remainder are exceptional events that do not result in a catchable pass downfield (throwaway, batted, pressure, scramble).

UPDATE: I actually put the legend back in this time. Seriously. Hover over column headers.]

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%

Denard didn't throw into double coverage all day—he only did it once—but that downfield accuracy remains troublesome. I don't think Denard got a lot of help from certain playcalls, about which more later, but the issues are still there.

He could have gotten some help from his receivers, though:

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - - - 2 - 3/4 1/2
Roundtree 1 - 0/1 - 1 1/2 1/2 2/2
Odoms - - - - - - - -
Grady - - - - 2 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon 1


- 3/3 1 - - 7/7
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - 1/1 - 0/1 1/1 -
Jackson - - - 1/1 - - - -
Koger 1 - 0/1 2/2 2 1/1 1/2 3/3
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
Toussaint - - - 0/1 - - - 0/1
Shaw - - - - - - - -
Smith - - - 0/1 - - - 2/3
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

Two flat drops and two failures to make help-me-out-here catches in 11 opportunities to catch a ball is a drag, man. Pick up three of the four and Denard's day looks a little less turrible statistically.

The OL:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 13 3 10 The most natural fit in donkey hating offense
Barnum 10 5 5 Struggled early (was –5 at one point) and recovered well
Molk 16 2 14 Ass kicking day.
Omameh 10 7 3 Pulling not a specialty
Huyge 9 2 7 Surprising amount of power run over him.
Schofield 1 - - A few plays.
Mealer - - - DNP
Moore - 2 -2 One major whiff
Koger 7 4 3 Pretty good.
TOTAL 66 25 41 The kind of numbers you put up after rushing for 376 yards. Also a TEAM –1 in here.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 18 8 10 Fumble was –3 and ultimately harmless.
Gardner - - - Not charted
Toussaint 3 - 3 Still think he's better than Smith…
Shaw - 2 -2 Hardly got a carry. Whiffed one block.
Smith 9 - 9 …but my numbers don't. Caveat: Smith –3 pass blocking.
Hopkins - - - Doghouse
Rawls - 1 -1 Comical missed block
McColgan 1 - - Early iso, then gone.
TOTAL 31 9 22 Contributions from non-Denards: can they last?
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway 2 - 2 One good block.
Odoms 2 - 2 I'm so mad about the video. Need moar mountain goat.
Gallon 1 - 1 --
Roundtree 2 - 2 AAAH block on one Denard keeper
Grady - - - --
Jackson - 1 -1 weak cut
Dileo - 1 -1 --
TOTAL 7 2 5 Productive downfield.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 15 6 71% Smith 3, Barnum 1, Omameh 1, Huyge 1
RPS 16 17 -1 not worried about this vs EMU

That's the usual crushing day you'd expect an OL to have when you average 7.5 YPC against an EMU-type opponent. The big takeaway above is Vincent Smith.

I thought you were all like "no, Vincent Smith, go away, be a complementary player, boo Vincent Smith, boo"?

You are exceptionally aggressive this year, fictional alter-ego. As to your question, well, yeah, kinda. I mean, these are the kind of holes he was offered:


It takes vision to find the offensive linemen on plays like this, not the hole. He still seems to be moving in slow motion to me, though on one run—this one, actually—it looks like he's outrunning the safety as the guy completes his pursuit. I'm a bit concerned he won't be able to get the corner or into the secondary against teams faster than the Eagles.

That said, he did pick up a lot of positives in nine carries (some were for blocking) and he seems to remain healthy. I like Toussaint better—I think he's got more upside—but Smith's earned a hunk of the carries. Let the two of them fight it out on the field.

Are you less of a sourpuss about the offensive design now?

I'm not exactly happy that we can't run from under center against the likes of Eastern Michigan, but I have to admit my reaction to the pro-style aspects of the first quarter was a lot like watching Jonathan Bornstein in a pre-World Cup friendly: if it's going to be bad I want it to be so bad that not even Bob Bradley thinks it's a good idea to keep it up when things count for real*. Twenty-six Denard carries later that seems established.

*[If we're extending this metaphor to its logical conclusion, the pro-style will be forced onto the field by events beyond the coaches' control during the Big Ten season and be surprisingly serviceable before being exiled to the dustbin of history.]

So… somewhat. I'm still mystified why they keep running this pin and pull zone, which seems incredibly vulnerable to slants and the like and doesn't seem to, like, work. Ever. It's a play that gets to the outside. I know the zone stretch is like drinking the wrong kind of light beer made from rice and by Europeans, but we're good at drinking those.

And then, you know, it's like… I'm just…


This should never happen. Michigan should not allow opponents to align like this without putting a bubble in their face. They'd run Smith for five, which is good, I guess, but there's an obvious risk of not getting that five that is not there if you throw the bubble. Lloyd threw the bubble. It's okay!

And then I'm all like just you know…


This ended up being a Gallon tunnel screen for zero yards when just throwing it to the dude is a first down. Tunnel screens may work in offenses where you have a bunch of guys roaring upfield because they need pass rush. In this offense you have a bunch of guys being extraordinarily careful not to give Denard rushing lanes and always extra guys in the box. I mean…


…that's not good eats. Okay, this was a zone blitz that got lucky, but they gave you a first down by alignment. Take the first down! Don't throw screens into the box when there are extra guys in the box! Death to the tunnel screen!



So by "somewhat" you mean not at all, then.

These are admittedly nits. If you're ever going to RPS yourself into a bloody forehead it should be against Eastern, and Michigan didn't even do that thanks to everyone's inexplicable ability to defend a zone read.

The thing that concerns me for the immediate future is the grab-bag nature of the offense. Many of the misdirection plays not copped from last year's offense (ie oh noes) are not actually alternatives to the things we actually run. The throwback screen against ND is a great example. That played off our offense's tendency to… roll the pocket from under center on first and ten? That worked once. It won't work consistently.

The best example of this is Michigan's rollout play action from the shotgun, which is an exact replica of what Rodriguez used to do. The problem: it uses stretch action and Michigan's stretch count this year is… zero. If you see stretch blocking it has been 100% PA this year. Eastern was wise to this.

Usual disclaimers apply: Borges is a smart dude. Dragging the throwback screen out did work. I enjoy the coordinator pressers so, so hard.


Most of the offensive line with special commendation to Molk and Lewan. Ground Denard. Vincent Smith.


Air Denard.

What does it mean for SDSU and the future?

We keep moving more towards a spread offense that uses Denard's legs to get receivers open enough for Denard's arms to hit them. "Moving towards" might be a understating it after Robinson had 26 carries for 198 yards against Eastern. In retrospect, I kind of think the odd decision to have Denard out there running with a 28-3 lead on EMU was less about getting the offense practice and more about getting Borges practice.

So, expect Michigan to come out next week with Denard's legs as the focus early; SDSU will be an opponent to respect for at least 45 minutes and probably 60. Borges knows Long pretty well but Long doesn't know what Borges will do with Denard, largely because I'm not sure Borges does. I doubt we'll see stuff from under center until the second quarter. I'm hoping we see more pieces that fit together this week.

Long term, this is still Denard's offense, which means Borges has to get him in his comfort zone throwing. They also have to either tighten up their power game or consider wussy basketball on grass, because the manball is not operational yet.