Generic Midseason Evaluation Post

Generic Midseason Evaluation Post Comment Count

Brian October 24th, 2011 at 2:03 PM

So it's been seven games and it's a bye week so TACO PARTY—


this is a thing you can purchase at "Fine Art America"
or steal from your crazy Aunt Betty in Pensacola

—also generic bullety midseason-type post.

BEST DEVELOPMENT. Confirmation of the offseason's Greg >>> GERG theory.


he's like defensive coordinator Zooey Deschanel.

There are still obvious weaknesses and no obvious stars past a slightly disappointing Mike Martin, but it turns out having a coherent defensive philosophy is a lot better than running around screaming "we're all gonna die but at least my hair is fantastic!!!"

Pick a metric, advanced or not, and the improvement is incredible. The advanced ones are even more enthusiastic than the regular ones: Michigan is actually a top-20 FEI defense. Top 20! They were 108th last year! Excuse me, I have to go list this pool of razorblades, despair, and misery on Craigslist! Where an Ohio State blogger will purchase it to talk about their offense!

You can apply every massively-deserved caveat you can think of and the author will nod sagely about how that is a concern and the end result is still something that should approximate giddiness. When the turnovers stop coming in droves and a smaller percentage of games are played in a trash tornado, Michigan will backslide. But, like… backslide into the 40s or something. IE: the offseason's best-case scenario that didn't involve installing robots from the future at key spots.

RUNNER-UP, BEST DEVELOPMENT. Jordan Kovacs ending the debate about Jordan Kovacs.

If you strain your memory you can think back to a time where it was very warm and people had heated debates about whether Jordan Kovacs was any good or not. This was summer, and it was a silly time. A major reason the defense is scraping the ceiling of the ceiling above its best-case scenario is the near-total absence of big plays. Michigan still hasn't given up anything over 40 yards. Kovacs and (to a lesser extent) Thomas Gordon are primarily responsible for shutting down the Wolverine Free Touchdown Factory and shipping it to Thailand. WOO OUTSOURCING JOKE

WORST DEVELOPMENT. Denard's inability to hit Charlie Weis in three tries.

Even if you ascribe to the theory that Denard's passing success last year was largely a mirage when it came to Actual Big Ten Defenses*, his numbers against the two actual-seeming defenses on the schedule thus far have been horrendous. At least half of that can be ascribed to Denard just missing dudes.

Even running in place would have been disappointing after the quantum leap it seemed he made last year. He was still raw as sushi and could still be expected to move more towards quarterback-dom than a guy who'd had the slightest amount of polish. Instead the Al Borges-Denard Fusion Cuisine has shoved him back to being that guy who heaved it up against Iowa when he had a wide open Odoms running underneath. I didn't like that guy as much as the one from last year, warts and all.

*[Which I don't, FWIW. I UFR this stuff for a reason, and that reason is "so I can do something more than wave my hands in the air and say 'nuh-uh' when I would like to dispute someone else's assertion." I charted all of Denard's throws before the dismal end of the RR regime and there's a definite backslide.]

RUNNER-UP, WORST DEVELOPMENT. What happened, offensive line?

Last year you were all like blocking your way to an insane YPC and hardly giving up anything on the ground and this year you can't pull to save your life; the impregnable wall of no sacks was punched into smithereens by Michigan State. Now it's hard not to look at next year without a sense of panic.

MOST MIDDLING DEVELOPMENT. The tailbacks. It's still Vincent Smith and increasingly less Fitzgerald Toussaint (for reasons that are opaque to me). They're not awful. I still covet any tailback who wanders by to break a tackle or two.

MOST MISLEADING DEVELOPMENT. The defense's turnover-fu. It is not sustainable. Repeat this in your head a thousand times in a futile effort for its lack to be tolerable.

MOST DEVELOPING DEVELOPMENT. Special teams. They've been bad so far but the sample size is small. Brendan Gibbons made three(!) field goals against Minnesota and is 4/6 on the year. His two misses were both blocked. He might be serviceable. He might be benefiting from a bunch of chip shots—he still hasn't made one past 40 yards.

Meanwhile, the starting punter was suspended for the first four games and is averaging under 34 yards a kick because he was a nonfactor against Minnesota and Northwestern and seven of his punts came in a howling windstorm, six(!) of those from the Michigan State half of the field.

They can't cover kicks and can't return them, either. So… yeah. The jury is still out.


100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jeremy Gallon cloaking device engagement.

The play that followed it was pretty sweet, too, but that thing took Michigan from dead in the water to fightin' chance in The First Night Game Evar.

100% WORST THING EVER. Fourth and inches play action pass from the nine against Michigan State. I assume this needs no explanation.

THING THEY DO THE MOST. Run inside zone.


THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Use stretch blocking and deploy the quick screen with the wide receivers to force a third defender to live outside the tackles. Michigan hasn't attacked the outside enough, allowing Michigan State's double-A-gap blitzes to be ludicrously effective.

BEST PLAYER. Well… Denard, despite obvious issues.

SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Taylor Lewan. Lewan has been near-flawless in pass protection, and has generally done well when the run game has come his way, which hasn't been often given their inability to pull left.

PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Michigan hasn't been able to pull left largely because Patrick Omameh can't get to the hole before the tailback, which is not so good.

GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Vincent Smith. He's a third down back and useful player who's not a guy you want to give 20 carries.



100% PURE COLOMBIAN AWESOME. Jordan Kovacs depositing his head into a ball Alex Carder happened to be carrying.

That sack is like the awful Nick Sheridan interception that kicked off the Rodriguez era and made its way into the Worst Plays of the Decade more for what it symbolized than the actual impact of the play. It heralds a sea change in Michigan's fortunes.

Caveats, caveats, caveats: Michigan is now deploying a zone-blitz heavy 4-3 under that will draw valid NFL comparisons and will hopefully start playing like Michigan defenses of old, and by "Michigan defenses of old" I mean "Michigan defenses of very old or more recent Ohio State outfits."

100% WORST THING EVER. It's a tribute to Michigan's safeties and Greg Mattison that the only long-ish touchdown they've given up was the no-safeties formation that handed Notre Dame a freebie right before the Gallon cloaking device play. But, man… that was kind of not good right there.


THING THEY DO WAY TOO MUCH. Let guys outside the tackles.

THING THEY DON'T DO ENOUGH. Uh… you got me. /shakes fist at format established by himself

BEST PLAYER. Ryan Van Bergen, I think. It's close between RVB, Martin, and Kovacs, but Martin had a tough outing against Michigan State. Van Bergen played well. Kovacs had a storming game the first time out and is a major reason for the lack of long touchdown but has not has as much down to down impact. Maybe that's just the nature of being a safety. If Michigan gets through the rest of the year without getting bombed deep he'll win by default.

SECOND-BEST PLAYER. Kovacs. I don't hate Michigan's safeties except from time to time when Johnson is missing tackles.

PLAYER WHO MIGHT WANT TO WORK ON SOME THINGS. Weakside linebacker du jour. Woolfolk hasn't been good  but that's obviously an injury thing. I've been leery about Jake Ryan from time to time but he's turning in enough good plays with his bad ones to nose above even most days.

But whoever's been at weakside linebacker has had issues. Brandon Herron started the year, had two defensive touchdowns, and got benched. Brandin Hawthorne came in for him, played okay for a bit, made some mistakes, and has rotated in and out with true freshman Desmond Morgan the past couple weeks.

GUY WHO JUST IS WHO HE IS. Will Heininger. Heininger hasn't been a disaster or anything but he is single blocked often, rarely makes plays, and is pretty much what you'd expect a walk-on to be at defensive tackle.

GUY WHO MIGHT GET A LOT BETTER IN THE LAST FIVE GAMES. There are two: Jake Ryan and Blake Countess. Both are freshman starters* turning in promising plays amongst the youthful head-vs-wall moments. Ryan in particular has cut down his blatant errors to getting cut to the ground a few times per game.

*[Countess is not technically starting. He is getting the bulk of the playing time.]


THE WORST. Minnesota. We have a GopherQuest dedicated to their badness.

THE SECOND-WORST. Everyone else. This league is not so good. The team leading the East division starts Matt McGloin at quarterback and is coached by a guy without a headset who isn't on the sideline. The team leading the West division is Michigan State. There are no undefeated teams, no national powers, and it's inevitable that the league's bowl record is going to be 2-6.


  1. Nebraska
  2. @ Iowa
  3. Ohio State
  4. @ Illinois
  5. Purdue


WHO'D TAKE 9-3. That's everyone.

WHO'D WHIMPER AND HIDE AT THE BOWL OPPONENT IN THAT EVENT. Also everyone. Okay, not you, message board hero who spent the last week calling Michigan fans whiners. You will say unreasonable things about the prospect of beating…

Wait. There are only two good SEC teams this year. Am I going to tremble at the sight of Arkansas or Georgia or South Carolina? No. Nevermind.


Bryce McNaul, Northwestern LB. (Heady, quick the hole, part of Northwestern's good run defense, injured too much, can do nothing about the nonexistent Wildcat secondary.)

Marcus Rush, MSU DE. (Rush has been overshadowed by the Gholston controversy but is actually a better player. Gholston does nothing once he is blocked; Rush will shed guys. Gholston would be on the bench if Tyler Hoover was healthy.)

Devon Still, PSU DT. (Still may be a reach since he is reaching tongue-bath levels but I was all about Still last year.)

Kawaan Short, Purdue DT.

Da'Jon McKnight, Minnesota WR. (Winner: most futile B1G existence.)


Picture Pages: Linebacker Hesitancy FML

Picture Pages: Linebacker Hesitancy FML Comment Count

Brian October 20th, 2011 at 3:46 PM

A little more on what looks to me like one of the major issues with the run defense: the two MLBs not reading plays quickly enough. This was one of the videos featured in the UFR, FWIW.

Michigan State has first and ten at the beginning of the third quarter and will run an inside zone from an ace formation; Michigan is in their standard 4-3 under with Kovacs rolled down:


On the snap State starts to develop the run action and the linebackers start creeping forward:


A moment later the handoff point is almost reached and the two LBs are still three and four  yards off the LOS.


Contrast this with the MSU defense on Michigan's first and five on their first drive:


Both are two yards closer to the LOS and rapidly approaching. This was a consistent theme: MSU linebackers, even when not blitzing, were screaming at the LOS.

At the handoff there is one blocker for two guys because Heininger was doubled on the backside. Martin is driving his single block into the backfield and Van Bergen is cutting off the outside. Kovacs is still hanging around for backside bounceouts.


The above is not a good setup for an offense.

But Demens does not get outside his block.. and Hawthorne starts moving up into a hypothetical gap that the RB is not headed to. Even if he wants to cut backside the Martin penetration means it will take absolutely forever. Still, he starts moving straight upfield instead of flowing to the hole:


By the time Baker manages to squeeze through the gap left by the DL, Hawthorne is hardly closer to him than when he was three yards behind the LOS and Demens is still two yards downfield, not funneling the play back to help.

Baker pops outside. Countess fills quickly, but can't make the tackle…


…and neither can Ryan.






Items of Interest

The DL cannot do much more than this. They got a two-for-one on the double that leaves a free hitter. On the frontside they drive into the backfield such that the tailback has one realistic option. Short of throwing offensive linemen into the RB, they have done all they can.

The linebackers are uncertain of what they are doing. This has been a theme all year: me complaining about guys pulling in front of the LB's face only for that LB move directly upfield instead of scraping over to the POA. Sometimes poor DL play has washed them out, but often it's just derp.

Both linebackers screw it up here. Demens has to get into his blocker further upfield; failing that he needs to pop outside of him to funnel back to help. He does neither. Hawthorne can't see that his assigned gap is not an option because of the penetration and slows up for what turns out to be no reason. Either could have made this play themselves; it takes both of them screwing up to send it to the second level.

I'm sure they're more concerned about play action than Michigan State was because of the quarterbacks in question, but they get blocked way too often for my tastes. Hawthorne had already given way to Morgan for a series or two in the first half; IIRC this would be one of his last drives before Morgan re-entered for the remainder.

Ed Baker is hard to tackle and fast. I wish he was on the football team I liked instead of one I do not.

Countess does a great job here. I know he misses the tackle but a cornerback impacting a tailback just outside the hash four yards downfield is quality run support. If the linebackers hadn't compounded their Keystone Kops impression by banging into each other and falling over Baker is gang tackled after a moderate gain; as it is only Ryan is there to tackle and he is run through.


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State Comment Count

Brian October 20th, 2011 at 2:05 PM

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Thanks to the internet, I figured out what Michigan's uniforms were modeled after.

Formation notes: Michigan spent most of the day in the 4-3 under. They did not flip the line much—just a couple times. Michigan State had a few plays where they'd move their strength three(!) times that seemed designed to work this tendency, but M didn't bite.

When they went to nickel it was Avery, not Johnson, as M went for more of a pass-cover look. They also brought out the 46 bear D from time to time, mostly as a second-half adjustment.

Substitution notes: Nothing too unusual at this point. Woolfolk got his customary first series and then sat after letting Martin behind him and giving up the edge on an outside run; Countess replaced him.

The line rotation was a bit tighter in this game, probably because there weren't a lot of plays in the second half. Campbell, Black, and Brink rotated in.

Kovacs, Gordon, Ryan, and Demens were constants. I'm not sure but I think RVB was also on the field for every snap.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- Inc
Winged high. Looked like Woolfolk(+0.5) had this handled to the point where Kovacs could come in and make a tackle after a minimal gain.
O37 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 21
Just a simple inside zone on which there is no edge because Ryan(-2) got cut to the ground massively; RVB(-1) gave too much ground on the outside and Demens(-1) also got cut; into the secondary. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) misses a tackle, giving up another five or so before Kovacs and Woolfolk can get there.
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 6 Fly Woolfolk Inc
Blitz gets Demens(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but not quick enough to prevent a throw; Martin just outruns Woolfolk(-2, cover -2)—live it looked like he was in molasses—to the point where he's multiple yards behind when the ball gets there. Martin drops it.
M42 2 10 Ace trips Nickel press Run N/A Inside zone Van Bergen 3
Again trying the edge... at least I think. The cutback that develops here is pretty dangerous in its own right. Ryan(+1) keeps contain and forces the play away from the overloaded WR side; Martin(+0.5) is flowing down behind the play, forcing it yet further behind, and then there's just Van Bergen(+1), who beat a cut and is also coming down the line... and air. Hawthorne(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) are getting blocked out of either side of the play here, so without RVB this is a big gainer.
M39 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 5 Out Avery 8
Avery(-1, cover -1) beat on the out after Michigan showed man on the motion. No time for any pressure to get there.
M31 1 10 Diamond screen Nickel press Pass N/A WR screen Avery 6
Michigan still pointing to each other as the ball is snapped; not ready. Avery(-1) is picked up by Cunningham and basically chucked inside the hashes. A similarly slow-reacting Floyd(-1) is kicked inside and this nothing play gets a chunk.
M25 2 4 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Woolfolk 12
I was mad at Roh live but I don't think this is really his fault since they have Kovacs overhanging and the DL going under. He's doubled the whole play and eventually blown off the line, but he took two people. Cunningham cracks down on Kovacs, sealing the edge guy... except Woolfolk(-2, tackling -1) should be watching this develop, which he is. He does a terrible job of recognition, lets Baker outside of him, and gives up the first down. Marlin Jackson makes this a TFL. As soon as that WR motions inside he's giving it away, man, and if he's going on a pass route it's a drag away from you on a waggle. You have to be hard on the corner here. Also Hawthorne(-1) got absorbed and erased. They do not make plays like we see the MSU LBs making.
M13 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 12
Again telegraphed with motion, an offset FB, and Cunningham tight to the line—Michigan does not respond. Roh(-2) instantly sealed by the motioning TE, so there's no delay for the pullers. Hawthorne(-1) runs right into Cunningham; done. Demens(-1) trips over a prone guy who was trying to block Hawthorne; Kovacs(-1) runs out to the edge and gets chopped to the ground. Gordon comes over to tackle at the one.
M1 1 G Goal line Goal line Run N/A Iso -- 1
They get it. Terrible camera angle and no replay so I can't really tell why this is so easy; I usually don't minus unsuccessful goal line plays anyway because the odds are so stacked against you.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-3 under Pass N/A Flare screen Van Bergen 4
Morgan in for Hawthorne, Countess for Woolfolk. Basically a replay of the diamond screen w/ the receiver arriving after the snap. RVB(+1) is playside; he reads the flare and the attempted cut block by the tackle and shoots out on the edge. Ryan(+1) gets the edge on Martin and drive him back a ways, forcing the cutback into Van Bergen. Martin can spin past the tackle because Demens(-0.5) went into a pass drop and got there late.
O36 2 6 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 9
Roh gets outside for force it back. Martin(-1) is single blocked effectively, getting shoved downfield by one guy... who is holding him pretty blatantly, but no call. Results based charting. Morgan(-1) runs up and gets cut to the ground by the TE; Martin falls over it. Demens can't get to the play because Martin was single blocked and gave ground. He manages to ankle tackle as Baker leaps Morgan.
O45 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Hitch Countess Inc
No pressure(-1) as Cousins can sit and survey; Cunningham open(cover -1) in front of Countess; dropped.
O45 2 10 I-form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Black 6
Cool play with the WR coming in motion, then orbiting back on the snap to take an end around snap after the RB runs a dive fake. Looks a lot like power as the backside G pulls but then he heads outside. This basically works; Black(-2) sucks inside, going after Cousins, and is out of the play. Kovacs(+1) avoids a cut and stays outside. Morgan(+1) reads the play and gets out to take on the pulling G's block; those two combine to force a cutback that should be for nothing but isn't because Black's not there. Morgan comes off to tackle; Black arrives later to help.
M49 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass N/A Drag Floyd 3
Michigan reveals both man and a blitz as Ryan goes in motion with the TE. Really wish they had checks for this—RR never ran motion because teams would screw with your head by having a check to another defense if you went in motion. Michigan just appears to run it. MSU runs mesh at man, and the two mesh WRs pick each other off. This bumps Cunningham off his route; still complete but Floyd(+1, tackling +1) takes advantage, tackling on the catch and only giving ground when an OL impacts him from behind.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Martin 4
Again offset, again motioning the TE outside of Roh. This time MSU fans the TE; Roh(-0.5), conscious of the previous play on which he got killed, aggressively tries to get outside. The FB redirects outside to block him. Heininger(-1) is handled by a momentary double and Demens is again given no shot. Martin(+1) fights through his block to flow down the line and tackle, preventing this from breaking bigger. Hawthorne(+0.5) did a good job to hold up to his block and force the play back inside where Martin could tackle.
O14 2 6 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Inside zone Heininger -1
Before MSU sets a TE lines up to one side, then shoots to the other side of the line. He sets; other TE goes in motion. The TE who originally moved now comes off the line and motions back to where he started. In short: MSU went from balanced to two TEs left to two TEs right, with the last motion into an offset FB. Michigan is trying to use that bear front and moves around a ton to get it set up. After all that, a TFL. Heininger(+2) and Roh(+2) get off the ball quickly, driving their blockers into the backfield. Heininger gets so deep Baker trips over his blocker; Roh is there to clean up in the backfield after the bounce necessitated by the penetration.
O13 3 7 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Hawthorne 16
Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) goes for a Cunningham head fake and hops outside, opening up the slant. Pressure was getting there, so if this is not there strong chance of issues in the backfield for State.
O29 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 4
Brink in at SDE; MSU runs at him. He gives ground(-1) badly, ending up pancaked away from the POA. This erases Hawthorne. Martin(+2) runs through the center like he is not there, getting into the hole despite being down-blocked. This is not supposed to happen. If Demens(-0.5) can stand up the guard Baker has nowhere to go; he comes up hard to the outside and ends up getting pushed past the play. G falls forward and Baker goes with him as Martin tackles.
O33 2 6 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 3
Over because they shift the strength and Michigan doesn't flip all over the place. They run power again, this time at the weakside. Hawthorne does a better job with this than he has in the past—instead of moving directly at the LOS he appears to read the G pull and shuffles playside. Ryan is blitzing on the snap and pulls the FB block; Demens(+0.5) either reads it quickly or is also blitzing and peels off the pulling G; he maintains leverage. Hawthorne(+0.5) is in the right spot to tackle; he does so. Baker falls forward. RVB(+0.5) took a double without allowing someone to pop out on Hawthorne, thus providing the free hitter.
O36 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Dumpoff Kovacs Inc
Michigan sends a couple delayed blitzers, one Kovacs from the S spot, one Demens. Demens is not relevant. Blitz gets Kovacs(+1, pressure/RPS +1) in alone, forcing Cousins to adjust because Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in Cunningham's pocket on the hitch he wants at the sticks. Plan B is a dumpoff to a releasing RB that would go a long way if complete but is high. I don't think it can be complete since Ryan(+1) is in the lane after chucking the guy and almost gets a hand on it despite it being way overthrown. Batted if accurate.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 9 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -2
O3 1 12 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 4
Ryan(+1) does a good job of constricting the hole here; RVB(+0.5) is doubled and gives a little ground but not much. Demens(+0.5) hits the narrow hole, getting kicked outside by the pulling G; free hitter is Morgan(-1), who is late. His tackle is more of a catch, allowing Baker to fall forward when the rest of the line had set this up for no gain.
O7 2 8 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Roh 5
Cunningham motions in to set the edge. Roh(+1) beats the TE outside, forcing Bell to cut up. Morgan(-1) runs down the line and gets cut to the ground. That mess causes Campbell to fall over the bodies; an overhanging Kovacs(+1) banged Cunningham in an attempt to get outside, read the cutback, and disconnects to tackle(+1). He gets run over but hangs on.
O12 3 3 Shotgun empty Nickel press Penalty N/A Delay -- -5
This was about to be nerve-wracking as M again put everyone within five yards of the LOS. Instead it's a friendly yellow flag.
O7 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Pass 4 Flare screen Avery 3
Yeah... screen. Avery(+2, cover +1, tackling +1) reads the flare and bugs out for the sideline, beating Cunningham to the spot and shooting past him. He's off balance from a bump but keeps his feet and tackles by himself; Countess comes up to help.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 2:23 in half, so keep that in mind.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 3
Trying to pop it outside again; Ryan(+1) gets upfield and outside of the block from the TE—who may have set up too far inside—to force it back; with the puller headed way outside this is two for one. Demens(+1) is out on this play at the LOS well before the ball gets there; he takes on the FB block and makes an ankle tackle as Baker moves past the LOS; Gordon(+0.5) filled quickly to help. Hawthorne is back in; he was all backside despite the pulling G.
O8 2 7 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Martin 9
Wow. Martin(-1) caved in by a double team. Heininger(-1) easily controlled by a single block; Hawthorne is the guy in the gap that forms but it's a real big gap and he's got a blocker coming into him; would be tough for him to do much here. Kovacs comes down to fill.
O17 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Out Demens 7
Michigan playing soft as they try to bleed the clock down with a lot of yards to go. Demens lets this completion happen; he does tackle basically on the catch. Basically fine given the situation.
O24 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Drag -- 11
Demens over the center and Avery coming down to blitz. So here's a difference: two minute drill for MSU. Cousins signals for snap. Center head down, head up, Avery comes down... beat... snap. Hawthorne bugs out for the hash as Michigan sends six, MSU runs a little drag, wide open, first down. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
O35 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Countess 9
Countess(-0.5, cover -1) beaten too easily here, giving up nine yards and OOB, only able to shove the guy after the catch.
O44 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Throaway Avery Inc
Bizarre: same exact play by M, same huge hole in the middle of the D. No one there to catch the drag so Cousins, spooked, chucks it OOB. Avery(+0.5) timed it a bit better and is flying across the LOS at the snap. (pressure +1) The stunting DE was getting in as Cousins threw; he didn't have time to let these routes develop. RPS +1.
O44 3 1 Ace trips Nickel even Run N/A Broken play -- 0
RB does not go the right way. Cousins tries to scramble for it and is hacked down.
Drive Notes: Half, 7-7, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 16
Odd backside double of Heininger gets him off the ball but does not get anyone onto Hawthorne. Assuming this is meant to cut back; it does not because Martin(+1) blows up his block into the backfield; RVB(+0.5) also got his guy well back; Baker forced into a narrow gap between the two. Martin can't quite disconnect to tackle. And then... nothing. Demens(-2) sits and takes a block two yards downfield, failing to get outside and losing leverage. Hawthorne(-1) inexplicably slows up as he scrapes. Despite having a free hitter with no one on him Michigan gives up a gain because of very bad LB play. Countess(+0.5) comes up very well, making a tackle attempt four yards downfield; Baker runs through it. Ryan(-1, tackling -1) now has a shot to end the play but can't; Baker runs through that tackle as he gets shoved by an OL.
M38 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Hawthorne 4
Again offset FB/narrow WR implying an outside run. M gets outside and MSU goes up the middle. Backside DL are going away from the playside; Martin(-1) gets sealed out of the hole and lets a guy out on Demens; Heininger(-1) gets single blocked. Big gap. LBs do well considering; Demens(+1) gets inside of his blocker, convincing Baker to cut to the backside of the Hawthorne(+1) block; Hawthorne disconnects to tackle(+1). Think Baker cost himself yards. RPS -1.
M34 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 4
Jet sweep end around threat. Heininger(+1) blasts past a downblock attempt and gets upfield into the pulling G. Forced cutback. Baker makes it smoothly. Martin(-0.5) got shoved by the C and then hit by a G, he is off balance as Baker hits it up and can't tackle. Hawthorne is free now because of the cutback and comes down to fill. He does a mediocre job. RVB(+0.5) is slanting down from the backside and still helps tackle. Actually, he initiates the tackle. RVB's best trait is it's impossible to get him on the ground. He does not fall over, ever.
M30 3 2 Ace 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A End around Gordon 3
This is just tough to defend in man; Floyd is hauling after Martin in motion but has no shot at getting there with all the traffic he has to deal with. So it's Cunningham and Nichol, seniors, blocking Countess(-0.5) and Avery(-0.5), and that works out about how you'd expect. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fills really well but there's no way to hold this down. RPS -1.
M27 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass 4 PA deep hitch Countess Inc
Ludicrously tight camera angle means we know none of the things. Four man rush gets nowhere near Cousins(pressure -2); I sympathize after all the running. On replay, Countess(+1, cover +1) does get a hand in and seems to help this incompletion. Wind probably gave him the time but he got there.
M27 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter pitch Countess 20
Power action with a counter toss gets Baker the edge. Black(-0.5) holds up and runs at it but runs too far upfield and doesn't string this as far as he could. Countess(-2) gets way too far inside and gives up the edge; he actually runs into Hawthorne, who's doing a decent job to set up and maybe be in position for a tackle at the numbers. Instead Countess is chucked into his legs. Gordon(-2, tackling -1) then misses at the sticks. Baker steps out at the 22; this is not called; it is reviewed and still left to stand. WTF? Refs -2.
M7 1 G I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Power off tackle Roh -3
Hawthorne comes down to be the extra lineman in the 46. He takes on a TE block, but the key to the play is Roh(+2) shooting into the backfield, standing up the FB in the backfield, causing Bell to stop, and allowing Ryan(+0.5) to rumble in from behind to tackle. RPS +1.
M10 2 G I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Roh Inc
Play action on second and goal from the ten, okay. Michigan covers(+2) everyone and Roh(+1, pressure +1) releases as the TE releases him, getting in on Cousins after leaping to dissuade an early throw. Cousins sails one out of the endzone.
M10 3 G Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 Hitch Floyd 10
Michigan sets up a picket fence with just three rushers. Floyd(-2, tackling -2) manages to miss a tackle in this situation; Martin is about six inches inside the line as he turns upfield and barely manages to get the ball across the line as Hawthorne bangs him to the ground. Guh.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 11 min 3rd Q. MSU gets the next drive at their 20 because this is the punt that's dying at the three when Furman takes it into the endzone.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 15
BWS picture paged this; it is all alignment. They run outside; down blocks on Roh and Morgan are hugely advantageous. Morgan(-1) is looking in the backfield instead of his blocker and gets blown up; Kovacs(-1) is cut to the ground too easily. Roh(-1) also sealed. Baker into the secondary, where Gordon(-1, tackling -1) basically whiffs but miraculously punches the football loose as Baker heads for paydirt. Turnover.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-14, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 2
Same exact play. Roh(+1) strings it to the edge this time, eventually getting the second puller to the ground, two for one. Morgan finally getting out rapidly(+0.5). He ends up taking another two for one as one of the pullers cuts him as Cunningham cracks back on him after shoving Kovacs. This plus the Roh play means Kovacs(+0.5) is alone on the edge. He makes the tackle.
O41 2 8 Diamond screen Okie press? Pass N/A Ref debacle -- Inc
Wow. This is OBVIOUSLY a backwards pass. It's not even close. Martin drops it and instead of calling the "free touchdown" the refs blow it dead. This is inexcusable. It is not close at all. I deleted fourteen swear words in this box.
O41 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Drag Ryan 14
All Ryan. Mattison has a great call on for what MSU is running: a triple blitz up the middle with both DEs falling back to ride the obvious mesh response to this play. Roh stares straight at the TE and rides him on his mesh; Ryan(-2, cover -2) looks in the backfield, lets Cunningham through free, and gives up the conversion because Cousins can hit his WR without the jam. Everyone else is in man; Ryan is in zone. The guy is a missed assignment factory. RPS +2; this was a fantastic call that would have gotten MSU off the field if executed. BWS picture pages.
M46 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Fly Gordon Inc
All day on the PA (pressure -2); Coverage is spectacular (cover +3) and Cousins has no choice but to chuck it vaguely in the direction of a double-covered Cunningham. Gordon(+1) in better position that Cunningham if the ball is accurate; it's not. I assume this is a throwaway.
M46 2 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Martin 5
Martin(-2) destroyed by a double, blown off the ball; he spins outside. Gross. RVB(+1) chucks his blocker to the ground; Morgan(+1) takes the MSU fullback and plants him backwards, forcing Baker back into the attacking RVB. Delayed, Baker is gang-tackled by Floyd and Demens. Wow... Martin not having a good game at all.
M41 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Floyd 6
Zone blitz sends five w/ Avery getting in clean (+0.5, pressure +1); Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) is too far off to prevent this completion. Maybe that's harsh; this is probably a route you can just complete all the time if you are good enough.
M35 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 5
Same thing as the previous pitch sweep from a formation perspective; this shoots Roh way outside. Morgan(+0.5) reads the path of the RB and halts his outside move, picking off a blocker and constricting the hole; Heininger(+0.5) is blown back by a double but splits it when the other guy pops off on Demens. Demens pops the guy about two yards downfield; Bell falls forward for three more. Sort of got half-RPSed here; tough to blame the players on this.
M30 2 5 Ace 4-3 over Pass 5 TE screen -- 15
Michigan now flipping on MSU strength changes. This ends up with M in an over front with Kovacs coming down. MSU goes TE screen; live this looked like a block in the back on Kovacs but on replay this is legit. No angle shown gives an idea who might be responsible, but this was a big gain without an obvious way to prevent it: RPS -1.
M15 1 10 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Inside zone Black 2
Because of the bear Black(+2) can flare out; he does. He gets outside of the TE, chucking him inside, and absorbs the FB block for a 2-for-1. This means no one is on Kovacs(-0.5); he attacks only to see his tackle(-1) run through; three yards later the cavalry arrives. RPS +1.
M13 2 8 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 4 Flat Floyd 13
Floyd in motion, revealing man; when Martin comes back the other way he reacts late and slows for no reason, making this ridiculously open. -2, cover -2, RPS -2, good lord. Even if he had played this well M was dead because they showed man. Floyd barely getting outside the tackle box by the time the ball was thrown was just the cherry on top.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, EO3Q. Awful call, bad play by Ryan, seeya.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 6 (Pen -8)
Late move from Morgan to the bear spot. MSU runs power away from it. Heininger(-1) blown up by a double. Roh taken by pulling G; he restricts the hole but Heininger is gone. Since they're running weak and M has an extra guy in the box there is no one to block one LB. Demens(-1) is unblocked and flows but late; he contacts Baker three yards downfield and gives up a lot more as his tackle is run through. MSU G picks up a holding call for stupidly reaching his arms around Martin when he was not relevant to the play.
O8 1 17 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Gordon -1
Michigan blitzes from the slot, getting Gordon(+0.5, RPS +1) in past the attempted block by Nichol; this cuts off the outside thanks to RVB(+1) thumping a double team backwards, pancaking the TE. Ryan runs up and gets cut to the ground again, but RB has to cut back because of the blitz. Heininger(+1) runs down the line and avoids a cut to tackle.
O7 2 18 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway -- Inc
An extremely unconvincing fake to the FB leaves an unblocked Roh on the edge; Heininger also starts running up at Cousins. With coverage(+1) good after the weird fake, Cousins chucks it away. Stupid playcall. (RPS +1)
O7 3 18 Ace Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Martin -1
Heavy rush from Martin(+1) pushes a G back and forces Cousins to step up quickly; RVB spins away to pursue and Cousins falls. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 10 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Floyd 8
Morgan(-1) sucks in on the dive fake; Gordon is blocked out of the play by Cunningham; Floyd(0) does not come up on the edge until Martin is already well downfield. He punches the ball out as he tackles so he gets his minus back.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-21, 9 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 3
End around fake to the other side of the line. RVB(+1) holds up okay against a double; Ryan(+1) constricts the hole and Demens(+1) hits the lead blocker at the LOS; there is no gap for Baker and Demens can tackle; Morgan(-1) sat and ate a block so if this is a bigger hole Michigan has problems.
O22 2 7 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Counter pitch Roh 3
Roh(+1) reads the FB coming his way and manages to string the play out all the way to the sideline.
O25 3 4 Shotgun empty Nickel press Pass 4 TE out Van Bergen Inc
Hey! We time the snap! RVB(+2, pressure +2) is moving as the ball goes as MSU's line just busts spectacularly, letting three guys in; RVB is the fastest and hits Cousins, forcing an inaccurate pass to an open TE out.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-21, 4 min 4th Q. Next MSU drive is running the clock out, EOChart.

Well, at least the touchdowns weren't free.

Yeah. Woolfolk almost gave up a free one on the first drive and as BWS explained, the fumble that opened one of MSU's second-half drives was almost a free touchdown until Baker got the ball stripped on a tenuous, crappy tackle attempt by Gordon. But there's no comparison between this year and last. Wind had something to do with it; so did Greg Mattison.

How were they able to run outside so effectively?

For context we should look at the—



Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 9 1 8 Does not fall over. Needs to teach Ryan about cut blocks.
Martin 5.5 6.5 -1 Blown off the ball by doubles multiple times. Sad face.
Roh 8 3.5 4.5 Adjusted well after initial problems getting outside.
Brink - 1 -1 Eh.
Heininger 4.5 4 0.5 Did okay; still single blocked effectively too many times.
Black 2 2.5 -0.5 Didn't play much this week.
Campbell - - - Did not register.
TOTAL 33 18.5 14.5 Just an okay day.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 4.5 6.5 -2 Michigan's linebackers are not nearly as reactive as MSU/ND, even Northwestern, and it costs them.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 7.5 5 2.5 Actually was not much of a problem after the first argh cut block.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 2 4.5 -2.5 Unable to use his speed effectively, pulled.
Morgan 4 5 -1 Confused but more effective getting to the ball.
TOTAL 18 21 -3 WLB an issue; Demens not doing as well as expected.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 2 6 -4 Missed tackle on third and goal a killer.
Avery 3 2.5 0.5 Okay.
Woolfolk 0.5 4 -3.5 Two very bad plays on first drive and then bench.
Kovacs 3.5 2.5 1 Tough for him to tackle Baker; not pressed in coverage.
T. Gordon 3 4 -1 No fumble plus this time because he whiffed a tackle and got lucky instead of taking a guy to the ground in such away the ball comes out.
Countess 1.5 3 -1.5 Not Woodson yet.
Johnson - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 22 -8.5 Chunks of running yards due to poor corner support.
Pressure 8 5 3 Not a lot of deep passes this week because of wind.
Coverage 9 12 -3 That's not too bad against a senior QB.
Tackling 5 8 38% Baker Baker Baker (also Martin)
RPS 8 6 2 While MSU took advantage of M weakness I didn't think that was a structural issue.

Our sanity check: MSU had just 333 yards but had a somewhat limited number of snaps (63), averaging 5.2 a shot. MSU averaged 5.5 YPC and their turnovers were only vaguely forced, so… yeah. The above seems about right. Michigan was a little disappointing on the line, a little disappointing at LB, and had major issues with members of the secondary tackling.

One surprise: neither Roh nor Ryan took the brunt. Both had decent days; the problems outside were often on corners, safeties, or linebackers. Roh got sealed a couple times but also did things like this:

I feel bad for taking a couple clips designed to show problems with Ryan when he was the only linebacker to finish positive.

…but you did take a couple clips.

Yeah. So caveats apply here. Problem one is the thing that makes me literally scream "AAARGH RYAN" during games when I see it happen. The guy takes cut blocks like Glass Joe takes a punch:

There are other problems on this play, most prominently Demens getting slashed to the ground just like Ryan does; RVB and Martin then tumble over the fallen OL. Gordon also does not make a swift fill. But if Ryan is on the edge here he can make a tackle attempt or force Baker further outside and give his D a chance to recover—Gordon is probably five yards closer to the LOS and in less space if the edge is held.

That's happened a half-dozen times or so and Michigan has gotten gashed outside because of it. He suffered this fate a couple more times but got away with it.

Problem two is just regular freshman stuff like running zone when everyone else is running man. BWS picture-paged this play for a fuller explanation*; here's the video:

That is a great playcall. Michigan blitzes up the middle, gets a free runner, and has two guys dropping off into mesh-annihilating inside man coverage; MSU runs mesh. This play perfectly beats MSU's; it's the definition of RPS+2. This should be an incompletion or a sack and a punt but Ryan runs zone coverage and Cunningham gets open.

I have a dream that someday Michigan will not have freshmen on the field. That day is 2013 at the earliest.

All that said, Ryan came out positive for constricting a bunch of power plays and not being exploitable on the edge after the first drive. That spot has come a long way from early in the season when Ryan and Beyer were taking turns being in the wrong place on power.

*[I strongly disagree with the conclusion there. The play is more about the dangers of freshmen than zone blitzing—it is clear that Roh and Ryan are supposed to get inside of presumed drag routes by the TE and Cunningham. Roh does this beautifully and if Ryan had done the same not-very-difficult thing Cousins has nowhere to go before Morgan annihilates him. The play is specifically designed to get Cousins looking at mesh—blitz up the middle—without opening it up.]

The outside running, then?

I don't think the guys on the line played egregiously.

Michigan got formation'd quite a bit. This was the setup on that Baker run that was a long gainer until he fumbled:


This screams outside run to the right: offset FB, TE lined up a couple yards outside the tackle, WR tight to the LOS. This makes it easy for the offense to seal Roh and Morgan by blocking down. It's up to the linebackers to recognize this and haul ass or slip blocks and then it's up to the secondary to come down hard on that; they didn't. On this play Morgan is looking at the backfield and gets blindsided by a WR; by the time Baker bursts up the line most of the DL is closer to the sideline than he is. This is a pitch, too, so Gordon needs to be reading this faster.

It's a combination of things but the primary thing is the linebackers are hesitant and that makes them late when plays go outside.

What's wrong with Martin?

I don't know. I saw him blown off the ball in this game several times, something that does not happen. That could be your toughness issue.

Why can't we jump snaps like MSU did?

There were a couple instances on which Michigan did but I think that's part of football. The frequency with which MSU got M is unusual. One difference I did notice is that Michigan's standard count was much quicker than MSU's. Here's a shotgun play on MSU's ultimately unsuccessful first-half two minute drill:

Head down, head up, pause, see LB lined up over your face, snap. Michigan tips the blitz and MSU hits them with an easy drag.

What is the deal with the linebackers?

They seem uncertain of themselves. While I keep moaning about over-aggressive opponent LBs that are exploitable if we hit them with play action—big if—that may be a perception magnified by Michigan's slow-ass LBs. I mean, what is this?

Demens lets the guy outside and an unblocked Hawthorne slows up as if a cutback is coming when a cutback is definitely not coming. We saw them similarly unable to read outside plays against Northwestern. WLB was always going to be a sore spot but I thought Demens would be more of a playmaker than he is. Maybe that's yet more hesitancy born of constantly changing systems.

Was that a lateral?

Holy hell, yes. It was a full yard backwards and there's a ref right there who blows it dead. That is a free touchdown on a drive that would end up in Michigan's endzone. That is the biggest, easiest, most awful call that's gone against Michigan in a long time.



It's hard to find anyone who played really well but Van Bergen was the best player on the day, consistently making good reads and staying on his feet.


No one was awful, either, but Hawthorne played badly enough to get yanked for a similarly mediocre Morgan; Martin had his worst day that can't be blamed on an injury in a long, long time.

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

I don't think we learned a whole lot on a day when the wind and Michigan's offense made the opponent even more conservative than they usually are. There are obvious edge issues, but we knew that. Ryan is an erratic freshman slowly improving. Knew that. WLB weak spot, secondary vastly improved but still just okay, etc.

Two things on the line: Roh appears to have solidly reclaimed his starting spot from Black and Martin's play was a little disturbing considering the Iowa/Nebraska/OSU B1G MANBALL lineup coming later in the season.


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs EMU

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs EMU Comment Count

Brian September 21st, 2011 at 3:56 PM

Gratuitous video of the week:

Substitution notes: The secondary was Woolfolk/Floyd/Kovacs/Gordon almost the whole game, with Avery coming in on the garbage time drive and one snap for Marvin Robinson towards the end of charted time. When Michigan brought in a nickelback, which wasn't often, it was Raymon Taylor; they left Gordon at safety.

Demens, Hawthorne, and Ryan were almost always out there at LB. Fitzgerald, Morgan, and Beyer got one or two drives each as backups.

On the line there was more rotation. Black and Roh just about split snaps at WDE. Martin and RVB were usually out there and then Heininger and Campbell split snaps at the other DT spot. Brink and Washington made cameos.

Formation notes: A lot more 4-3 this week going up against a team that uses fullbacks and TEs and stuff. This is your 4-3 under in the flesh:


Line shaded to the weakside, Ryan on the line over TEs, two MLB types in the backfield.

There was also this, which I was at a loss to name:


Let's get a closeup of the line here:


You've got an undershifted line, linebackers shifted over… and JB Fitzgerald lined up shaded inside the TE. I called this 5-3 under. If anyone knows what an actual coach might call it let me know.

On with show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 I-form twins unbalanced 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Fly Woolfolk Inc
PA with two guys in the route. One is a fly on Woolfolk(+1, cover +1), who is stride for stride for the guy and has a play on the ball if it's accurate. It's not.
O10 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 13
Pretty much all Ryan(-2), who flies directly upfield and loses contain instantly. Gordon and Woolfolk are on the edge with Demens pursuing from inside but not much chance for anyone to do anything about it since there's a blocker for each player and just tons of space.
O23 1 10 I-form 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 6
Heininger(-2) clobbered off the ball by a double team. He gets shoved right out of the hole. Demens is immediately under pressure by a guy with a great angle on him and Hawthorne has to take on a tough lead block despite being 214 pounds. They both do credible jobs(+0.5 each). There is no crease for the back. Unfortunately there's another blocker coming and no one to tackle because of Heininger's play, so the pile lurches forward for a significant gain. Picture-paged.
O29 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A Power off tackle Black 3
Taylor in; TGordon stays at S. RVB(-2) is blown up this time and Hawthorne(-1) is pancaked by the guy peeling off RVB. Large gap. Demens(-1) comes up to fill, this time keeping leverage when I'm not entirely sure he should. He's got Gordon as a free hitter outside of him. In any case, the blocker kicks his ass. This is about to be EMU RB versus Kovacs for TD when Black(+3) saves everyone's bacon. He shoved the TE into the backfield, forcing an awkward cut inside, then dove to tackle(+1) the guy as he passes. Major bailout.
O32 3 1 Goal line 4-4 even Pass N/A Flea flicker (scramble) Hawthorne 19
Black and Hawthorne both get in basically unblocked and are there to pressure(+1, RPS +1) Gillett. They miss because Hawthorne(-1) gets too fast and Gillett manages to move around them. Demens is then trying to scrape to wherever Gillett's going to pop up when Martin pops back out of his stance and trips him. Just one of those things.
M49 1 10 I-form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 12
Michigan is slanting away from the play(RPS -1), which makes it tough on the DL. Still, RVB(-1) should do better to hold his ground and Demens(-2) definitely needs to get outside the first blocker to funnel the RB back to his help. He does not. Ryan did okay on the edge, it's just everything else here. RB into the secondary Black(+2) read the OL pull (apparently we can do that!) and immediately peeled off to pursue from the backside; he is almost the only thing between EMU and a touchdown other than a blocked Kovacs. He gets there to tackle at the sticks. The +2 is just for the pursuit and the tackle; the forced fumble is a bonus.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Deep cross Ryan 18
This looks a lot like the shotgun counters that have burned Michigan the first two weeks: counter step from the RB, pulling backside G, another lead blocker, this time another RB. Instead of a handoff Gillett spins backwards and rolls out. Later this will hurt EMU. Ryan is sent on a blitz, reads the pull, and dives inside to blow up the counter he thinks is coming. Hard to fault him for that. This gets Gillett out on the edge; Ryan does come through the block to provide some token pressure. This isn't enough to throw the QB off; he finds a receiver open for a chunk. I guess you could blame Demens or Gordon here but that seems really harsh to me. (RPS -1, pressure -1, cover -1.) Kovacs(+0.5) comes up to tackle immediately. Picture paged.
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2TE unbalanced 4-3 over Run N/A Jet sweep Ryan 18
Ryan(-2) again gives up the edge on the sweep action. He compounds matters by falling to the ground as he tries to get outside. Demens is held inside by a QB run fake momentarily; Woolfolk comes up to the outside and is cut inside of. I do think Demens(-1) could have reacted more quickly here—RVB was going to be in the QB's face if he kept—and held this down to eight or so. BWS picture pages.
M37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over Run N/A QB down G Hawthorne 8
EMU motions a tight end over late and snaps quickly; Demens shifts a couple yards strongside but Hawthorne does not match him; on the snap they're right next to each other. As a result Hawthorne(-2) gives up the corner, getting blocked by the RB. Black(-1) had gotten blown off the ball by a double and there might have been room inside as well, but there's no question to the outside.
M29 2 2 I-form 5-3 under Run N/A Down G Van Bergen -3
Michigan crushes this. Van Bergen(+2) shoots straight upfield, blowing up the lineman trying to pull around and getting through into the backfield. Heininger(+1) slants past his blocker on the backside to show up in the running lane; Fitzgerald(+0.5) is three yards into the backfield taking on the puller RVB blew up, and Martin(+1) has shed a blocker. Nowhere for the RB to go. RPS +2.
M32 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A QB power Hawthorne 4
S brought down for an extra guy. FWIW, Gordon is coming down instead of Kovacs. He's your SS. Ryan(+1) is left alone for a pulling guard to take. He takes the guy on a yard into the backfield over where the tackle was and stands his ground. Gillett doesn't really know where to go; the back also impacts Ryan to provide a corner. This gives Hawthorne(-1) a free run. All he has to do is form up and he's got a TFL; instead he misses the tackle(-1), allowing Gillett to spin inside and start picking up yards. RVB tackles from behind; Kovacs(+0.5) stands Gillett up as he nears the sticks, forcing a fourth down.
M28 4 1 Ace Firedrill Run N/A Tricky pitch Kovacs 14 + 7 pen
EMU to the line quickly and snaps before Michigan is prepared; line dive blocks as if they're going for the QB sneak. Everyone bites on it; they pitch outside, where there isn't anyone. Kovacs(-1) was the playside guy who did not stay responsible on the RB, but this is mostly an RPS play as EMU caught Michigan unprepared. Growing pains. RPS -2. Taylor gets a legit but pretty weak late hit after.
M7 1 G I-Form trip TE 5-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 4
Either Ryan or Black screws up here. Black dives inside the last TE on the line, then heads upfield a bit to pick off the fullback. Ryan hangs outside as well, allowing the pulling G to not even block him. Need to have one of those guys cram that hole down. I vote Black(+1) for taking out two blockers and against Ryan(-1) for not even hitting a guy on this play. Kovacs(-0.5) is also slow to react, waiting for the RB to get to him instead of IDing the hole opening in front of him and hitting it.
M3 2 G I-Form trip TE Goal line Run N/A Power off tackle Van Bergen 1
EMU flipping TEs everywhere and Michigan not reacting quickly enough—Heininger is trying to get Martin to slide over at the snap. He does just make it. RVB(+3) blows this up himself, though, sliding through a downblock and into the pulling G. The RB has to cut behind this mess and ends up falling over the G RVB had put on the ground moments earlier. Martin(+0.5) had gotten through a block to show up in the hole just in case.
M2 3 G Power I Goal line Run N/A Iso Martin 1
Michigan again having a hard time lining up. This time Black trips over himself trying to get to the wrong side of the line. He gets up and just gets into place on the snap. Martin(+2) takes a guard's block and chucks the dude past him, then comes under the tackle trying to deal with RVB to meet the second FB—actually an OL—a yard in the backfield. The pile of meat gets a yard.
M1 4 G Power I Goal line Run N/A Iso Kovacs -
Everyone does the low-man-wins goal line blocking as EMU tries it again. Roh(+1) is in the path of the pulling dudes and wins his block, penetrating into the backfield. The second FB is tripped up/leaps from about the three. The RB tries the same thing only for Kovacs(+2) to roar around from behind him and stall his momentum, spinning him to a halt short of the goal line with an assist from Demens(+0.5). Picture-paged by MGoFootball.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-0, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Down G Campbell 4
Campbell's been in a bit and this is his first noticeable play. This appears to be a slant to the playside here, which is good for M as it gets Campbell(+1) past his assigned down-blocker and into the guy lined up right over him who pulled. Roh(+1) swam through his blocker to set up outside of the Campbell mess; cutback. RVB(-1) is flowing down the line; he's too far upfield after shoving a DL and allows the guy to dive through an arm tackle for positive yards.
M20 2 6 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 2
Miss part of this play; looks like counter action from a tight shot of the RB. M gets lucky as the guy blocking RVB thinks the blitzing Ryan is a major issue and peels off; pulling G now has to take RVB. This leaves Demens(+0.5) unblocked in the hole. His tackle is spun through but that takes a long time to happen; Ryan(+0.5) comes from behind to finish the job but there's some YAC here.
M18 3 4 Shotgun trip TE 4-4 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Hawthorne 7
Guh. Triple TEs to one side and Michigan slants away from it. Guys right over the LBs are pulling and both are so late. What can they be keying on? Hawthorne(-2) is especially late; Demens tries to shoot a gap without effect but it was a good idea given that setup. M blitzed from the weakside, had no support over the top, and even if Hawthorne plays this perfectly this doesn't look like a stop (RPS -2)
M11 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Van Bergen 3
Van Bergen(+2) shocks his blocker with a quick punch and gets playside of a downblock. He ends up driving to the outside, sucking up both lead blockers and forcing a cutback. Demens(+0.5) pops up in a hole; more cutback. Roh has hesitated a bit in case Gillett keeps, which is fine, but Heininger(-1) got blown up and ends up pancaked so when Roh comes down the line he's only able to tackle from behind; forward momentum is slowed by Hawthorne but not stopped.
M8 2 7 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 over Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 2
EMU seems to have a bad playcall on because there is no blocker for Hawthorne(RPS +1). Block down, pull backside T and G around. Ryan is kicked out by G. Demens kicked out by the T. Hawthorne(+1) is free to meet in the hole; Demens peels to help tackle.
M6 3 5 Shotgun 2TE 4-4 over Run N/A Jet sweep Demens 2
Finally some contain. Gordon(+1) is creeping up looking for this on the jet motion and forces a cut up, picking off a blocker. Ryan does better but still gets too far upfield, IME. No delay in the guy's path because of him. Thanks to the contain Demens and Kovacs have shots at this; Kovacs(+0.5) takes a hit from a block and stays upright; Demens(+1) has flowed to the sideline and tackles(+1) near the sticks. Picture-paged.
Drive Notes: FG, 0-3, EO1Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle Ryan 6
Morgan in. Waggle action from EMU is poorly executed so RVB is out on Gillett; he falls down (-1, pressure -1). Gillett can only come underneath to a WR drag rout a couple yards downfield. Ryan(+1, tackling +1) helped take away one of the deeper routes then rallies to tackle almost on the catch, holding this to a minimal gain (Cover +2).
M41 2 4 Ace diamond Firedrill Pass N/A Double pass Gordon Int
Michigan is horribly misaligned at the snap, with only three guys against the four out to the right. If this is just a screen it could get some yards, but it's trickery. Okay. Defense freaks out, TGordon(+4(!), cover +2) goes with the WR and makes an incredible one-handed INT. Should have tried the transcontinental here. RPS -1 for misalignment, or RPS +1 for covering the trick play? Aw, hell, the latter.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-3, 13 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Martin 10
Campbell in, Morgan still out there, Brink at SDE. EMU basically runs an iso but the RB takes a counter step like he's headed outside. This works like crazy, sucking every playside defender to the outside. Martin(-1) is the biggest offender; Brink(-1) is pancaked. Morgan(-1) is cut to the ground and Demens(-0.5) has a really tough job but pulls the Ezeh by just sitting there. Gordon fills to tackle. I am actually a fan of the EMU running game. They are a confusing bunch to work against.
50 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Ryan -2
Basically the same play from a different formation with the same counter step. This time Ryan(+1, RPS +2) is blitzing from the counter side and crushes the guy in the backfield. Martin(+1) had blown back blocking so even the cutback wouldn't have been there.
O48 2 12 Shotgun twins unbalanced 4-3 under Run N/A QB power Black 3
EMU flips their RT to the left side after they align and Michigan flips their entire front five in response. They run the jet motion but have the QB take it upfield with help from a puller. Martin(+1) beats a downblock and cuts off a cutback lane. Campbell is on the playside and doesn't do great. Black(+1) gets into the TE trying to double Campbell instead of shooting down the line, then takes on a block to the outside, defeating it. Campbell is just kind of there, being large(+0.5) so Gillett has nowhere to go except up the backs of some of his dudes; Black tackles.
M49 3 9 Shotgun trip TE 4-3 under Pass N/A PA TE flat Gordon 5
This orbit boot motion again; Black(-1) flies upfield at it but is chopped down by a cut block. Demens and Taylor are blitzing, though, and get through untouched to provide pressure(+1) and force a dumpoff short of the sticks. TGordon(+1, cover +1) belts him OOB.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O44 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Trap Heininger 0
Fitz in. Heininger(+1.5) is passed off by the G over him as he runs downfield to hammer Michigan's spread-out LBs. He keeps his feet and gets popped by a pulling G, fighting playside of him. Martin(+1.5) beat a downblock; the two DTs converge to tackle.
O44 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Iso Hawthorne 0
M moves Kovacs down late for another guy in the box. Campbell(+1) slants under his blocking, which is pretty good on this play since they're trying to dupe you to head outside; this time he comes under and heads backside for the RB. Hawthorne(+2) read the play on the counter step and attacked the backside hole that opens up; FB can only make a diving stab at him. This does get him to the ground but he's falling forward into the path of the runner, whereupon he grabs ankles; Campbell comes in from behind.
O44 3 10 Shotgun empty 2TE Nickel Run N/A Jet sweep Kovacs 4
This is a formation with a covered up slot WR on third and ten and run a jet sweep towards it. I take back what I said about the EMU running game. Kovacs(+2) is sent on a blitz up the middle, reads the play, adjusts his flight path, and meets the WR after a couple yards to make a nice open field tackle(+1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-3, 3 min 2nd Q. M scores, then squibs to terrible effect right before the half. Next drive starts w/ 33 seconds left.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel Pass 4 Scramble -- 8
Clark in for the first time, I think. Four man rush gets nowhere(pressure -2) but the coverage is good(+2) and Gillett has to scramble out. He picks up eight, which seems more due to the situation than a breakdown.
M44 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Rollout scramble Black 4
Sprint draw fake as the pocket rolls. Coverage is good(+2) but Black(-1) loses the edge and ends up falling to the ground, giving Gillett the corner.
M40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run N/A TGDCD Black 1
That God Damned Counter Draw... is defended. Wow. Martin(+1) reads the play and chucks his defender past him, peeling back to close down the hole as Hawthorne steps up to take on the lead blocker. Black(+2) collapses down to close off the hole outside Hawthorne, then extends back outside when the RB bounces, bringing him to a complete stop and eventually tripping him up when he breaks outside again.
M40 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Scramble Martin 7
Roh(+0.5) gets around the T enough to force Gillett to step up, where Martin(+1.5) has beaten a couple blocks to rush up the middle; Gillett has to bug out lest he gets crushed (pressure +1). Gillett has room to run after he breaks the pocket but, like, fine.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(50), EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O33 1 10 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 PA sack Roh -7
This doesn't end up under because of motion, but whatever. EMU goes play action and Roh(+2) reads the PA seemingly before the mesh point with the RB. This is not hell-bent QB obsession, as he takes a step inside, sees the puller, and then heads upfield. He gets outside Gillett; Gillett slows up, Roh still grabs him; Martin(+1) beat a block and comes into finish the job. (Pressure +2)
O26 2 17 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan? 5
Ryan(-1) is not used to playing off the line and it shows, as he sits in the hole way too long. RVB(-1) is the playside DE and fights inside his block, which seems like a good idea only if there's a LB containing—if you're in an under. They aren't. Here Ryan is off the line and once RVB fights inside there is a bounce. RB takes it. Gordon(+0.5) fills quickly; Floyd(+0.5) comes up on the edge to tackle.
O31 3 12 Shotgun empty 2TE Okie Run N/A QB power -- 5
A give up and punt. Jet sweep action, Michigan is pass blitzing. Combo is a bit odd and gets Gillett to the second level, where Floyd(+0.5) comes up to whack; Hawthorne(+0.5) finishes him off.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-3, 7 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Ace 4-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Power Campbell 5
DTs are Campbell (nose) and Washington (3tech). EMU runs a-gap power, pulling a G around into the hole between Campbell and RVB. Campbell(-1) gets pushed out of the hole easily and RB is into the second level without delay. Demens(+0.5) forms up, takes on a blocker, and disconnects to tackle with help from Hawthorne(+0.5). RVB(-1) was easily passed off, allowing that block on Demens to be executed.
O40 2 5 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Campbell 4
Campbell(-1) stands straight up and gets Heininger'd. This provides a small crease for decent yardage; RVB(+0.5) held on the edge and Demens was there to close it down.
O44 3 1 I-Form trip TE 4-4 under Run N/A Power off tackle -- 3
Line shifting in response to the formation flip and Michigan has this defensed for a loss except for a pretty good cutback by the EMU back. He just manages to squeeze through a gap between RVB and Martin's blockers, tripping as he goes; Demens is there to bump but the cutback was too quick—guy just went straight upfield, really—to do anything about it.
O47 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Flare screen -- Inc
Dropped. May or may not have worked if completed.
O47 2 10 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Roh 1
Running at the strong bit of the line. Roh(+2) slants under the TE, gets held, takes on a lead blocker, and fights through all that to tackle for no gain. RVB(+0.5) held up well on his block and helps constrict the hole; this was a blitz that worked against power (RPS +1).
O48 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Run N/A TGDCD Hawthorne 10
Kovacs(-1), blitzing off the edge, does not execute the look-for-puller-flatten key like Ryan did earlier and gets upfield/outside of the guy. Hawthorne(-2) reads the play and has no one blocking him but takes a shallow angle and misses a tackle(-1) that would boot EMU off the field.
M42 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Down G Hawthorne 10 (Pen -10)
Okay, Michigan is slanting to the weak side after aligning to the weakside, which means you're going to have a lot of players back there and not up there, if you know what I mean. In the past when I've seen something like this both linebackers bug out for the playside because they are needed. Here Demens does, getting outside and forcing a cutback; Hawthorne(-2) does not, getting blocked by the backside tackle. Ryan(+1), the SLB, had slanted inside the pulling T and was tackled, drawing a flag that erases the gain. Kovacs again cleaned up (+0.5, tackling +1).
O48 1 20 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Ryan 12
SDE Brink(-1) handled by single blocking from an EMU TE as two OL pull around. Ryan(-2) gives up the edge; three tech Heininger(-1) was blown up, erasing Hawthorne. Demens gets blocked by a puller. Black(+1) was tearing hard on pursuit from the backside and tackles from behind(!) after about ten yards. His pursuit has been outstanding; on this play all he needed was a little delay on the edge to tackle from behind at the LOS.
M40 2 8 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 over Run N/A Down G Black -2
Michigan slanting playside since they're lined up away from the strength of the formation. Black(+2)slides past the TE's block and gets into the puller in the backfield. Campbell(+0.5) threatens to get into the backfield and draws the C's attention; Hawthorne(+1) shoots the gap in front of him for a TFL.
M42 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Rollout scramble Roh 2
Gordon to nickel as MRobinson comes in. Sprint draw fake to Gillett rollout. Roh(+1) is on the edge and starts chasing (pressure +1), causing Gillett to abandon things after his first read is covered(+1). His scramble goes for little.
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-3, 11 min 4th Q. Last drive is garbage time; not charted.


Yeah… they do all be runnin'.


It's a combination of things. Abitrary pie graph? Arbitrary pie chart:


For confirmation of this, let's check the


We already checked that.


Chart. A disclaimer: since Eastern hardly threw there were scant opportunities for DL to pick up bonuses on plays where they get collective minuses for lack of pressure, so even-ish is okay.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 8 6 2 Had some trouble holding up; also made some big plays.
Martin 10.5 1 9.5 Consistently fought playside of blocker appropriately but got bupkis for it.
Roh 7.5 - 7.5 Did some things.
Brink - 2 -2 Handled one on one.
Heininger 2.5 4 -1.5 Got blown up more often than he made plays.
Black 12 3 9 A monster in pursuit and played well at the POA.
Campbell 3 2 1 Doesn't seem that real.
TOTAL 44.5 18 26.5 Goal line stand is a major reason this is so positive, but, hey, goal line stand.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 3.5 4.5 -1 Slow to diagnose some things.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 3.5 7 -3.5 Eaten up on the edge.
Fitzgerald 0.5 - 0.5 A few plays.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - Did not register.
Hawthorne 5 11 -6 Slow reads really got him.
Morgan - 1 -1 One drive.
TOTAL 12.5 22.5 -10 Edge edge edge edge edge.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 0.5 - 0.5 Day off.
Avery - - - DNP in charted time.
Woolfolk 1 - - Day off
Kovacs 6 2.5 3.5 I don't even know what to do.
T. Gordon 6.5 - 6.5 Two solid safeties? Is this legal?
Taylor - 2 -2 Personal foul.
Robinson - - - One play before charting ceased.
TOTAL 12.5 4.5 8 Half of that the INT.
Pressure 6 3 3 Ignore
Coverage 9 1 8 Ignore
Tackling 3 2 1 Need Hawthorne to get guys down.
RPS 8 6 2 Hugely reduced numbers as M goes vanilla

So the defensive line numbers came out more positive and the linebackers more negative than I expected, but a quick glance at the chart above shows a lot of EMU success on the flanks, where linemen are doing well just to remain in the picture. Even on the power stuff the theme is obvious:

Demens(-2) definitely needs to get outside the first blocker to funnel the RB back to his help. He does not. ... Hawthorne(-2) gives up the corner ... they pitch outside, where there isn't anyone ... Guys right over the LBs are pulling and both are so late. What can they be keying on? Hawthorne(-2) is especially late ... Hawthorne(-2) reads the play and has no one blocking him but takes a shallow angle and misses a tackle(-1) ... In the past when I've seen something like this both linebackers bug out for the playside because they are needed. Here Demens does, getting outside and forcing a cutback; Hawthorne(-2) does not, getting blocked by the backside tackle.

Linebackers not getting to the hole, Hawthorne especially. This is a great example of the day's theme:

1: The three tech is not helping matters. Here it's RVB.
2: Hawthorne + block = done
4: Jibreel Black bailing our asses out.

Here's another one. Watch RVB get blown out and Demens not funnel back to Hawthorne, and Jibreel Black bail our asses out:

Why would Hawthorne be so disappointing a week after a good game against Notre Dame?

Hawthorne didn't blitz or cover against EMU, two things he flashed great skill at in the ND game. Instead of sending him places where he has a job and is suppose to do it, they asked him to play linebacker straight up and he got blocked tons. The rest of it is just not reading the plays quickly enough, something I noted last week.

I'm curious as to what he was doing when Michigan slanted its line, though. When I've seen this in the past—and I have plenty—what happens is the line slants one way and the LBs roar over the top the opposite direction. This eats up cutback lanes and gets that offensive lineman who releases downfield immediately blocking no one, leaving the weakside LB a free hitter. Michigan didn't do that when they slanted:

Look at this:


There's nothing but a TFL on the back side of this play because the line slanted to the weakside of the formation. Hawthorne has to get playside of that guy releasing because there's going to be a hole. It's going to be a hole without anyone to block him in it if he gets to it quickly enough; instead he gets hammered.

EMU also tested him—and the rest of the defense—mentally by changing formations and using motion constantly. He didn't do so well, and even when he did he missed some tackles. Just a rough day.

When he did things right—and he did a couple—he was a decisive slasher. He, more than most LBs, needs to figure out the play and hit a gap before blocking can get in place. He's not going to make a lot of plays by taking on lead blockers. Diagnosis skills are key for him.

I think EMU actually did us a favor here by exposing a lot of mistakes in the defense. The film room this week is going to have a lot of "ohhhhhhh" moments; hopefully we can iron some of this out before Ronnie Hillman shows up this weekend.

So, Jibreel Black and Craig Roh both did things.

Yes, yes they did. A lot of Black's positives are encompassed above, and Roh got off the stat schneid with a sack and some other tackles. It's not that Roh has been actively bad. He's done a number of quiet things that help the D without showing up on the statsheet. For one, he's the hidden reason Michigan made that fourth down stop on the goal line. He got penetration and caused a lead blocking EMU OL to leap at the endzone from the three. RB had to follow, Kovacs came in from the side, stop. He's probably not going to be James Hall at this point but he can be solid.

Black looks like a different player, though. That downfield pursuit on the fumble recover is both smart and fast. He did that all day. If anyone was holding the edge on a number of plays he would have been crushing dudes from behind. He's holding up at the POA better (against Eastern, granted) and seems to be emerging into a starter.

Here's a thing that has a 50-50 chance at happening: Michigan starts playing both at the same time, with Roh (probably) at strongside DE. Roh's bigger, Black's pursuing like a mofo, and Roh has far too much experience coping as an SDE, which he played as a freshman when he was too exploitable alone on the edge and sort of played last year when he moved to a three-man line. Is he ideal? No. Is it a way to get better personnel on the field? I think so.

What's wrong with Mike Martin?

I don't think anything is yet. He's having a hard time making an impact when everyone's heading outside.

The secondary?

They get an incomplete on the day, though Thomas Gordon did take another step forward, and not just because he speared a pass I would have rated an 0.5 if he was a receiver.


Jibreel Black had his best day in a winged helmet; Martin was solid inside; Roh got off the schneid; Gordon interception hello.


Pick a linebacker, with Hawthorne having the toughest day. Also the three-tech is a sore spot. Heininger got blown out, yeah, but you can see that RVB suffered the same fate in a couple of those clips above.

What does it mean for SDSU and the future?

Unfortunately, Hawthorne has not locked down the starting WLB job and will probably have to fight for it as long as he's not diagnosing pulling linemen more quickly. The three tech spot is a sore one and will need to be addressed if the interior run D is going to hold up; choosing between freshmen at SLB is leaving Michigan vulnerable on the edge.

I know everyone says the three tech gets one on one blocking, but that has not been the case so far this year and the inability to hold up there has caused a multitude of problems.

As for the rest of it… Black may or may not be a player. Check back in a couple weeks to see if he keeps it up against better competition.

This is the point at which we see learning happen—they're not very good right now but since they won't be swapping systems midseason these issues with play diagnosis should get better. We are all scarred by the last few years; here is where they start sucking less when people teach them how to play football.

Hypothesis! Michigan is going to start slanting heavily when they feel they're in trouble. The three tech is not holding up well, the linebackers are not good when being asked to read and react, but they've got a lot of DL who can get penetration when tasked with being aggressive one-gap players and linebackers who can come over the top to the other side. It will be a high risk, high reward system but against teams with good running games the alternative is getting bled to death because your guys are getting plowed or are hesitant.


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-20-11: Coordinators Comment Count

Heiko September 20th, 2011 at 9:40 PM

Al Borges

Does this game feel different for you because it’s SDSU? “Well, looking at that part of it, I guess is different. We’re obviously more familiar with this team because we just coached the team. It’s nothing to do with any of that stuff. It’s about San Diego State against Michigan. Anything else is just smoke and mirrors.”

Rocky Long said you have advantage because you know the SDSU players and their signals. How much does that come into play? “No. I really don’t get caught up in that too much. Signals and all that stuff, it’s overrated. Way overrated. There are 17 teams in the NFL that run the same offense. They use the same terms. Nobody changes -- they may change a little bit here and there, but not significantly enough to where it scares people.” Do you use the same signals here at Michigan as you did when you were at SDSU? “No we don’t. A lot of ours is sent in on wristband calls anyway, so it’s difficult for anybody to get what we’re doing because they’d have to have the wristband.”

Were you involved in recruiting Ronnie Hillman? “Hillman was already committed when we got there. Our job was really just hanging onto him.” Did he look good back then? “Oh yeah. The kids that we kept, we thought were pretty good players.”

Are you surprised by how prolific they are offensively? “No. No. Not at all. Not even a little bit.” Does that make you feel good? “No. We have to play them. Made me feel great last year. They’re a good team and they deserve respect, and we’re going to give it to them. Our kids are well aware of what they’re dealing with here. We’ve made it clear that this is going to be a tough contest. We better come ready to play.”

(more after the jump)


Picture Pages: EMU Runnin' On Us I

Picture Pages: EMU Runnin' On Us I Comment Count

Brian September 20th, 2011 at 12:55 PM

Q: How did Eastern Michigan run for 4.5 YPC despite having their quarterback attempt five passes all game?

A: There were a few different issues. Here's one of the minor ones.

It's first and ten on EMU's first drive of the day. They've just gotten a first down on a jet sweep. Their second play from scrimmage is POWER they will run with POWER and on the BIG TEN NETWORK they use HUGE WIDE ANGLES instead of REAL TIGHT ANGLES and this was going to be MATT FOLEY but now it's more like a BRAWNDO COMMERCIAL.

Anyway. EMU I-Form, Michigan responds with an even front with three linebackers back. They'll run power at Will Heininger. The images will be a little fuzzy. Tackle box:


On the snap the backside G pulls; linebackers start creepin':


The playside DE is Craig Roh and he'll do a pretty good job. He's at the LOS, his guy is a yard or so behind it, he's able to release either way. He is not sealed. This is what he looks like:


This is the essence of a half-point. You are relevant to the play. You are basically doing your job. When everyone does their job and you don't get rock-paper-scisssored you are not going to give up many yards. Roh will eventually get plastered by a pulling G and tumble to the ground, but that's fine. Two guys blocking you means someone's free to hit.

If the rest of the line did this there'd be nothing. Unfortunately, this is Will Heininger's fate (second from the top in the first frame):

heininger-power-2    heininger-power-4    heininger-power-5

You can see the blue stripe. Roh has his helmet on it. Heininger ends up a yard behind it and sealed away. That middle frame is a butt-kicking, and the third frame is the result: two Michigan players with no hope of making a tackle.

The result of this is a hole with blockers headed out to the linebackers:


Here's the key point as EMU's #13 has to whack Roh, leaving the pulling G for Hawthorne. If there's a crack here the RB is into the secondary:


Hawthorne holds and the RB runs up the back of his blockers. His other option is a bounce outside that Floyd may or may not have covered:


The blob stops moving after about six yards.



Interesting Items

I don't think Heininger can hold up. Last week I pointed out a couple instances where one on one blocking handled him easily against ND; here he gets blown up by a couple of dudes from Eastern Michigan. He makes plays from time to time but I shudder to think about what will happen when we play Illinois, Nebraska, and Ohio State to close out the year. Those OSU drives against Miami where their interior line whooped that of the 'Canes give me the heebie-jeebies.

So Campbell's pretty important, and every time I see something like this it increments my Rodriguez firing justification meter, especially with Jon Hankins starting as a sophomore for OSU.

The playside DT is probably the most important player on a power. We've explored what happens when DEs aren't in the right spot, but what happens when they are in the right spot is not often impactful. The play kicks you out and you need to restrict the hole; you also need to be prepared for a bounce. This makes it hard to do much* except sit there and maybe try an arm tackle if the running back passes by close enough.

The playside DT is kind of the key to the whole thing. If the DE is in the right spot and that DT holds up to the double two things are going to happen:

  1. the hole in the line is going to be very narrow or nonexistent.
  2. one of the linebackers is going to be a free hitter.

If the guy gets caved in it's hard not to give up your three to seven yards. It's hard not to get caved in—that's why they double you—and this is why planet-sized DTs are popular.

*[Exceptions for slants and stuff granted.]

Michigan's alignment exposes Heininger to the double. This is not the "under" alignment that usually allows the three-tech to take on single blocking. Here he's on the strongside between the G and T. Ryan is not on the line hovering over the TE.

That's about it. It's bad if your DT gets his butt kicked. SCIENCE!


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Notre Dame

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Notre Dame Comment Count

Brian September 15th, 2011 at 2:18 PM

Gratuitous Video of the Week: here's Will Campbell showing men of Thor who Thor really is:

More on him later.

Formation Notes: Michigan ran a lot of nickel against ND since ND ran a ton of three- and four-wide sets; this was usually an "even" front:


IE, both sides of the line are set up essentially the same way. You can see Thomas Gordon over the slot to the bottom of the screen.

When ND went to more conventional sets it was the 4-3 under. Here's an example you might recognize:


They also did their okie thing and nickel eff it, but you know about the latter from momentarily horrifying touchdowns.

Substitution Notes: much less rotation on the defensive line this time around. Roh and Black split time at WDE. Martin was almost always the nose. Van Bergen split time between three-tech and SDE, as did Heininger. Heininger also spotted Martin at the nose when he took a breather. Washington got in for a few plays; Campbell replaced Heininger late to excellent effect. Both were three-techs.

As you can see above, it seemed like Michigan had two different packages on the line:

  • Pass rush: SDE Ryan / NT Martin / 3TECH RVB / WDE Black/Roh
  • Run D: SDE RVB / NT Martin / 3TECH Heininger/Campbell/Washington / WDE Black/Roh Jake Ryan and Kenny Demens went the whole way at LB. The WLB was Desmond Morgan for the first four or so drives and then Brandin Hawthorne the rest of the way. Ryan also lined up at defensive end plenty when ND went to packages with lots of wideouts.

In the secondary it was mostly Avery and Floyd with Woolfolk rotating in from time to time. Kovacs and Robinson played the whole way at safety; Thomas Gordon got all but a handful of snaps as Michigan spent most of its time in a nickel package.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 11
Morgan starts and immediately gives up a play. Wood's headed straight up the middle of the field but Demens is there, unblocked. Martin(+0.5) was momentarily doubled and then gets the inside guy to release downfield. He then sets up inside of the G. That plus Demens means Wood has to cut outside of the Martin block and inside of Roh. Morgan(-2) fails to read the play quickly enough and does not get outside to stand Wood up in the hole. Have to get here if you're unblocked. If he's there Wood has nowhere to go and this is a no gain. Instead he's late, missing an arm tackle(-1) and sending Wood into the secondary for Kovacs to tackle.
M46 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 5
Heininger at the three tech with RVB at the five, except this is an even front with Roh on the strongside. Michigan slants its line away from the play; Roh(+0.5) shoots under the TE quickly enough to bang the pulling G. He's not far enough upfield to stop him cold but does slow him up and prevent him from effectively blocking Morgan. I am not entirely sure but I think Demens may have screwed up here—usually when you see a slant like this both linebackers will flow over the top behind it. Instead Demens goes straight upfield, getting knocked out by a tackle releasing downfield. HOWEVA, Gordon is blitzing off the edge so maybe Demens is doing what he should and it's Morgan who is making the error by not getting inside to bounce the play to his force help. So I just don't know. I think this is Morgan(-0.5) because of the blitz, and he did fall off the tackle(-1), but Demens(-0.5) also comes in for a wag of the finger.
M41 2 5 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass N/A Waggle out Floyd? 21
Looks like the same slant. Roh(-1) is left unblocked on the end, sees the TE pulling across the line, and crashes down the line at said TE. He gets chucked to the inside as he releases into the route. Rees has no pressure on the corner and finds Floyd wide open for a big gainer. (Cover -2, Pressure -2, RPS -1) Either on Floyd for going deep when he had help over the top or Gordon for not getting over fast enough. I'd be guessing.
M20 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 4-4 under Run N/A Iso Martin 11
TE originally spread out before coming in as an H-back over the gap between Martin and Heininger. Both linebackers flow to to the wrong side a step as the RB takes a counter step before cutting backside. Heininger(-1) was easily kicked out of the hole and sealed. Martin(-1) is slanting, I think, and also gets blown out of the hole. Morgan(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) both get blown up by ND OL on the second level, and Wood just shoots straight upfield. Yuck.
M9 1 G Ace twins twin TE 4-4 over Run N/A Yakety snap -- 0
Fumbled snap.
M9 2 G Shotgun 4-wide Nickel over Run N/A Quick pitch Black 2
Eifert split out. Slightly, Michigan shifted towards him in case there is funny stuff. Morgan telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks. He checks to a quick pitch outside that takes advantage of that blitz(RPS -1). Black(+2) is left unblocked and starts charging up at the quarterback; on the pitch he changes direction impressively, gets out on the RB, and manages to tackle(+1) just as Wood crosses the LOS. Terrific individual play.
M7 3 G Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 7 Rollout out Gordon 7
Michigan sends the house; Notre Dame rolls away from the pressure and towards the out route Riddick is running on Gordon; Gordon has to set up with inside leverage and has no real chance at doing anything with this. Cover -1, RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O17 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel under Pass 4 Dumpoff Morgan? 15
This director is very frustrating because his shots are all super-tight. You can see literally three yards downfield. Is this zone or man? I don't know. I believe it's zone given the reactions after the dumpoff. Problem: Morgan(-2, cover -2) takes off on a drag route as if it's man, opening up this stupid dumpoff for a big gain. No pressure(-1), either. On replay, definitely zone except for Morgan.
O32 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel under Run N/A Pin and pull zone Martin -3
Martin(+3) gets under the blocker assigned to him and shoots into the backfield for a TFL. Roh(+1) had set up outside in good contain position, removing any chance of a bounceout. Heininger(-1) got clobbered, though it didn't matter. RPS+1 for the slant.
O29 2 13 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Power off tackle N/A 16
Kovacs and Morgan telegraph a blitz; Rees checks out of it; Michigan does not check out of their blitz. The check is a power play to the strong side of the line, where there are two Michigan defenders and four blockers with the pull. RPS -2. Hopeless. Heininger(-1) makes things worse by getting destroyed. RVB(-1) flew upfield, opening a big hole. Demens is almost triple-teamed as a result. Wood can go to either side. Gordon has to keep leverage and heads outside; Wood cuts in. Robinson(-1) comes up hard, misses the tackle, and gets lucky that Wood is forced into Floyd.
O45 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Out Demens 6
Zone blitz sends Morgan and drops Black. This gets a free run for Morgan and does see Black cover Eifert effectively, but no RPS because ND has a hot route they hit. Demens is in man on Riddick; Riddick runs an out; he was lined up way outside of Demens; all Demens can do is tackle. It is possible Gordon was supposed to be in zone here but I think it's just a tough cover for Demens as Mattison tries to confuse ND.
M49 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Why does ND always have at least two linemen with full-on Viking manes? I can't think of a team more likely to have hair sticking out of their OL's helmets.
O46 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Drag Kovacs 11
Washington in. Morgan(+1) blitzes and gets in clean, lighting up Rees as he throws (pressure +2), but Demens has been run off (cover -1) underneath and a short crossing route is turned up for 8 YAC. This is not Demens's fault—he actually did a great job of passing Floyd off to the safety. Kovacs(-1) is the culprit I think; two ND receivers jumped inside and he was the nearest available defender.
M43 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Bubble screen Demens 8
Gordon(+1) does a great job of avoiding a cut block and is right there; Demens(-2) is flowing from the inside. He overpursues and lets Floyd back inside of him when the two of them had him pinned for a minimal gain. (Tackling -1)
M35 2 2 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Pass 6 TE In -- 13
Morgan and Ryan blitz and are picked up(pressure -2). Once that happens it's an easy matter to find the hole in the zone. Kovacs and Demens were the guys nearest but this is on the blitz not getting close to home.
M22 1 10 Shotgun empty bunch Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Morgan 14
Morgan(-1) again telegraphs his blitz, Rees checks, Michigan does not check, and it's easy as pie to throw it where Morgan blitzed from (RPS -2.) It's a matter of picking the wide open WR. Mattison getting torn apart so far. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1), ceding another half-dozen yards.
M8 1 G Ace Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan 5
Michigan still slanting these. Unlike Roh earlier, Ryan(-1) does not get underneath his blocker. He's kicked out. The slant isn't helping Heininger but he gets annihilated(-1). Big hole. Morgan(-0.5) gets pancaked, but he wasn't done any favors. Held down by safety help near the goal line.
M3 2 G Ace Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Black 3
Same play they ran for 11 yards on the first drive. Black(-1) blown out by a double. Martin(-1) fights to the wrong side of his blocker; Morgan(-1) again goes with the counter step and again gets pancaked in the end zone. Demens(-0.5) can't do much. This is easy, yo.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-14, 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Trap? Van Bergen 2
Hawthorne in. G pulls around Martin(-0.5) as the C kicks him upfield. Tough job to stay disciplined there but Martin could have done better. Hawthorne shoots the gap outside and misses but does get an arm on Wood, causing him to stumble. RVB(+1.5) fought inside a double and now gets in the way, forcing a spin; Demens(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) converge to thump him down.
M37 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Out Floyd Inc
Zone blitz sees both DEs drop off as the MLBs blitz and Kovacs comes from way back. Rushers get picked up and Rees has a guy wide open on an out for the first (pressure -1, cover -1, Floyd -1), but instead of throwing it at the WR he throws it in the direction of Floyd five yards deeper. That's a letoff.
M37 3 8 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Hawthorne Inc
Hawthorne(+1) sent on the same blitz Morgan was earlier, but he doesn't tip it off, getting in free right after the snap (pressure +2, RPS +1). Rees chucks it in panic. General direction of a drag that probably won't get the first down; turfed. I have a new respect for giving free rushers +1s after watching Morgan earlier.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-14, 14 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O14 1 10 Shotgun trips TE Nickel over Pass 5 Bubble screen Gordon 22
Blitz from JT Floyd in the slot and ND bubbles right at it (RPS -1). Gordon gets a chuck in press man on Riddick, then disengages as Kovacs comes up. Riddick takes Kovacs. Gordon is now alone with Floyd on the edge. Floyd smokes him(-2, tackling -1) to the outside and turns a moderate gain into 20 yards.
O36 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel over Run N/A Power off tackle Martin 0
RVB(+1) stands up to a double right at the LOS. This allows Martin(+1) to read the pull and pull himself, getting into the hole. Demens attacks and gets there at about the LOS; he turns it inside but I think he got bashed out the hole and would have given up a lane if not for Martin. Black(+1) set up, chucked the DE, and dove at Gray's feet as he passed—he's actually the first guy to tackle(+1). Well done all around by the DL.
O36 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Fade Woolfolk Inc
Hawthorne as a standup DE-ish thing and Ryan as an MLB. Blitz telegraphed? I don't remember this play. Survey says... yes. Ryan blitzes, Hawthorne drops into coverage, ND picks it up. Rees wants Floyd on a fade covered by Woolfolk. Woolfolk(+2) is step for step and uses his club to knock the ball away as it arrives. Robinson(+0.5) was there to whack him, too. (Cover +2)
O36 3 10 Shotgun empty Okie Pass 3 Hitch Kovacs Int
Massive coverage bailout: the one that worked. ND rolls away from pressure that doesn't exist and still lets the backside DE roar in free. Rees has a timer in his head and needs to chuck it; he does. Kovacs(+3) backs out into a zone, reads the roll and the QBs eyes, and undercuts Floyd to intercept. Only problem: Eifert is wide open in the seam for a touchdown. Um (cover +1, RPS +1). I guess. Picture paged by dnak438.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-14, 11 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Screen Black Inc
Black(+2) reads the screen, gets upfield, shoots out on the running back, and tackles him as Rees turfs the ball. (RPS +1, cover +1)
O24 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Run N/A Draw -- 20
Michigan shows the okie package on second and long; Rees checks, Michigan does nothing, and even after it's like “they called a play where they think we have no MLBs,” they still drop Mike Martin into a zone like it's third and twenty. Black did try to stunt inside and get crushed to the ground, so that's a -1. Everything else is on Mattison here. RPS -3. Little chance to defend this. I do wonder if the draw defense here was supposed to be Fitzgerald plunging down the line from outside.
O44 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Fade Avery Inc (Pen 15)
No question about this. Avery shoves Floyd OOB on a very catchable fade (-2, cover -1).
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Penalty N/A False start -- -5
I bet they all saw “Thor” on opening night.
M46 1 15 Shotgun trips Okie Pass 5 Tunnel screen Fitzgerald 3 – 15 Pen
Michigan drops a couple linebackers and sends five. The blitz prevents any ND OL from getting out just because they're getting blocked, essentially, and Fitzgerald(+0.5) just has to form up; RVB(+0.5) tackles from behind. RPS +1. Thor gets a personal foul.
O43 2 26 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Pass 5 Fade Floyd 26
Floyd on Floyd action. Floyd(+1, cover +1) has excellent, blanketing coverage on Floyd but the back shoulder throw is perfect and his hand is a half-second late. Floyd stabs a foot down and Floyd can't do much other than ride him out of bounds. Sometimes you just have to tip your hat. This is one of those times. That is hard. That is why Floyd (not our Floyd) is going to be rich in about nine months.
M36 3 In Goal line 4-3 under Run N/A Dive Hawthorne In
Linemen just fall all over each other, leaving Hawthorne(+1) to leap over the pile with beautiful timing and nail Wood in the backfield. Could be a stop but Wood does burrow for the first. Refs got this spot on the money.
M36 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 5
Heininger(-2) crushed out of the hole. He has to take the double there; he does not. He gets sealed instantly and in one motion the T is out on Hawthorne. LBs have blockers in their faces. Demens(+0.5) sets up well and gets Wood to commit inside, then pops off and falls backwards and causes Wood to fall; Hawthorne(+0.5) had taken the hit and gotten playside. Not heroic work but they held this down without involving a safety despite both getting blocked.
M31 2 5 Ace trip TE Base 3-4? Run N/A Down G pitch Demens 3
Ryan(-2) is on the edge against three freaking tight ends and doesn't try to not get sealed. He's not even slanting. He rushes straight upfield, gets sealed by Eifert, and doesn't delay the puller. Hawthorne(-0.5) is on the LOS inside of Ryan and meets the same fate. Hard to blame him. Floyd sets up outside to force it back; Demens(+2, tackling +1) is running his ass off to beat the blocker coming out on him and catch Wood. He does just as Wood tries to break outside of Kovacs(+0.5), who had taken on the last TE and gotten outside all textbook and stuff.
M28 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Penalty N/A Delay of game -- -5
Brian Kelly thinks he's coaching basketball yo.
M33 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel stack Pass 4 Out Avery 15
Avery on Floyd; I think Floyd pushes off here to get separation but there is no call. Avery -1, cover -1.
M18 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 4-3 under Pass 5 Rollout dumb Floyd Int
Rees goes “FLOYDFLOYDFLOYD” and throws it to him despite Floyd having three defenders around him, one directly in front of him. JT Floyd(+2, cover +2) picks it off.
Drive Notes: Interception, 7-14, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Avery 12
Play action fake with a pull does suck Hawthorne(-0.5) out of position, but it's hard to not suck up given what's been happening. The bigger problem is Avery(-1.5, cover -1, tackling -1), who has no other threats than Floyd and would be fine if he just tackled on the catch here. He doesn't; Floyd breaks the tackle and turns five yards into a first down.
M38 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Nickel even Run N/A Down G pitch Black 3
Black(+1) slants inside the TE assigned to him, getting into the backfield. He draws one of the pulling OL and cuts off the outside, forcing a cutback. The TE peels back to try to deal with him and then thinks better of it. Wood cuts inside the Black engagement and would be in trouble if Heininger(-1) hadn't been completely handled by one-on-one blocking. If Heininger is just okay here this is no gain. Instead he's crushed, leaving a gap. Hawthorne(-0.5) was cut as well but gets up crazy fast; Demens(+1) avoided his cut and fills to thump.
M35 2 7 Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Heininger 2
Good fightback from Heiniger(+1.5) here. He takes a one on one block and gets playside. This is definitely not supposed to happen since the H-back is running straight at this gap. Heininger is there; H-back runs into him. He holds. Running back now hits the pile; he starts to yield a little bit. He's still taken on two blockers and forced a bounce. An unblocked Demens(+0.5) is in the right place to lead the tacklers.
M33 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Run N/A Draw -- 12
Same thing that went for 20 on an earlier drive, with Martin backing out into a zone as ND runs a draw right at it. It's even worse this time as there is no one in the center of the field not dropping into a zone. RPS -3.
M21 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout throwaway -- Inc
Good coverage(+2) causes Rees to throw it away as he nears the sideline.
M21 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 5 Fade Van Bergen Inc
They back out the MLBs this time and send the DL plus the OLBs. RVB(+1, pressure +2, RPS +2) is instantly past the G assigned to him because of a poor pickup; Rees chucks a ball off his back foot that's not catchable. Eifert gives it a go, though.
M21 3 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Gordon Inc
Gordon(+2, cover +1) gets an excellent jam at the line and disrupts the route. I think this was destined for the slot but it could have been Floyd. Throw was less awful if it was the slot.
Drive Notes: FG(38), 7-17, 1 min 2nd Q. Greg Mattison's getting a little fancy here.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 over Run N/A Inside zone Roh 4
Heininger out, Campbell in. I think Mattison knows Heininger has been getting manhandled. ND tries to run at Campbell; his(+0.5) response to a double is to burrow his way straight upfield. This does occupy two blockers for the duration of the play but I'm a little worried he went too upfield and didn't go down the line. This is still better than Heininger's output. Roh(+0.5) is also doubled and manages to split it after giving ground. This forces the RB outside, where Hawthorne can flow; Roh couldn't tackle but his penetration robbed the G of any ability to block Hawthorne. Would like Hawthorne to get to the hole quicker to hold this down a bit.
O24 2 6 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Quick out Floyd 7
Martin(+1, pressure +1) beats the center and threatens Rees up the middle. Doesn't matter because Floyd(-1, cover -1) is in the parking lot on a quick out for Floyd. Way too easy.
O31 1 10 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Martin 19
TE as H-back and lead blocker. Martin(-2) is clubbed, getting hit by a single momentary double and then sealed away by one guy after the G releases downfield. RVB(-2) gets upfield and is pancaked. Linebackers really have no chance here. Floyd(-1, tackling -1) is in overhang mode; he misses a tackle near ten yards and Wood ends up picking up 10 more.
50 1 10 Ace 2TE twins 4-3 over Penalty N/A False start -- -5
I bet they're all drummers, too.
O45 1 15 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 8
Tough to defend as aligned(RPS -1), with Woolfolk bailing out and Gordon trying to hold his ground at about five yards getting blocked. Gordon does force it back inside, where Demens and MRobinson tackle.
M47 2 7 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass 5 Hitch Floyd 6
Heininger back in; they've flipped him to SDE with RVB at three tech. Hawthorne blitzes and is picked up (pressure -1); Rees hits Floyd on a hitch near the sticks in front of Floyd. Floyd probably gets the first down if he doesn't fall, but he does fall, so he doesn't. (Cover -1)
M41 3 1 Ace twin TE 6-2 Bear Run N/A Iso Van Bergen -2
Bear? Why the hell not. This is a line of six dudes across ND's line with the DL shifted one way and two linebackers lined up above SDE Heininger. Demens is the lone LB; Kovacs also ends up in the box at LB depth as Eifert motions in. RVB(+2) blows through his blocker and is into the backfield; Ryan(+1) blitzed untouched from the outside; Martin(+1) avoided a submarine block from the center and leapt into the path of Eifert up the middle, allowing Demens(+0.5) to charge through the gap unmolested and finish off the tackle RVB and Ryan started. RPS +3; big big stop.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 10 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Run N/A Counter Ryan 38
Man, we suck at counters. This one is tough as Michigan has just six in the box against six blockers. Ryan(-2) plunges down the line and get annihilated by the RT. He is gone, he is being shoved into Martin, game over for the DL. Hawthorne(-1) sucked up to the LOS and gave the C a great angle to block him. I would be interested to know why Mattison doesn't key on OL pulls. There's got to be a reason. Anyway, with Hawthorne and the DL out of the picture, Kenny Demens(+1) is one on one with the pulling OL in acres of space. He sets up inside, realizes Gray is going outside of him, gets out to force a slow-down and cut-back, then gets plowed. Valiant effort there. Marvin Robinson(-3) then turns ten yards into many more by losing leverage. Kovacs had this covered at the sticks if Gray does not get outside.
M30 1 10 Ace 2TE tight 4-4 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 0
Excellent work by the entire DL here, as they flow down the line in textbook fashion. Martin(+1) controls the center and drives him back, flowing. Campbell(+1) takes a double but stays playside of it and occupies both blockers for the whole play. Ryan(+2) dominates the TE assigned to him, not only driving him into the backfield two yards but shoving him into Martin's lineman; Woods has nowhere to go except up his blockers' backs. RVB took a double too; he gave ground but it didn't matter. Wood then puts the ball on the turf; Campbell recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-17, 7 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Power off tackle MRobinson 24
Simply untenable, this. RVB(-2) shoots straight upfield. He does bump a puller and delay him, but he falls to the ground and is useless. Martin is on the backside and wasn't going to be able to do much but now he's totally out of the play. Black(-2) locks in with Eifert and then makes a critical error: instead of bulling him back and stringing the play out he attempts to disengage. He gets playside but gives up two yards of penetration and gets way too far outside in the process, now getting caught up with Hawthorne. Then he falls. Big cutback lane. Robinson(-2, tackling -2) whiffs so bad he hardly slows Wood, turning a nice gain into a huge one.
M47 1 10 Shotgun trips TE Nickel under Run N/A Inside zone Black 0
Floyd(-1) telegraphs blitz, no check. ND runs away from it and might have a big gainer if they can get the edge sealed. This time Black(+2) stands up, chucks Eifert inside of him, and pops up on the edge a yard into the backfield, forcing a cutback. Martin(+0.5) has flowed down the line to cut off the immediate cutback and Demens(+0.5) comes in from behind to tackle.
M47 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide Okie Run N/A Delay Demens 5
Michigan sends Ryan and Kovacs from the outside while dropping Demens and Hawthorne back to linebacker depth. This initially fools the LT, who ends up having to chase Demens(+1) as he scrapes to the hole to tackle. Demens ends up missing the tackle because the OL blocks him in the back (refs -1); Martin(+0.5) set up well and came off a block to finish the tackle. Should have been two yards or negative ten, but that's life. RPS +1
M42 3 5 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 5 Rollout out Floyd 16
Floyd(-2, cover -2) gets killed on this little rollout out. Giving up the first down is one thing. Getting so far out of position on a five yard out that you can't even miss a tackle until the safety comes up and the WR has to delay is another. Easy.
M26 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Van Bergen -4 (Pen +10)
M waits to tip its blitz until after the check, getting Gordon(+1, RPS +2) in off the edge on the playside. Michigan slants under the zone blocking and RVB(+1) gets through to tackle immediately on the cutback Gordon forces. Heininger(-1) erases all of that by yanking an ND OL by the jersey as he's cut to the ground.
M16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Fade Floyd Inc
Floyd(+2, cover +2) in press here and stays step-for-step with Floyd on the fade, breaking it up as it arrives. Fade is not well thrown, which helps.
M16 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 two deep Run N/A Inside zone Demens 1
Three man line with Ryan as a Crable DT; they send him and Demens at the same gap. ND runs away from it. Trouble? Maybe. Martin(+0.5) and Heininger(+0.5) flow away from the blitz against single blocking and hold up; Demens(+2) keeps his head up, reads the play, gets into his blocker, and then releases down the line to tackle.
M15 3 9 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 two deep Pass N/A Drag Van Slyke 15
Three man rush leaves Rees all day(pressure -1) but does force a checkdown. Slot WR is running in front of Van Slyke(-2, tackling -1), who's too far behind to do anything but make a desperation dive that does not bring the WR down. That's the first down; the TD is mostly due to a stellar block by an ND WR that cut off three guys.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-24, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 5 TE out Hawthorne Inc
Herbstreit is now circling our telegraphed blitzes. Rees is still checking out of plays. This time it's Kovacs rolling up and blitzing; ND rolls away from it. Rees seems to have a WR open but goes to Eifert, who is blanketed by Hawthorne(+2, cover +2). Hawthorne comes over the top to break it up. Impressive.
O10 2 10 Ace twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 8
Van Bergen(-1) is battered out of the hole but Ryan(+0.5) sets up right this time and Demens(+0.5) scrapes to hit the lead DE at the LOS. Narrow gap for the tailback that should be filled by Hawthorne(-1) but isn't because he shuffled to the LOS instead of flowing over the top and allowed the C to block him. Picture paged.
O18 3 2 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne -2
Same play. Michigan sends Hawthorne on a blitz this time. RVB(+2) shoots upfield, getting his blocker in trouble and picking off a pulling G. He is surging through both these guys two yards in the backfield as Wood approaches. Ryan(+0.5) again sets up well on the edge. Wood is going to try to bounce, which will test Ryan severely because Demens(-0.5) is not in position to bounce with him. Moot, though, as Hawthorne(+2) has zipped through the crack provided by the pulling G and tackles for loss. RPS +2.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-24, 13 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 PA TE drag Hawthorne 5
Rees goes play action and then finds his tight end for a moderate gain. Hawthorne tackles immediately. Pressure was getting-there-ish, coverage was okay, throw could have been better... this is average all around.
O45 2 5 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell 2 (Pen -10)
Campbell(+1!) bowls over the backside G. RVB(+1) has cut through his blocking on the frontside, which forces a cutback. Campbell might have as shot at a TFL but is held, allowing the RB past; Demens(+1) reads and slices through a gap to make an ankle tackle as Wood gets to the LOS. Black(-1) got blown up and pancaked by Eifert on the backside, which is why this became dangerous.
O35 2 15 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 3 Tunnel screen Black 0
Hawthorne sent; Black drops off. Think Rees puts this too far outside but Black(+2) takes advantage. He's chucking a TE on his drop who turns into his blocker; Black shucks him and tackles Floyd at the line. (RPS +1, tackling +1)
O35 3 15 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 TE post -- 21
No pressure(-1) on a four man rush allows Rees to step up and sling it in a very small gap between Hawthorne and Demens(+1); this is good coverage(+1) that Rees beats with a fantastic throw. Demens was right there, man.
M43 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel spread Run N/A Inside zone Gordon 2
Hawthorne split out in man and I think this baits ND since it looks like Demens is the only LB. On the snap, Gordon blitzes and the line slants. RVB(+0.5) gets some penetration and Wood cuts back. Gordon(+0.5) is there to contain; Demens(-0.5) gets too far outside and doesn't provide a thump to hold this to one yard. RPS +1
M41 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Slant Ryan 11
ND is taking a long time to get their plays called and M takes advantage, sending Gordon and Demens and dropping off Ryan. This is almost deadly. Rees hurries his throw and it's right at the zone Ryan(-1, cover -1) is dropping into except he's too far into the flat, so instead of going right to him it passes just by his outstretched hand. He drops properly and we could be talking pick six. (RPS +2)
M30 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 two deep Pass 5 Slant Woolfolk 8
ND runs double slants and Woolfolk(-1) is beaten to the inside; he does tackle immediately. (Cover -1)
M22 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Fade Avery Inc (Pen 15)
Kovacs rolls up; check. They take advantage of the man to man to take a shot at the endzone. Avery(+1, cover +1) is right in the WR's face as the ball comes in; it's low and to the outside and Avery can't do anything about the futile one-handed stab the WR makes, but it's a futile one-handed stab. Avery is hit with a terrible PI flag (refs -1)
M7 1 G Ace twins twin TE 4-3 under Pass 6 DERP DERP DERP
DERP. Michigan had blitzed and gotten Black(+1, pressure +1, RPS +1) in Rees's face so if this goes forward it's almost certainly getting batted anyway.
Drive Notes: DERP, 21-24, 6 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Campbell? 3
Campbell does okay with a double but only okay and starts getting shoved back. ND RT releases downfield into... no one. Weird. I guess I have to give Campbell +0.5 since one of his guys was probably supposed to get Hawthorne. Hawthorne is now unblocked so he is headed to the frontside gap; Wood cuts behind. Demens(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) combine to tackle.
M23 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Out Woolfolk 6
No pressure(-1); easy throw for Rees as Woolfolk is in man. No minus here since it's a six yard completion with an instant tackle. That's kind of a win for the cornerback.
M29 3 1 Ace trips TE 6-2 Bear Run N/A Inside zone Ryan -2
Credit could go to either Ryan or Campbell. Campbell(+2) destroys the RT. He gets under him and pancakes the dude. He dead. This constricts the hole and picks off the pulling TE. Wood has to take it inside slightly, where Ryan(+2) blazed past the other tackle on an outside blitz and took a perfect angle to Flying Squirrel Tackle Wood; Demens(+0.5) was there to clean up if necessary. Either Ryan or Campbell was enough to stuff this. Both and you look dominant. (RPS +3)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 2 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 5 Fade Floyd Inc (Pen 15)
Hawthorne(+1, pressure +1) gets a free run at Rees so he chucks it to Floyd, Floyd(-2, cover -2) is beaten instantly and starts yanking the jersey in a desperate bid to not be an instant goat.
M46 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 3 TE In Demens 12
All day (pressure -2) on a three man rush; Rees patiently waits until he finds Eifert for a first down. Demens right there to tackle.
M34 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Rollout out -- 5
No pressure on the roll but lots of coverage(+1) in the area because of the extra defender means Rees has to check down for a few yards.
M29 2 5 Shotgun 4-wide Okie Pass 6 Fade -- Inc
Miscommunication between QB and receiver means pass is nowhere near anyone. Blitz was just getting home.
M29 3 5 Shotgun trips Nickel eff it Pass 3 Seam MRobinson? 29
This has to be a bust by someone but it's also hugely risky in an area of the field where you have another ten yards before you can really start bringing the heat. It must be Robinson(-2), but this is such a ridiculously hard thing to ask this kid to do that an RPS -3 is warranted. Picture paged by dnak438.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-31, 30 sec 4th Q

So how was that?

I don't know, man.

I sentence you to death!

I'm already a condemned man.

I sentence your face to death!

Great. So Michigan gave up 31 points and 513 yards on Saturday. They acquired four turnovers, only two of which could plausibly be declared forced—the two fumbles were just ND players dropping the ball—and one of the plausibly forced also featured a hand-wavingly open coverage bust. Without Notre Dame literally handing the ball to Michigan they likely score between 37 and 45 points. Yeesh.

There is one major mitigating factor: drives. Notre Dame had 13. That's a lot, even more than last year's opponents averaged (12.4) during a time when every other play was a long touchdown. It's still tough to be encouraged when the opponent threw for 8.1 YPA and ran for 6 YPC.

But Notre Dame's offense is really good!

This I buy. Eifert and Floyd are a hell of a receiving combo, their line consists entirely of veterans who Michigan would have loved to have, Brian Kelly is an established offensive super genius, and I love Cierre Wood. If Rees ever stops turning the ball over they could rack up some silly numbers. Big if given Rees's tunnel vision for Floyd, granted.

A quick glance at the schedule suggests the only offense that looks anywhere near as talented is at—ugh—Michigan State. If your line coming out of this game is "this is the most talented offense we'll face," I'm inclined to agree given the dodgy nature of the State offensive line.

And we got a lot better late!

Also true, but first let's get some context, let's get—


He does make an appearance.


Will Campbell chart.




Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 11 6 5 Two huge plays on third and short pull him above average.
Martin 9 4.5 4.5 Had one trademark slash for TFL, was otherwise kinda eh.
Roh 2 1 1 Do something!
Brink - - - DNP
Heininger 2 8 -6 Consistently blown up by single blocking.
Black 11 5 6 Made a lot of plays on the edge.
Campbell 5 - 5 Please be real.
TOTAL 40 24.5 15.5 Decent but the "pressure" metric below is a downer.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 13 4.5 8.5 Twelve tackles and few errors.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 6 6 0 Had some trouble holding up on the edge when asked to slant
Fitzgerald 0.5 - 0.5 About two plays.
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 6.5 4 2.5 Alternated nice plays, coverage, with slow reads.
Morgan 1 7 -6 Yanked. Back problem time?
TOTAL 27 21.5 5.5 Can Hawthorne hold up?
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 5 8 -3 Good PBUs deep, couldn't keep on the radar underneath
Avery 1 4.5 -3.5 Struggled, but PI unfair.
Woolfolk 2 1 1 Limited.
Kovacs 4 2 2 Less explosive day, rarely blitzed, but didn't get beat.
T. Gordon 4.5 2 2.5 I like him.
Johnson - - - DNP
Robinson 0.5 8 -7.5 Lost leverage twice, blew deep coverage twice.
TOTAL 17 25.5 -8.5 FS play killing them.
Pressure 7 13 -6 Front four not getting anywhere.
Coverage 17 18 -1 Good deep in press man.
Tackling 4 10 -6 Very poor day.
RPS 22 18 4 Big recovery late with third and short stops worth +8.

The defensive line generally emerged positive but throw in that pressure metric and it's a below-average day. No one is getting to the quarterback. Their big positives came when ND could not pick up third and short.

I struggled with what to do with plays like the Kovacs interception, on which I gave Kovacs a big plus and Mattison/coverage a small one. (Given Rees's rolling out the TE throw would have been tough.) The surprising net result: a positive RPS day after a lot of big minuses. That is due in large part to Mattison bringing out blitzes that stoned Notre Dame on third and short three times. Those are critical turning points that, according to the Mathlete, swung Michigan's run defense from –4 points above normal (PAN) in the first half to +4 in the second.

Would you like to debate the semantics of the word "sound"?

There's been some pushback (at BWS and also on twitter) on my declaration the defense is not "sound" after pointing out the various ways in which Mattison plus Michigan's inexperience yield a bunch of holes in the D. Some of this is my fault since I did not make it clear that when I was describing something as unsound it was the defense as a whole, not necessarily any individual play. I say this because of plays like this:

Is this a massive missed assignment that leaves essentially no one in the middle of the field? I suppose that's possible, but it doesn't sound like it:

Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”

Sometimes Mattison runs sucky run defenses on second and ten. Sometimes he calls plays where there's no one deeper than five yards and would like a true sophomore in his first extended playing time to cover not only the deep middle but a seam route he's not even looking at. Sometimes he asks the WLB to run hash-to-hash with his back towards the QB and then do something about a seven-yard hitch. Are these plays sound? Maybe some of them are… on paper. In practice the kinds of zone blitzing Mattison uses give certain defenders massively difficult tasks.

Is that sound? Yes, technically, but only technically.

I don't have a problem with this, by the way, since it's the equivalent of taking over Michigan's 2008 offense. Do whatever you want. Caviar dreams appreciated.

Do we have a weakside linebacker?

I think we might. Desmond Morgan got a shot and looked like a true freshman. He tipped his blitzes, failed to scrape to the hole despite being unblocked, and had at least one instance in which he did the "I'm in man, everyone else is in zone" thing we saw too frequently last year and from Herron in the opener. Sad fugee faces.

Then Hawthorne came in, and while he had his errors he also flashed impressive coverage skills…

…and the ability to Ian Gold his way into the opponent's backfield:

[update: wrong video. fixed.]

The sample size is small but in retrospect that practice where everyone freaked out because Campbell wasn't starting, then breathed a sigh of relief because Brandin Hawthorne was in there at WLB so it couldn't have actually been the first team defense, was prescient. Hawthorne leapt to the top of the depth chart in the aftermath of his performance and will likely stick there until Northwestern, Michigan State, and Iowa test him down the road.

Do we have a three tech?

Come on, baby. It eventually became clear to Michigan's coaches that Will Heininger was a problem on the interior and they started rotating other options into the game. Quinton Washington got a few snaps and didn't do anything of note. Will Campbell, though, not only features in the above Gratuitous Video but a couple other instances where he all but threw Notre Dame offensive linemen into the ballcarrier. Here he's held!

By the end of the game he'd racked up a +5 with no minuses. This came a week after WMU lit him up and he got promptly yanked.

What changed? Michigan's scheme probably helped. Against WMU they ran a lot of three-man lines with a nose tackle and a couple ends. Against ND it was all four-man lines in which Campbell was the three-tech. That makes him harder to double and apparently allows him to chuck a three-hundred pound redshirt senior like he's Sam McGuffie.

This almost can't be real, so let's say it's not. Likely scenario: Campbell is making some progress but needs to be constantly reminded of his technique, applied in limited situations in which he can succeed, and gets tired really quickly.

Do we have a free safety?

No. Best hope there is for one of the corners to take over at nickelback and get Thomas Gordon back there.

Do we have a weakside defensive end?

Maybe, but it's not the one people expected. Jibreel Black didn't get any quarterback pressure on his own but he still racked up a nice day thanks to athletic plays like this:

He's chucking tight ends out of his face and holding up on the edge (usually) and may have passed Roh. Now about that pass rush…


Kenny Demens was probably Michigan's best defender on the day, and when Campbell and Hawthorne's powers combined on the final four drives Notre Dame averaged 3.3 YPC on twelve attempts.


Marvin Robinson lost leverage frequently and busted the final TD. Anyone covering Floyd on anything but a fly route was helpless, but that can't really be held against them. Morgan and Heininger were poor before being lifted.

What does it mean for Eastern Michigan and the future?

The next three weeks will be spent consolidating a starting position for Hawthorne, working out what Campbell's role can be, working on reducing the number of busts, and hopefully finding someone to play free safety. IME this has to be Thomas Gordon, so look for Blake Countess to begin rotating in as a nickelback so Michigan can develop the corner depth they'll want to keep Gordon at safety full time.

They could look okay by the end of that period. I'm extremely worried about the pass rush from the front four, though. I assumed that would be a strength and it has not been anything close. If they don't get more they'll be totally reliant on wacky blitz packages Michigan's transitioning defense clearly isn't doing a great job of executing. That will make for a  rollercoaster.


Picture Pages: Jake Ryan Fights The Power, Again

Picture Pages: Jake Ryan Fights The Power, Again Comment Count

Brian September 14th, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Last week we highlighted a couple of power plays on which Jake Ryan Brennen Beyer was out of position to disastrous effect. He screwed up the second one in a totally different way than the first one, though, so at least he's trying something new, and while Michigan got scorched by Cierre Wood I haven't run across too much that's his fault this week. [Ed: uh… because he didn't play. I have a nasty cold that is damaging my brain; bear with me. This is still a good example of where the guy on the end needs to be when power gets run at him.]

I hadn't run across a power run at him, either, until early in the fourth quarter. I wonder how he's doing?

Here's the setup. ND is in its two-TE set; Michigan undershifts their line and has Ryan over their third-stringer in the slot—by this point Mike Ragone is out with an ACL tear:


ND motions the TE in to act as an H-back so Ryan slides down to the more traditional SLB spot.

[SIDE NOTE: I really like what ND does with their TEs. This was a consistent theme: spread it wide and motion the TE in as an H-back. Provides a tough decision for a defense when you've got TEs as athletic as ND does. He's way more of a threat as a receiver than a generic fullback.]

Eifert's going to block Ryan. Presnap:


An instant post-snap:


Check that out compared to Ryan's Beyer's earlier adventures against power:


LEFT: Three yards upfield against WMU. His porridge is too hot.
CENTER: At the LOS having lost outside leverage against WMU. His porridge is too cold.
RIGHT: One yard upfield w/ outside leverage against ND. His porridge is just right.

He was blitzing in the first still, granted, but I wonder what his angle would be if sent on a blitz this time around.

By the time the tailback gets the handoff he's set up in a good spot. He can release outside on a bounce and string it out for the secondary. He has restricted the available space between himself and Van Bergen:


Unfortunately for Michigan, they've still got problems. Look at Hawthorne(#7) and the ND center currently releasing from Van Bergen. Demens will take the pulling G, leaving Hawthorne as the free hitter…


…unless he doesn't read the play fast enough, runs upfield, and gets blocked by the center.




Closer, though.


Object Lessons

By positioning himself correctly Ryan takes the bounce away and makes the rest of the defense's job easier. The porridge just right shot means the RB has to start running laterally, even bouncing upfield, if he's going to get outside the tackle. His positioning maybe a yard inside his starting position restricts the available space on the interior, making it easier for the linebackers and three-tech to shut down the hole. This is "squeezing" power.

This is a lot closer to successfully defending the power with a base defense. On the very next play Notre Dame will line up on third and two to run this again and get stuffed thanks to a run blitz that gets Van Bergen penetration and allows Hawthorne to slice through the backside of the line when the guard over him pulls:

That's an RPS play. Michigan needs to get better at defending things without RPS getting involved, because it doesn't always get involved in a good way. Here it's second and ten and Michigan gives up a chunk, but it's not nearly as open as Western's counter power schemes were.

On second down, all Hawthorne has to do is step playside of the ND center and fill that little crease and this play is a minimal gain; Michigan also might have gotten a bit better play from Van Bergen and gotten that crease closed off without help from the linebackers. It's a lot easier to diagnose what went wrong here because the answer isn't "everything."

Given what happened the rest of the game it's obvious they've got a long way to go. You can see the beginnings of improvement.

Jake Ryan is getting better. He does this again on the next play and seems in position to at least string the run out if Wood gets to bounce, which he doesn't because Hawthorne makes the play before he has to.

I've got him with a big minus on a 38-yard counter on which he is crushed inside, but on the next play—the Wood fumble—he's in even better position on an inside zone that goes nowhere. Michigan's defense obviously has a lot of problems but he wasn't the major issue on the line. Heininger, sorry to say, was.

Hawthorne can play. Needs work, but that second play is a thing of beauty. I wonder if that run blitz is specifically designed to hit that gap caused by a pulling OL or if was just a fortuitous occurrence; either way that's beautifully timed and executed. Two plays earlier he got a PBU on Eifert with beautiful coverage. He's ascended to the top of the depth chart; hopefully he secures that over the next couple weeks. That would be an Ezeh to Demens upgrade at the sorest spot on the D if it pans out.


Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-13-11: Coordinators

Tuesday Presser Transcript 9-13-11: Coordinators Comment Count

Heiko September 13th, 2011 at 10:04 PM

News bullets and other important items:

  • Hawthorne and Campbell did well enough to get more playing time.
  • Woolfolk played really well for a guy with one arm. Has a sweet cut on his nose, but his ankles are fine.
  • Borges calls his offense a westcoast/spread hybrid (not transcribed)
  • Wants less shotgun to feature tailbacks more. “The best teams don’t depend on one player, yet they have that one player that can win for them. But when push comes to shove, I want the ball in his hands.”

Greg Mattison

from file

Opening remarks: “I guess 2-0 is a good way to start. I think we have to still play much, much better on defense. We’ve got to correct some of the mistakes that are allowing some yardage. The one thing I wasn’t happy with was one of the bigger plays that broke on the run, that was the first time all year we didn’t pursue like we had to on the back end. That was something we talked about that they’ve been doing a good job on so far. We just have to make sure we crowd that football and make that ball be inside, but it was a great win for the program.”

Did you see good enough play from Hawthorne to give him more playing time? “Yeah, oh yeah. He showed some things in the spring. He showed some things in the fall. And then he sprained that ankle. One thing I’ve been impressed with him was even when the ankle was not good earlier, he came out and practiced hard, and limped and tried to do everything he could. He shows you he’s a tough kid. I was happy for some of the things he did, and he really helped us.”

Are you disappointed in the defensive line, and are you concerned about having to blitz so much? "I don’t know if you’d say I’m disappointed. We’ll always blitz, and we’ll always pressure. You’d like to make sure we can get pressure from a four-man rush on a more regular basis. To be able to do both, then you really have it, and that’s something we’ll address, and that’s something we’ll work on right now.”

Did creating turnovers help solidify the defense during the game? “No question, no question. Our ability to get those turnovers -- this was a really good offense. Make no mistake about it. This was a very, very good offense that we played against. There’s a great deal of experience on the offensive line. We won’t face a wide receiver than Floyd. The tight end, in my opinion, is a big time football player. Their offensive line is all older. That did help us a great deal to be able to [get turnovers], but its’a mindset that we’ve been able to build, that no matter if teams are moving the football on you, as long as you have a place to stand and they’re not in the endzone, something good can happen. The other thing, when you’re getting turnovers -- I think when you get turnovers it means they’re around the football. We’ve all seen times before where the ball’s lying on the ground and there’s nobody there to get it. We’ve got to keep doing that. That’s something we’ve got to keep doing until we get better at our fundamentals and get more seasoned.

Was Notre Dame’s last touchdown due to a breakdown in communication? “No it wasn’t. We didn’t execute it exactly like we wanted to. I’ll be dead honest with you, there’s sometimes calls a guy makes that afterwards you say, God I wish I hadn’t made that call. That was the same call we got the interception on earlier in the game. It looks exactly like the blitz, and we had blitzed right before that, and they knew we were going to blitz the closer they got down there, so I just thought to myself, you know what, maybe we can do the same thing. Show that blitz and come out of there. We didn’t execute it as well as we did the first time, and they hit it. I’ll be the first to tell you, I’m not always 100%, and if it was all over again I probably wouldn’t have called that.”

Is disguising coverage more important in college than in pros? “The thing about disguising is you’ve got to be pretty experienced. A lot of times out there you’re just saying, ‘Guys, make sure you’re in the right place.’ Disguising is the next phase. The first thing we have to make sure is we don’t bust on coverage and make sure we’re in position to make the plays we can make. As they get more seasoned and as they get better, then you can say, ‘Okay, now you got that down, now let’s make it look like this and go to this.’ But we haven’t been able to disguise as much as you’d like to, and we’ll get there.”

How many of your linebackers are you comfortable with? I’m comfortable with anybody on that football field. Anybody that practices and goes through what they go through … Anybody on the field for Michigan I feel comfortable with, because that means they’re the best. We just have to keep getting them healthy, trying to make sure they’re 100%, making sure they’re improving. You’ve got a bunch of linebackers there that haven’t played a lot of football. You get thrown in a ballgame like that, for them to make some of the plays they made, I’m proud of them. There’s always mistakes. The one thing I’ve said all along that I’m so proud of this defnsee about is they come in everyday after the game’s over trying to correct those mistakes. I hope there’s someday where we don’t have to correct those mistakes but that’s what we’re working on right now.

Longer runs when Mike Martin dropped into coverage. How do you protect the middle of field? “The same blitzes that hit the quarterback from western -- [Notre Dame] obviously saw that and didn’t want that pressure to come at them, so what they did was check to a run whenever they saw that look. We have defenses that look exactly the same that are run defenses, and it’s the same thing. I called the pressure thinking it was pass, and in the back of my mind, I’m thinking I should have called the pressure for the run because maybe they’re going to do that, and sure enough they did do it. And the next one they ran it on third-and-seven. If a team’s going to run it on third-and-seven, you aren’t ever going to pressure if you’re worried about it. And some of the overloads on both sides -- they aren’t great run defenses.”

What do you see from Martin that allows you to drop him into coverage? “He’s a very good athlete, and he’s a very intelligent football player. And that’s what it takes. A bigger guy like that, showing that he’s a defensive lineman and then dropping out, can cause problems. You can only do that when a guy’s enough of an athlete to do it. I don’t want to do it too much because he’s a great run player, and all of a sudden he’s dropping out, and they’re running the football at you, it’s not very smart.”

What did you see from Will Campbell? “I thought that when he went in, he gave us a spark. I thought he played with a lot of passion, and that’s a big body that can move. Again, everybody buys in and everybody steps up the way we want it at different times and at different levels. And he’s one that when he was out there, he said, ‘Okay, I’m going to do it the way they want it done.’ I do believe he’ll probably get more playing time. We’re rotating anyhow, but I do think he’s earned it by what he showed right there. The biggest thing the guys have to do is earn it at practice. The game is the reward for how you practice, so they’ve got to continue to practice hard and go out there, and that’ll be their reward.”

Does a healthy cam Gordon allow you to do some different things? “He was a safety, and a very good athlete, but all those factors -- most of [the linebackers] are pretty good athletes and can cover. I don’t think we ever think, ‘well Cam’s not in there, we can’t run this defense.’ ”

What have you seen from Craig Roh the last two games? “Craig played much better. Craig played much better in this game than he did the first game. I think Craig’s another guy that all of a sudden he sees that the bar is higher than maybe he expected it to be. He’s bought in, and he’s going to be an outstanding football player. I’ve got all the confidence in the world. And just to see the way he’s practicing since that first game and then played better in this game, I look forward to him playing much better in this game.”

In the past two games, the other team has moved the ball on you easily at the beginning, but then you seemed to figure them out. Can you explain that? “Maybe I need to do a better job with the pep talk. I looked at that, and I don’t know if it’s us adjusting. I think every game you have to adjust. That’s part of coaching, and that’s part of the players really understanding our whole package. That’s why I always talk about bullets. If something isn’t working, then you’ve got to have something else to go to. We were fortunate to call some other defenses that the kids executed very well, and got some big plays off of them. I don’t know if that’s adjustments, that’s maybe just the way defense is, if you have enough in there, don’t stay out there and let yourself to continue to not do well. Change it up, and do something until you find that mix, and luckily our players kept playing. A real credit to them. They believed all the way, and they played all the way. That’s why we’re going to be good. That’s why our defense is going to be a Michigan defense. We’re not there yet, by any means, but as long as those players keep doing that, then we’re going to be fine.”

How many kind of defenses do you run? “We’ll always put in different things each week. We’re never going into the game with the same game plan, and usually it means pressures. I don’t think you can say, this is our package in the spring, and it’s the same thing you run throughout the whole year, so we will always tweak things, we’ll always add some things, we’ll take something out. We have a number that I kind of look up on the board, and I say this is the number of defense we have to have in this game, and no more because you can’t get enough practice time on them. I look at how many times I can call a defense in a practice to decide whether I can call it in a game, because you don’t want to put a defense out that they aren’t prepared with.”

Has that number changed every week? It’s usually a set number. It all goes by what they can handle, but I don’t know what you’d say the number is, but I know when I look at that board, if I see too many defenses on that ready list, I’ll be taking them down by tonight or tomorrow, saying, ‘No no, we can’t, this is too much.’ I’d like to do it, we’d all like to do it, but it isn’t going to get called. Or if you do call it, you’re hoping it’s run right, and that’s not fair to the kids.”

Are you hesitant to play Troy Woolfolk because of his cast? “No, no. In fact, after watching the film, Troy Woolfolk played unbelievable for a guy with one hand. He made one tackle with one hand that might have broke. I was proud of him. He’s a Michigan man. He came up to me before the game, and said, ‘Coach, you can count on me, I’ll go. I think there’s a lot of programs where people -- seniors and everything -- might have said, ‘Oh, I can’t go.’ Not him. I’m proud of him for doing that.”

(Borges after the jump. ball.)


Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke

Monday Presser Transcript 9-12-11: Brady Hoke Comment Count

Heiko September 12th, 2011 at 3:55 PM

Brady Hoke

News bullets and other important items:

  • Eastern Michigan is 2-0 and is averaging 331 yards rushing, which is scary to Hoke. Fear level now up to 2.
  • Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will likely return this week.
  • Brandon Herron (unknown), and Cam Gordon (back) are questionable. Will need good week in practice to return.
  • Woolfolk had a bit of a nose injury, but re: his ankle -- "He's fine." Period.
  • Marell Evans still working on eligibility. Currently operating as scout team linebacker.
  • Jake Ryan playing with hand down primarily in nickel package.
  • Need to see more from Will Campbell in practice for more playing time.
  • Odoms working his way back into rotation.
  • No student-body tryouts until January.
  • No. 21 jersey will likely go to wide receivers in the future. Unknown whether Raymon Taylor is wearing the Desmond Howard patch.

Press Conference (filmed)

"Does that make sense? It does to me ..."

Opening remarks: “You guys ready? Thanks for coming.

“Saturday was obviously very exciting in a lot of ways. The crowd, the passion, how both teams played 60 minutes of football. It was a neat environment, fun, all those things. Obviously a record crowd to see a college football game, and it was good to have the outcome the way it did. It was hard fought, not a perfect game. When you look at it offensively and defensively, things that we need to get a lot better at before we’re going to be any kind of a football team -- we need to focus in on those things, and as a team, we’ve gotta do a good job of coaching, number one, and teaching, and then playing. Our expectations are high, and we won’t get that way if we don’t possess the ball offensively to help the defense, and if we don’t do a better job in third-down conversions from a defensive standpoint.”

What did you see from Brandin Hawthorne and Will Campbell? “I thought Brandin got in there and did a nice job and made some plays. I think it was good to see him be productive in that role. Part of it [was] he did a nice job reacting and seeing the ball and focusing in on keys and finishing plays. And that was good to see from him. He had been banged up about the last week of camp. He practiced, but he had an ankle problem and still does to some degree, but it was good to see him play full speed.”

Overcoming adversity, was it especially hard trying to overcome a 24-7 deficit or trying to score with 30 seconds left? “Probably both. Our team stayed together. At halftime, we went in, and we just talk about -- asked a pretty simple question, ‘Have we played our best football?’ … ‘Are we playing our best football?’ and ‘Are we coaching our best football?’ and it was a unanimous ‘No.’

“Al and the offensive staff did a good job in some adjusting that they did. You’ve got to get Notre Dame a lot of credit. They’re a pretty good football team. Their biggest Achilles heel is they’ve turned the ball over, and you can’t do that. I’m not coaching them, but I’m sure Brian is sick about that. I thought the guys complement each other as a team, and they stayed together.”

What did you say to the team yesterday to get them to move past Notre Dame? “We were going to spend Sunday talking about the things that we did [well] and didn’t do [well]. Eastern -- they’re 2-0. They’re a confident team. I think Ron’s done a nice job. They’re averaging 331 yards per game rushing the football. That’s pretty impressive -- I don’t care who you’re playing. I think you’ve got a staff over there of guys -- with Mike [Hart] and Kurt Anderson, Steve Morrison, who are all products of this program as players -- that understand about coaching hard and doing those things, and you know just from being around those guys that’s how they coach their kids. And you can tell, with Ron’s influence as a defensive coach and defensive minded guy and an aggressive personality guy -- that’s the way they’re playing football. They’re impressive. They’ve got 10 sacks in two games. They’re doing a lot of good things.”

Did Denard have a rough game, great game, or little of both? “Probably a little of both. Obviously he made some plays when we needed to have some plays made, which a guy of his capability and caliber can do, but we also needed to make better decisions at times. He was the first one to come off the field after one [bad play] and say, ‘My footwork was bad.’ So that’s good to see. The whole thing is a process to some degree, and we’re learning everyday.”

What is Fitz Toussaint’s status, and are there concerns about repeated injuries to him? “I don’t know much of his history. I think he’ll be okay. He just bumped up his shoulder a bit against Western. Didn’t see as much as we’d like to for him to be ready for the Notre Dame game.”

You’re blitzing a lot. Are you concerned that it’s taking the linebackers out of the running game? The middle of field did look pretty open. “Well … honestly it shouldn’t have been. It’s open for a second, and then we’ve got to execute a little better at closing it off. You can get hurt, no question. If they want to take that gamble depending on who they are, depending on down and distance, they can check into a run, and sometimes you want them to. But you got to execute the defense when you want them to.

“Does that make sense? It does to me …”

Do you need to blitz more based on pressure (or lack thereof) from the front four? “I think yes, we have had to be more aggressive. At the same time, you’ve got to look at your match-ups pretty hard, and what you want to do with your guys in the back end, and how you feel about that.”

What was postgame like for you? “I have a lot of family in the Midwest, believe me. We had 35 or 40 people at our house. Nephews, nieces, brothers, sisters, and in-laws -- the whole deal. Everybody found a place on the floor and went to bed, but it was late. 3:30 maybe by the time you say hello and talk to everybody and be as gracious as I can be.”

Other health updates? Anybody definitely out for Saturday? “We’re pretty healthy. We’ve got some nicks and those kind of things, but I’m trying to think if, uh … Cam is gonna see what it feels like tomorrow. He feels better. Brandon Herron felt better but we’ll see what he’s like. I think Fitz is going to be fine. I don’t think we’re in too bad of shape.”

When you were down 17 points, was the offensive play-calling based more on Borges’ offense or 2010-Denard’s offense? “One of the key plays in the game was McColgan’s catch. Coming off the play-action, and we didn’t run a whole lot of play-action with I-backs and all that. A lot of the stuff was just being basic third-down offensive stuff and being in the gun anyway on third downs. It was a good mix, I would say.”

How much of last couple drives was within framework of offense, and how much of it was Denard making rainbows? “The rush lanes kind of went like this. And he did what he’s coached to do. Step up, step up in there, and keep pushing the pocket up when you feel it on the perimeter. It was pretty open. They were spying at times – one of the linebackers – but in that situation, they were playing pretty far off, so it bought time for Gallon. It really bought time for the sail routes, the cross, to take and suck their secondary that way, and Gallon was there by himself.”

Are you still trying to identify playmakers on defense? “I think we still are. Practice is one thing. Game time stuff is a little different. I think who plays with the lights on … we’ll see. It was good to give Will [Campbell] some snaps against good competition. Like I said, they’re a good football team, they’ve got good personnel. Right now the difference for them probably is turnover margin.”

What’s going on with Brandon Herron? “He’s got a little bit of a leg problem.”

Linebacker rotation/competition … how many linebackers are you comfortable with? “I think J.B. [Fitzgerald], all those guys, we feel pretty comfortable. I think it’s who you identify as taking most of the snaps. You work through. Kenny is pretty solid in what he does. J.B. has an opportunity to get in there and rest Kenny a little bit, which is important in the fourth quarter. There will be a rotation, and it really depends some on what package we’re in, if we’re playing out of our base front, or if we’re in our dimes and nickels.”

How would you assess D-line play? Are there things you see in practice that aren’t translating onto the field? “We’re not near to the expectations that we have. I think the kids feel the same way at that position. I think there are things that Ryan Van Bergen has done at times that are really well. I don’t want to get specific, but I think we have to feel those guys. We need to get a little big more pressure with four guys rushing the quarterback, so you don’t put J.T. or Courtney Avery out there on an island. I think we’re a work in progress in a lot of degrees. Some of it is because it’s a little different schematically, and how you attack the line of scrimmage, take on blocks, and get off blocks. We would think we’d be further along.”

Talk about efficiency of red-zone offense (Michigan was 5/5). “I think we’ve got a pretty good package down there, and the kids are executing. I don’t think it’s anything more than that. Certain teams, defensively, always are going to have certain teams they like in the red zone, and I think the kids have been executing what the plan has been.”

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