Down By The Old Mill Stream

Down By The Old Mill Stream

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

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

ih40[1]

IlliniHQ.com

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

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

What followed:

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

Yeah, that game.

Flattened[1]

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

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

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

----------------------------

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

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

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

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

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

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

----------------------------

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

death6.2[1]

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

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

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

----------

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

Media

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

Meanwhile, Desmond Morgan is fabulous.

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

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

Bullets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image

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

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

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

image

"Meat. Thataway."

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

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

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

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

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

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

RETROACTIVE EPIC HOKE DOUBLE POINTS.

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

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS.

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

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

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

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

Michigan will then be in competition with…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let's stop talking about this.

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

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

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

Woot.

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

Here

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

defense_2003-2011[1]

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

Inside the Box Score on Martin going uber:

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

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

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

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

2008: Lost to Penn St 38-24

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

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

2011: Lost to Michigan (woot!)  31-14

That is epic fail.  Ron Zook should be fired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

Elsewhere

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

hemingway-what

Ron Zook can probably make this happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MVictors:

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

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

Holdin' the Rope:

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

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

BWS is eeee Mattison:

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

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

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

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

Floyd pulled up at the goal line.

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

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

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

Chengelis on the diverse and sundry contributions:

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

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

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

Daily on Mattison's reaction:

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

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

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

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Iowa

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Iowa

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

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

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

I called this "ace tight":

form-ace tight

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

form-trips bunch

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

Show? Show.

 

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

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

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

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

asdf

 

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

Look, man, I'm just like… I chart—

Chart.

—these things and this is what I got:

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I said it, perfectly thrown deep ball:

roundtree-almost

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

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

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

no-rush

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

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

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

The receivers were bleah, you say?

I say.

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

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

-

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

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

And the run game?

This is an ugly chart.

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

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

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

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

We can has fullback?

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

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

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

Why haven't you complained about a bubble yet?

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

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

no-bubble

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

no-bubble-2

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

Can a brother get a run breakdown?

Right. I forgot last week. This week:

ACE (INC DENARD JET)

Total: 6 carries, 2.6 YPC.

I-FORM

Total: 11 carries, 3.4 YPC

SHOTGUN

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

Did you have any issues with the last drive?

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

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

friggin-huddle

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

late-snap

NASCAR? MORE LIKE SLOWCAR ZING

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

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

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

I need one more complaint for my bingo card.

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

dig-go-1

…to a wide open dude at the sticks…

dig-go-2

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

Heroes?

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

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

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

Goats?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mailbag: OL Shuffle, Hoke 2008, Do Not Poke The Bubble Bear, Base Offense

Mailbag: OL Shuffle, Hoke 2008, Do Not Poke The Bubble Bear, Base Offense

Submitted by Brian on November 2nd, 2011 at 12:14 PM

With Barnum getting healthy and Schofield playing well any chance we see one of two scenarios: Barnum takes over left guard, Schofield moves to right tackle and slide Huyge down to left guard or Barnum takes over right guard for Omehmeh? I'm partial to the former simply because of two 6' 7" 300 pounders on the edges, yes please.

–Thad

It might be too late to make that change. While Huyge has some experience at guard, that came under Rich Rodriguez, when pulling was not a major part of the offense. Putting him at G seems like an invitation to have the same issues Omameh is having with a different player.

I could see the straight Schofield-for-Huyge swap if the coaches believe Schofield is a much better pass protector. We have no evidence that's the case since he's only played guard, but if I had to bet I'd guess he is. It's tough to take a senior who's only had one bad game out, though.

Dear Brian,

Do you think Borges is leaving our base offense (and by that I mean Denard at QB, lots of RB runs interspersed with a few Denard runs and passes) too early? Against Michigan State and Purdue, our first drives worked to perfection and our run game seemed effective.

Immediately thereafter, we started running a lot of crazy reverses, reverse fakes, and Devin-centric chicanery instead of sticking with what worked. Why? it drives me crazy every week. Also, we seem to love to fake the run before we've even established our running threat. For obvious reasons, this hasn't been effective.

For coaches that talked a lot about man ball and the desire to establish a RB, we seem pretty eager to abandon Toussaint and the run game.

Mark Heid

I addressed this topic in a picture pages yesterday and got a couple inquiries about whether or not I thought Michigan's seeming lack of a base offense was a good or bad thing.

I'm not able to answer that yet. It's a thing. Whether it's good or bad is something we won't be able to tell for a while. I am sure I like it better than DeBord's zone offense, which was predictable and seemed to save every interesting tweak for the Citrus Bowl. I'm not sure if I like it better than the style of offense Michigan was using last year when the omnipresent threat of Denard's running often led to free touchdowns, or at  least long drives before Michigan would turn the ball over. (YAY LAST YEAR.)

But you need opinions, no matter how flimsily justified. So: if I never hear "they did what we expected them to do" again it will be too soon. The only time someone's tried that this year was when Dantonio said something about how Michigan will run tunnel screens when Gallon is in the game as if he's a Calvin-Bell-style designated reverse guy. That is incorrect, so, like, thumbs up. Tentatively.

Why was Borges so terse on the bubble screen question – (btw did you ask it?).  I wonder if it was because he expects the QBs to check into that play and it hasn’t been happening – perhaps he was protecting the players a bit?..

Aveek

The process by which questions about football—as opposed to feelingsball—are asked at press conferences is like so: Heiko goes to the pressers and sometimes asks questions that I've asked him to ask. Sometimes he just reads a bunch of blogs and asks questions the  blogosphere has implied he should ask. The option responsibility Q posed to Mattison after NW was the former. The bubble screen Q was the latter. This is what happened:

Is the bubble screen ever going to be a part of your offense? “I’m not saying one thing about any bubble screens.”

Heiko is in intensive care recovering*. In lieu of flowers you can donate to the EFF.

So… why did the normally accessible Borges fire that off when asked about the lack of a bubble screen? I'm guessing he thinks the bubble screen is stupid. I'd like to find out why he thinks it's stupid since everyone from Dantonio to Rodriguez to Lloyd Carr made it a part of the offense to punish teams that tried to cheat inside or deep. His perspective on the thing would be interesting.

I doubt that it has anything to do with the players not making that check. For one, the alignments that seem to open up the bubble are usually trips formations featuring the #2 WR on the line of scrimmage. The latest BWS bubble complaint:

OHMYGODBUBBLE[1]

That makes for an awkward backwards orbit by the potential bubble guy and puts the main blocker in a less advantageous position than he would be if he was on the LOS. It seems clear that the bubble is just not installed.

As to why Borges isn't saying word one about the bubble, there seem to be two possibilities:

  1. He is vaguely aware of the fan zeitgeist about this and is sick of these laymen bothering him about a stupid play.
  2. He is going to bust it out as part of Michigan's ever-evolving baseless offense.

Meanwhile, between morphine doses I'm trying to get Heiko to ask questions that are less confrontational.

UPDATE: AA.com has a slightly longer version of the quote.

"I'm not saying one thing about any bubble screens," Borges said. "Everyone wants to ask about that play."

Door number one, then.

*[This is actually the second time Heiko's gotten acid in his face asking about something  strategic. He asked Hoke whether he'd ever considered a spread punt and got this answer: "no." End of answer. It's not a surprise that coaches don't take kindly to random people implying heir decisions are not optimal, but it's kind of fun to ask anyway. As long as you're not Heiko.]

Hindsight in re: Three and Out.

Brian:

I know your criticism of the Hoke hiring, and I am not trying to bait you on this.  With the benefit of hindsight, however, I keep asking myself whether a Hoke hire in 2007-08 would have been all that risky given what appears to have transpired (and actually did).  It now seems like it would have been the safe move -- kind of like Bo elevating Gary Moeller, despite Moeller's horrendous record as a head coach at Illinois -- i.e., you don't lose to Northwestern in the late 70s solely because Illinois doesn't recruit well.

Obviously, what's done is done.  But my opinions of Bill Martin and Lloyd Carr have been altered dramatically.

Let's just hope the Notre Dame coaching carousel of fun is not in UM's future. . . .

Daniel

I just don't see how you can hire a guy who is vastly under .500 in the MAC. At that point Hoke hadn't had his 12-1 season or turned around the perpetually moribund San Diego State. He was 22-36 in five years at Ball State.

I mean, envision this situation: the fanbase is even more up in arms about than they were in the brief period between Hoke's hiring and kidnapping Mattison from the Ravens. Martin does not want to shell out for Mattison. Mallett still probably leaves. The team is just as much of a tire fire in 2008. You probably get Threet to stick around the year after, but did he prove himself much better than Tate even given another year to redshirt and learn a system? Eh… not really.

Michigan still turns in a losing season its first year and is 7-5 at best in year two, at which point the coach has had one winning season, period, and has overseen the worst period in Michigan football since the 60s. Can Hoke recruit in that environment? Can anyone?

Unless you believe Hoke turns the tattered roster in 2008 and 2009 into significantly more wins than Rodriguez does—like five or six—he's doomed. I think that's a stretch. You can't cure John Ferrera flipping from DL to start at guard, can't cure the Threet/Sheridan QB combo, can't do much about the disaster zone in the secondary.

Michigan ran a guy with two BCS bowl wins out of town after three years. Were they going to keep a guy whose high water mark was a 7-5 MAC season longer? This is a fascinating hypothetical, actually. They just might have.

Correction.

It has been mentioned on the front page twice that Dungy was a broadcaster in 2007. This is off by a few years. 2009 was his first season out of coaching and in the role of studio analyst.

Er. Sorry about that, Bill Martin. Your coaching desires were crazier but less easy to evaluate than I expected.

Approved by NASA.

Hey Brian

I was on Uni-Watch this morning, and this ad popped up:

the-catch

Finally, the Elvis Grbac simulator we’ve waited 20 years for!

Shane Styles

I'm all like… is that guy wearing #45? I don't understand.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern

Submitted by Brian on October 12th, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Formation notes:  Michigan spent the bulk of the first half in their nickel package with Ryan down on the line and Gordon and Johnson at nickel and safety, respectively. In the second half they took Johnson off in favor of using Ryan as a slot LB until Northwestern started their passing hurry-up on their fourth(!) drive.

Substitution notes: The usual defensive line substitutions, with Heininger and Black seeing frequent time, Campbell a little, and Washington maybe a snap or three. Michigan did briefly show Avery as the nickelback, but that only lasted a drive or two. Demens went the whole way; Morgan got a couple series late in the first half. Countess replaced Woolfolk in the second quarter and went the rest of the way.

Demens, Kovacs, Floyd, and Gordon didn't come off the field.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Bubble screen Floyd 7
Hawthorne starts flowing up into the playfake and there's no one to the short side, leaving the slot all alone; Floyd is playing ten yards off. With Hawthorne positioned like he is there is no way he's making this play anyway. RPS -1.
O27 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Out Floyd Inc
Floyd(+1, cover +1) is right there on the receiver's cut, forcing Persa to throw it perfectly—upfield and away from Floyd. He does so; WR has a shot at a decently tough catch and cannot make it. Rushing lane was opening up but Persa did not take it.
O27 3 3 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Demens Inc
Demens lines up right over the center and rushes, trying to take the center out of the play as Martin(+0.5) stunts around. This basically works; center slides off on Martin and Demens(+1) uses that opportunity to shoot up into the pocket. He's about to sack when an in the grasp Persa chucks it inaccurately in the vicinity of a receiver Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) is all over; may have a PBU if ball is accurate. Pressure +1, RPS +1. This is really close to a sack, BTW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 14 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun empty quad bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Van Bergen Inc (Pen +15)
Avery in as the nickelback. NW has a tight bunch to the wide side of the field and motions the tailback outside of those guys. Michigan is confused, with Demens eventually heading out there to deal with him, but late. Doesn't end up mattering this time. Michigan runs a twist that gets Roh(+0.5) through thanks to Martin(+1) threatening to shoot past the C. He's screwed either way. Persa has to dump it; RVB(+1) reads Persa's eyes and starts moving into the throwing lane, batting it down. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) got beaten by Ebert on this drag and would have been able to turn it up for big yardage. Pressure +2. Roh picks up a roughing the passer call that is horsecrap. That's one step and then hit. Awful call. Refs -2.
O35 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 5
Colter in at QB; Michigan seemingly misaligned with no reaction to the strong side and Kovacs lined up a couple yards behind the LBs. They do not comprehend Colter is in at QB. NW runs an option to the wide side. Both LBs and Roh(-2), the playside DE, suck up on the dive fake. Mattison said DE == QB so I'm –2ing every DE who tackles a dive guy or lets the QB outside. Even Kovacs hesitates; no one is tracking the pitch back at all. Roh does recover to string the play out a bit, and Kovacs flows hard, forcing a pitch a few yards downfield. Colter didn't make Kovacs take him, though, and he flows down to tackle, preventing this from becoming a big gain. I have no idea who's at fault here. Either Roh or Demens needs to get out on the pitch and Kovacs needs to do so as well. Kovacs(+1) for getting out as secondary support and making a tough tackle(+1). RPS -1.
O40 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Woolfolk 14
Bler bler bler. Michigan has two guys to the wide side of the field that possesses three NW WRs. Those two guys are seven and ten yards off the LOS. Woolfolk(-1) then misses the tackle(-1) and turns this from seven into 13. RPS-1.
M46 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Improv Avery? 27
Black drops off into a zone before the play and Woolfolk blitzes from the other side. Unsurprisingly, this is picked up. Martin(+1) is coming through the line and is held; no call; Persa can flush outside of the pocket because Woolfolk got upfield. Outside of the pocket Persa is deadly; he finds a guy for a big gainer. Cover -1, Pressure -1, RPS -1.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Hawthorne 4
Yeesh, looks like Demens(-1) doesn't get enough of a drop and Johnson(-2) pulls up on a dig, leaving a post wide open for a touchdown (cover -2). Persa misses this and checks down. Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) with an immediate tackle. With Martin out and Campbell in there is no rush at all (pressure -2).
M15 2 6 Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 15
Trips plus two backs equals a covered up WR, equals run, equals massive frustration that this catches Michigan off guard. Ryan(-2) crashes down on the dive fake; Demens and Hawthorne move forward despite this obviously being an option and get sealed away; Demens is playside so –1. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1) at the ten but that could be harsh since he is the only player on the edge against two other players. If he takes a more conservative angle Colter pitches and the RB walks into the endzone. At least Kovacs had a shot here. RPS -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Pistol trips TE Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Demens 12
RVB(+0.5) and Martin are coming at the QB hard, forcing a quick pitch. That should be advantage D since the DL are stringing the RB out quickly. Gordon(+0.5) comes up to maintain leverage, at which point... no one comes up to tackle. Demens(-2) had gone upfield around a blocker for no discernible reason and is late as a result. Martin can't quite make up for his mistake; Hawthorne(-0.5) is there seven yards downfield. His tackle(-1) is run through but does force the RB OOB.
O49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Flare screen Van Bergen 3
Woolfolk(-0.5) is caught up in man coverage here and never realizes this is basically a run play; he ends up on his butt. Gordon(-0.5) has the same thing happen to him. Maybe that's harsh for press coverage. Demens(+1) and Van Bergen(+1) read the play and get out on it to hold it down, with RVB actually making the tackle.
M47 2 7 Shotgun empty TE Nickel even Run N/A Shovel pass Hawthorne 2
Yeah, technically a pass, but this is a run play in UFR's book. This is a variation on the Florida TE shovel this blog raved about the past couple years, with Persa running outside at first and taking Gordon with him, then shoveling inside to the pulling TE, who is actually WR Drake Dunsmore, as they run power. Ryan(-1) blown up and out. Big hole. One guy in space against Hawthorne; if Dunsmore cuts behind the block either Roh hacks him down or it's a big gain; instead he runs right into Hawthorne. I guess Hawthorne gets a +1, Demens a +0.5, as they tackle(+1) in space for a minimal gain, but we got lucky.
M45 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 6 Out Gordon 6
Again with Demens lined up over the nose; Michigan sends the house. They don't get a free run and don't get a hurry (pressure -1) but they didn't give up anything big so no RPS -1. NW running some man-beater routes that force Gordon into an awkward path; this gets Ebert the step he needs to stab this pass one-handed and turn up the sideline for the first. Gordon was there to tackle so it's not like he did a bad job.
M39 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Scramble Ryan 5
Tempoed, Michigan only has two down linemen at the snap (RPS -1). As a result, Ryan is lost in no-man's land. Coverage(+1) is good downfield; Persa takes off, diving as Ryan comes in on him.
M34 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Hawthorne 23
Colter magical option formation, and they give despite again having Kovacs versus two guys on the edge. Maybe Colter was worried about Black. I'm not entirely sure about what goes wrong here but it seems to me like Campbell(+1) takes on a double and beats his man to the inside as the interior guy peels off, which means the RB has to go behind him and the C trying to get out on Hawthorne(-2) would have no angle if Hawthorne read this and made his NT right. Instead he and Demens are a foot away from each other and when the RB cuts behind Campbell there is no one there.
M11 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Scramble Hawthorne 4
Good coverage(+2) means Persa can't find anything despite having a long time (pressure -1). He eventually rolls out; Roh(+0.5) and Hawthorne(+0.5) remain on their receivers long enough to force a scramble and then come up quickly to hold it down.
M7 2 6 Pistol trips TE Nickel press Run N/A Speed option Johnson 7
Demens(-2) again heads too far upfield too fast and gets himself into a lineman who ends up cutting him to the ground after they run down the line for a while. This is a speed option! Get outside! RVB(+0.5) forced a pitch and flowed down the line to make it difficult for the RB; Carvin Johnson(-1, tackling -1) comes up hard around the LOS and whiffs entirely. He does force a cut upfield, but because Demens is on his stomach the cut is not a modest gain but a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O7 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Morgan 2
Morgan in for Hawthorne. Morgan(+1) bashes into the center at the LOS and drives him back on the dive; Martin(+1) fights through a double team, refusing to get sealed. When the G releases he's still playside of the T. With Heininger(+0.5) beating a single block there's nowhere to go.
O9 2 8 ??? ??? Pass 4 Scramble ??? 6
Good coverage(+1) causes a flush but because the DL split so badly that was kind of obvious; no second read here. (Pressure -2). Not sure who to minus specifically because tape is cutting out at the beginning of this play.
O15 3 2 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Speed option? ??? 12
Technical difficulties. We come back with the pitch already made. I am somewhat certain this is largely Demens's fault(-1), as he was lined up playside of Morgan presnap but when we come back Morgan is actually closer to the play. He then gets shot past the play. Morgan(-1) took a too-aggressive route around a WR and couldn't make the play; Johnson(+0.5) does come up to make a fill on a dangerous play, though his ankle tackle is maybe less than ideal.
O27 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass ??? ??? ??? Inc
Apparently this is just a misthrow, but I don't know.
O27 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass ??? Sack Demens -2
Oh, hell, BTN. I guess Demens(+1, pressure +1) is a minimum?
O24 3 13 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Derp
O19 3 18 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Black 6
Give up and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 11 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Martin 7
Zone blitz drops Roh and sends Morgan. Martin(+1) slants around the G and C to get a run at Persa(pressure +1) and bats the ball. The thing still finds its way to the receiver, but the delay allows an immediate tackle... that Demens(-1, tackling -1) does not make.
M34 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read stretch Van Bergen 2
RVB(+2) shoves the playside OT back two yards, cutting off the outside and forcing a cutback. He disconnects when this happens and tackles himself for a minimal gain. Nice play; scary if he doesn't make this. Think he missed a check when Dunsmore motioned into play H-back, but he made up for it.
M32 3 1 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Heininger 1
NW goes tempo. Heininger(+2) takes on a double and holds, going to his knees in the backfield and absorbing both guys without budging. Martin(+1) is single blocked. He stands his guy up and sheds inside to meet the RB a yard on the backfield. Momentum from him and a blitzing Morgan coming from behind gets the pile to the LOS but no farther.
M31 4 In Pistol 2-back offset big 46 bear Run N/A Speed option Roh -1
Roh(+3) takes on the playside TE and sheds him to the outside, then shoots up on Persa, forcing the pitch. Getting a forced pitch from a blocked guy is clutch here. Before the snap, Kovacs motions to Morgan, who takes a step shortside and then starts flowing hard; he takes the leading fullback's block, leaving Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) alone on the corner with the pitchback, who he cuts to the ground in the backfield. Watch Kovacs take the lighting quick path to the ballcarrier after the pitch. Baller. Also make no mistake: this is Roh's play at its heart.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Floyd 6
There by alignment with no one on the the slot and Morgan reacting to the zone fake. Floyd does as well as he can to get into the blocker at about five yards but help can't converge for seven. RPS -1
O24 2 4 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 9
Another bubble by alignment; Gordon is over the slot but in these situations the guy grabs it and goes right up the hash, where there is no one. Johnson eventually fills and makes a dodgy tackle. RPS -1
O33 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 7
Exact same thing as NW goes tempo. RPS -1. Better tackle from Johnson.
O40 2 3 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Van Bergen Inc
Morgan(-1, cover -1) is now paranoid about the bubble, though he's not aligned any better, and starts outside as NW runs actual patterns. Slant is wide open. Persa throws it; Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it down as he's come inside on a stunt.
O40 3 3 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 5 Drag Martin 19
Zone blitz sees Martin left in man coverage on Dunsmore on a drag. That goes about how you would expect. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Fade Countess 39
No pressure(-2); huge pocket for Persa to step into. Countess(-1, cover -1) gets flat beat on a go route and is a step and a half behind the WR; even though it's a little underthrown and definitely in the defeat-Michael-Floyd zone he cannot catch up and gives up the big completion. Does get a hand on an arm, but it's that half step that kills him.
M2 1 G Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Gordon 2
Covered WR with Colter in. RB motions to the other side; Kovacs goes with him. Speed option to the plentiful WR side. Gordon(-1), Demens(-1), and Floyd(-1) get blown up and after Ryan forces the pitch the RB walks into the endzone. This is clever by NW: Kovacs is the guy with the pitchman so they get him out of the picture and exploit the LBs. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,14-21, 2 min 2nd Q. This was pretty terrible on Mattison's part. Bubble bubble bubble Martin on drag no answer for option.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Roh 16
Martin(+1, pressure +1) goes right around the center and gets a hurry as Roh drops off and Morgan comes. Another zone blitz gets burned by the drag route as Roh cannot keep pace with Colter, RPS -1.
M36 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Comeback -- 13
No pressure(-2); Persa has plenty of time to survey and find the deep comeback coming open. Gordon the nearest guy but not really on him.
M23 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Morgan 16
Morgan(-1, cover -1) beaten easily by Colter. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) then fails to tackle. Quick throw leaves little time for pressure but the lack of push from the DL is worrying. Why is Morgan in the game against a spread offense when you have Hawthorne available, especially on a two-minute drill?
M7 1 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read keeper Demens 4
Black(-1) doesn't get upfield, causing a pull. If he was crashing on a scrape that's one thing. Here he's in no-man's land. Demens(+1) sets up a lineman, getting into him and then pushing out into the space Persa occupies; Gordon(+0.5) also flows down to help tackle, though he had an easy time of it because Colter didn't even bother blocking.
M3 2 G Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Run 5 Snag Woolfolk Inc
Pick play designed to beat man coverage. It does so but Persa is late, allowing Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) to recover and knock the ball out as it arrives. Pressure(-1) not getting to Persa.
M3 3 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Post Johnson Inc
Three man rush gets nowhere (pressure -1); Johnson(-1, cover -1) gets outside and opens up the post. Persa hits him; dropped.
Drive Notes: FG, 14-24, EOH. Refs are idiots about the time either way here.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ryan -1
Ryan back at LB instead of DE and hanging out over the slot. They run a speed option; Ryan flies up on the edge. It kind of looks like he comes up on the QB and has just given the pitchman the edge but Persa doesn't think so, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ryan's(+2) excellent positioning prevents a pitch, forces Persa to cut it up, and results in nothing thanks to RVB(+1) and Martin(+0.5) flowing down the line well.
O39 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Martin -5
Persa apparently looking at a hitch Floyd(+1, cover +1) has covered; he hesitates and never gets a second read because Martin(+2) bull-rushed the center back into him and Roh(+2) came under the left tackle; the two combine to sack. (Pressure +2) Hawthorne appears to have the TE seam covered; Countess is way off the hitch on the other side of the field.
O34 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Seam Van Bergen  
Van Bergen(+2, pressure +2) rips through the RG and gets immediate pressure up the center of the field. Persa fires too far in front of his receiver; Johnson nearly digs out the pick. Route was a seam or skinny post that Gordon(+1, cover +1) was in coverage on; incidental contact with the feet caused the WR to fall. He looked in pretty good position, FWIW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
Yay. Ryan is on the wide side slot but there's still no one over the short side, so they throw it. With Floyd playing very soft, no chance this doesn't pick up a pretty decent gain. Hawthorne does well to get out there and push him out before it's eight, I guess. RPS -1.
O24 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout -- 9
No one on the edge (pressure -2) and Persa can run or throw for the first. He chooses the throw, hitting the second receiver, who's drifting outside of Demens's zone. (Cover -1) Countess makes a quick tackle.
O35 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
argh argh argh. Ryan blitzes off the corner; Persa sees this and immediately throws the bubble without a mesh point. Gordon(+1) is the only guy out there. He gets into the slot guy at the LOS, getting outside and forcing a cutback, then disconnects to tackle after just five. RPS -1.
O41 2 4 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 5 Drag Hawthorne Int
Michigan tempoed and not aligned at the snap. Zone blitz gets Demens in but Martin(-1) has vacated his lane and Demens can't do anything about it as Persa steps up into the pocket. Receiver is moving to give Persa an option; he throws it to him for what will be seven yards and a first down if it doesn't derp off the guy's pads, allowing Hawthorne(+1) to make a diving interception.
Drive Notes: Interception, 28-24, 1 min 3rd Q. Dude... how was this not overturned? Poopin' magic yo.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 6
Michigan spread out with LBs shaded over the slots so NW hits them inside. Martin(-1) fights through a block way upfield and opens up a big hole in the middle. Demens(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) sit back and accept blocks but at least they combine to force the guy into a tackle.
O25 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Hitch Countess 6
Schmidt motions out; there is a bunch to the wide side and then the RB outside of them. Quick hitch to the RB that Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) actually deflects, but the ball still goes right to the RB. Countess(-1, cover -1) is really soft, giving up the first down despite the ball taking a long time to get there because of the deflection.
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Floyd 10
Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten pretty clean by Ebert; this is a five yard route on which Floyd is at the sticks on the catch. Ebert picks up the rest of the first down as a result.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 2
Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) hold up to blocks, closing off holes up the middle of the field. Mark manages to pick his way through little gaps for a few yards, but that will happen.
O43 2 8 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 5 Fly Floyd Inc (Pen +15)
Floyd in press; Michigan zone blitzes behind it. Gordon gets in free (pressure +1, RPS +1); Persa throws it to the fly route without really knowing if it's open. Floyd is there, gets his head around, and seems to break up the pass... and gets flagged. On replay, yes, he got his hand on the shoulder pad and prevented the guy from jumping for the ball. I'll take that though, since it's subtle and you can miss it. I still have to (-1, cover -1)
M42 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 even Pass N/A Bubble screen Ryan 4
Finally something that looks like defense. Gordon(+0.5) flows up hard and Ryan gets outside of the slot blocker as Demens reads the throw and gets out there usefully. Ryan gets cut under; Gordon and Demens are there to tackle. As the WR is digging for an extra half yard Gordon(+3) strips the ball loose.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 35-24, 12 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Demens 5
M sitting back in an obvious four-man-rush zone as they work to not blow it; grades handed out with that in mind. Persa hits Colter underneath on a drag; Demens(+1, tackling +1) comes up to tackle immediately.
O36 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Hawthorne 9
Hawthorne(-0.5) comes up on a not very convincing run fake and opens the slant up for a first down.
O45 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Run N/A Jet sweep Gordon 6
Glerb. M blitzes into the sweep and Gordon(-1) widens out to blow it up; he misses the tackle(-1). This makes good play from Hawthorne and Demens to get outside their blockers bad play and the DL, slanting away from this on the snap, cannot pursue fast enough to prevent a gain.
M49 2 4 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Circle Floyd 6
Circle route high-lows the corner and Floyd sinks, opening up the short stuff.
M43 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 3 Cross Gordon Inc
Line slants right and Black drops off into a short zone... I think one of the LBs forgot to blitz. This means Persa has acres of space; he steps up and zings it to Colter... behind him. First down otherwise. (Pressure -2, cover -1)
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 5
Late-arriving WR doesn't actually get into position so NW has five in the backfield. No call. These refs are idiots. NW throws the bubble and Michigan is finally playing it well. Gordon(+1) gets into the slot guy at the LOS in a good spot to force the WR upfield; Demens flows but misses; Johnson(+1) comes into finish with a good hit.
M38 3 5 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 press Pass 4 Hitch Countess Inc
Michigan in tight man on the first down line; Persa's first read is Floyd(+1, cover +1), which is not a good idea. Second is Countess, still not a great idea but gotta throw it, so he does; Countess(+2, cover +1) breaks it up.
M38 4 5 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 press Pass 5 Sack Kovacs -10
Mattison sends Kovacs on a crazy ninja blitz from way deep; at the snap he's hurtling at the LOS at full speed. The seas part. Kovacs goes too high, though, and Persa ducks under his tackle. Tackle attempt pulls the helmet off, though, and that's a sack. RPS +2, Pressure +3—this was instant. Kovacs... +1, results based charting. And well timed blitz. Also wag of the high tackle finger. Gordon(+1, cover +1) breaks up the desperate improv throw Persa gets off after the helmet incident.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 35-24, 7 min 4th Q. Northwestern's last drive is down 18 with 2 minutes left and is not charted.

SECOND HALF DOMINANCE

Er. So. I don't really think so.

A WITCH

Yes, yes, probably, but the things that happened in the second half were:

  1. Three and out, one contained speed option, two incompletions thanks to DL pressure.
  2. Bubble, easy rollout hitch, bubble, drag route for first down that bounces off receiver's numbers to Hawthorne (sort of).
  3. Inside zone, hitch, hitch, Inside zone (defensed!), legit pass interference on deep ball, bubble leads to fumble.
  4. Hurry up pass mode w/ Michigan in soft zone, drive ends with Persa IN, five-yard bubble, and two good plays by the D.

So… the move to have Ryan in the slot didn't really slow down the bubbles, which went for 6, 6, 4, and 5 yards. This is better than the 8 they seemed to average in the first half, but it is not a thunderous shutdown of the spread.

There were three drives on which NW was actually running its offense. On one the adjustment got a speed option contained and then Michigan got some pressure. On two NW has just picked up its second easy first down if the WR doesn't bat it into the sky. On three they have second and six after picking up a couple first downs when Gordon yanks the ball loose. What happens if the WR doesn't DROPX the drag? If Ebert's knee is down? What is your confidence level that Michigan is going to stop Persa & Co. if these things don't happen?

VERY HIGH THANK YOU

Wait… are you Joe Paterno?

NO I AM YOUR FILTHY IRISH ALTER-EGO

I see. So… what I am saying is that the vaunted second half adjustments are little data being made big and what we saw in the first half was very frustrating to me. How do you stop a bubble aligned like this?

bubble-my-face-plz

You don't. On Northwestern's final touchdown drive they ran three straight bubbles for 22 free yards. This is 2011. You should not have to adjust to the staple constraint play of the spread 'n' shred.

BUT MATTISON

Yes, well… I don't want to make too little data big again. I sure as hell don't know 10% of what he does and rushing to judgment about what Michigan's defense will look like once he's had them for three years is stupid. Mattison uber alles.

HOWEVA, it seemed like he was caught off guard by the spread 'n' shred. He's been in the NFL for three years but he was also the DC at Florida and Notre Dame over the increasingly spread-mad last decade of college football, so he should be familiar with it.

Were players not reacting appropriately? Maybe. Late the secondary did get more aggressive and helped hold the bubbles down. But that was the difference between 8 (or even 13) yards and 4-6. As I was UFRing this I was again thinking of Magee describing his philosophy, or rather WVU's defensive philosophy: they run the stack because it's built to stop the spread. Maybe Michigan needs a three-man-line package for games like this?

In any case, Mattison's admittedly hypothetical inability to deal with the spread 'n' shred in year one of his regime is a moot point. The remainder of Michigan's opponents are either pro-style (MSU, Iowa, sort of OSU), triple option (Illinois, Nebraska), or so incompetent it shouldn't matter (Purdue). I'm a bit worried that Fickell is installing a ton of bubbles right now, though.

DO YOU FIND THIS DEEPLY IRONIC

That Michigan can't defend a bubble but won't run a stretch because it's not preparing you for the Big Ten? Kinda. /ducks

I REQUIRE NOTES OF THE HUN

Chart?

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 10 - 10 Pressure and PBUs. I enjoy his contributions.
Martin 10 2 8 Not as many plays as you might want but it's hard when everything goes outside.
Roh 6 2 4 Fourth down play; needs moar pass rush.
Brink - - - DNP
Heininger 3.5 - 3.5 No real problems, but not tested much.
Black - 1 -1 Not much PT.
Campbell 1 - 1 One play.
TOTAL 30.5 5 25.5 Step back from last couple weeks.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 5.5 9.5 -4 Did not get outside even on speed options.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 2 3.5 -1.5 Dodgy edge.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 4.5 4 0.5 One big error on dive; good in coverage.
Morgan 1 4 -3 Struggled, pulled.
TOTAL 13 21 -8 Major problems containing.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3 3 0 Push is good against Persa.
Avery - - - Didn't register.
Woolfolk 1 1.5 -0.5 Pulled.
Kovacs 4 1 3 Mostly neutralized because he had to try to tackle two dudes.
T. Gordon 8.5 2.5 6 Fumble half of the plus.
Countess 2 2 0 Beaten deep once, but also a push.
Johnson 1.5 4 -2.5 Not as bad as you might have thought.
TOTAL 20 14 6 Wow. I mean, no long stuff, right? Except the one.
Metrics
Pressure 16 17 -1 Bipolar day.
Coverage 13 15 -2 Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.
Tackling 4 6 40% Not a good day; this is what the spread tries to do.
RPS 4 15 -11 Killed by easy bubbles.

So… I ended up thinking that it was crazy that none of the linebackers could contain on the outside and hardly tried. When people keep leverage and force the guy inside, as Johnson did and Kovacs did and Gordon did, and there is no one to clean up from the inside that is a problem with a linebacker, and that linebacker was more often than not Demens. An example from Blue Seoul:

6231719502_9d2026dc5d[1]6231719992_a7e7101f94[1]

6231720430_62d9c3945c[1]

Seoul says Gordon has to do a better job getting off the block but he forces this upfield at the numbers and there is no linebacker to clean up; backside guy Hawthorne is even with Demens.

Seoul also caught my complaint about Demens on one of the option touchdowns:

6231723730_6bb1ffe037[1]

Okay, Johnson missed. He missed to the inside, at which point a good D rallies to tackle.

6231724246_09ca5bf9d0[1]

Here a slow-reacting Demens gets caught up in an OL and cut to the ground. This is not even a triple option, it's a speed option, so, like… go. I've been taunting other LBs for being too aggressive this year but this is the alternative.

Demens did have a good blitz or two, FWIW.

The rest of the chart is basically as expected. No safety got burned on the pass and the missed tackles from Johnson were not too bad; he is still a clear downgrade from the starters. Van Bergen and Martin are high quality players; Roh is doing better but we still need more pass rush from both defensive ends. The cornerbacks are much improved but still not outstanding. Michigan got about a push in both pressure (four sacks but also a number of plays on which Persa had a ton of time or broke contain) and cover, and Mattison was slayed dead on RPS.

What was with the option success?

If you were suspecting that Heiko was the guy who asked this of Mattison

Northwestern ran the veer option with a lot of success against this defense, and there seemed to be some confusion with the assignments. For those plays, whose assignment is the quarterback, and who has the pitch man? “That’s why people run the veer option. And again, to play an option team, you have to be very very disciplined. You have to really feel confident in what you’re doing, and it’s happening really fast. There was a number of times where you might have seen Jake go down and hit the dive. Well, our ends had the quarterback all day, so right away you knew, ‘Uh oh,” and sure enough, now you have two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback, and that’s why people run that offense. It taxes young guys. It really does. So your next thought is to stunt it a little bit, move it a little bit, to try to make a play, and that quarterback was pretty good. Fortunately we settled down in the second half and the guys said, ‘Okay I got it now.’ Every guy that made a mistake like that during the game, they came out, they looked right at you, and they went, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘I know, too! That’s 20 yards down the field.’ But I was really proud of them.”

If you had to defend them again, who would be assigned to whom? “We do the same thing. The only thing we do differently, if we defended it again, is we would play it more honest like you’re supposed to and not cheat to take away one part of the game and not the other.”

Did Kovacs have the pitch man? “That was his job. When you’re playing the option and you’re playing man coverage, there’s a guy with a blocker on him. A guy who has man coverage and still is supposed to get off and try to make that play. Well if you’re stronger, better, faster, you can throw that guy away and make that play. So we had Jordan going through the alley, meaning he would go dive, quarterback, to pitch, and he made some good plays on it.”

…you are wise in the ways of how MGoBlog differs from other media. I wanted to know how Michigan planned to defend the option so I thought I'd have Heiko ask and Mattison gave a terrific, useful answer*. So now we know that…

…defensive ends were a big problem. QB outside of DE without pitching is a problem. Here Kovacs gets a 2-for-1 by forcing a pitch and still getting out on the RB, but Colter would learn from this and juke Kovacs on his first touchdown run. I don't blame Kovacs much, if at all, because he's on the edge against two guys. Forcing it back inside and getting any tackle attempt at all is better than letting the pitch guy walk in.

It wasn't all bad for Roh:

That is one of the plays of the game and it happens because he beats a block to force a pitch and allows Kovacs to do what Kovacs does best: take a great angle at speed.

Ryan had similar problems, and then there is the Demens complaining. So: better play from the DEs to force the play inside of them or at least force a quick pitch and getting those linebackers to the edge more quickly.

*[How much does everyone love the coordinator pressers? One million points worth, right? I mean, they give it to you straight and give you actual information and reassure you that the guys in charge are really smart.]

PUNTSHENANIGANS

Yes, again this week:

regular-punt-stupid-2

When those guys miss their tackles there is no one within 15 yards. Result: 20 yard return.

Heroes?

Martin, Van Bergen, and Gordon. Gordon's strip was a 100% player-generated turnover that is a reason to believe they are being coached on these things.

Goats?

Demens, and the inability to line up to defend a bubble.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

Well, I'll be extremely nervous when we come up against Nebraska and Ohio State since their mobile quarterbacks could force us into situations that will exploit the same things. I just watched that game and it doesn't seem like either team spends a lot of time threatening bubbles; both enjoyed themselves some pistol offset stuff with Nebraska having great success running the inverted veer out of that diamond formation becoming all the rage. Either could gameplan for the M game—Ohio State might well start preparing whatever package they think will beat M because it's not like they have anything else to play for.

As for this weekend, Michigan State is the opposite of Northwestern and the 4-3 under will be a much more comfortable fit against State's largely pro-style offense. HOWEVA, we have seen State prepare special packages for M since time immemorial and one of the recent ones was a trips-TE bubble package that exploited M in 2008 like whoah. If that's still on the shelf they might bring it out and force Michigan to line up against it. HOWEVA HOWEVA, that year they could run the ball; this year M might be able to defend it without giving up those pitches that killed them that year.

Other items:

  • Michigan continued to prove the secondary is much improved and the safeties are for real, especially the starters.
  • Heininger held up pretty well, caveats about limited tests included.

Mailbag! Featuring Inadvisable Halloween Costumes!

Mailbag! Featuring Inadvisable Halloween Costumes!

Submitted by Brian on November 2nd, 2010 at 11:50 AM

Defense:

The diary on poor tackling got me thinking about Rich Rod's coaching philosophy.  It's obvious that he recruits speed and athletes on offense at not only the skill positions but also the o-line where he likes guys who can get out and block in space.  These are the guys who get all the attention and the playing time.  They are "the game breakers" and the guys who can make a big play at any time.  How can that not transfer over to the defensive side of the ball?  So, in the spring, we heard rumors about Cam Gordon having a great camp because he probably delivered some big hit kill shots to 4th string RBs instead of learning how to play assignment football with fundamentally sound tackling.

Am I way off here?  Every yard after contact I see Michigan allow, I can't help but think how much better a (I can't believe I'm saying this) Jim Herrmann/Ron English defense was at stopping the run.  We can chart how few upperclassmen we have on D until we are blue in the face but you have to concede that something is fundamentally wrong with the program's defensive attitude and philosophy.  I think it just may be the constant search for "big time players" rather than smart football players who can read and react quickly.

What do you think?

Go Blue!

-Jim Dudnick
BBA '01

Well… yeah, I guess, but like everything else on the defense the lack of depth and experience makes it hard to tell whether we're just seeing what would happen if Virginia Tech threw out a secondary full of underclassmen or if there's a long-term talent development problem. Is it a recruiting issue? Don't know. Rodriguez recruits at Michigan are all freshmen or sophomores, and if none of them are very good there's a pretty obvious reason why. Very few can "read and react quickly" as underclassmen.

Something is wrong with the program's defensive philosophy. That much is obvious. To me that problem is an incoherent coaching staff that either forces the coordinator to run a scheme he doesn't understand or forces the position coaches to do the same. Why is it so important for the position coaches to know what the defense is doing instead of getting JT Floyd to exist? I don't know, but those meddling kids have put Michigan in some goofy variant of the 3-3-5 for three years running and it hasn't done anything but implode because the defensive coordinator isn't really on board.

The problem with Michigan's philosophy on D appears to be the lack of one.

Not defense:

Brian-

While i think there are many things wrong with the Michigan football team right now, it seems like either the play calls or the reads have been restrictive in nature.

Last year, it seemed like on the read-option, there was a third option to pass to a receiver at the line of scrimmage that could catch and run for an easy 5 yds. Has this been replaced by the receiver running a skinny post?

Also, it seems a major component of any spread offense is the quick screens/pass to the slot receiver with the outside WR blocking down. The offense featured this last year but hasn't at all this year.

I believe the plays are in the offense's playbook. When Tate is in, there is a more even run/pass distribution. (ie- look at the easy 7 yds michigan could have had at the end of the Penn St game when Denard threw to Junior Hemingway and he dropped the ball)

The main point of all of this... It would seem that passing on the edge would open up the defense to make running in the middle a little bit easier.

Thanks for you coverage of Michigan. It makes my work day more enjoyable.

Brian

Opponents have been taking the bubble away by alignment. Iowa put a linebacker over him and managed to keep two-deep coverage. Penn State moved a safety down. When opponents have gone away from these schemes it hasn't taken Michigan long to hit the bubble for a nice gain, at which point they go back to taking it away. When Iowa started blitzing off the edge in the second quarter Michigan hit a couple bubbles and Iowa reverted to its previous scheme. Smart Football dubbed the bubble a "constraint play" way back in 2008, defining the concept like so:

What if your offense is based only on bubble screens and then you just run the ball or throw the ball as a counter to your bubble screen offense?

The difference is that the bubble screen is a play that really only works when the defense has made a structural choice or is out of position. Most commonly, you'll run when the bubble only when the defense has but two defenders to cover three receivers. You thus block the two defenders and the receiver has free yards. If the defense puts a third defender there they can take the play away, intercept it, or make the tackle.

Conversely, a well designed dropback pass play, a triple option play, or certain base runs will work every time you face a normal defense. The only time the play stops working is when certain defenders cheat on their assignments, either by alignment or aggressiveness.

You're right that the edge passing opens up the interior running, but it's already a reason Michigan's ground game has been so effective, and a reason that things like Kevin Koger 60 yard touchdowns happen.

The bubble option after a zone read keeper is still being run but it's not being thrown. I imagine they've de-emphasized it because when it has been thrown it's not usually getting more than a few yards and if that's your upside you might as well let Denard carry it. The equation changes radically when he's running the ball instead of Forcier.

More defense:

Brian,

Chip Kelly said a week or so ago he has nothing to do with his defense, he just leaves that side of the ball to his defensive coordinator.  GERG has championship rings on multiple levels.  Why can't RR just let him do his thing?  It seems to me that if Rich Rod just worried about the offense and let GERG do the D, Michigan might be better off.

Simon Kay

The other side of the complaint about Rodriguez not being involved enough in the defense. This is an unanswerable question. I'm not sure why there was an insurrection against Scott Shafer in 2008—well, okay, I have some idea since Michigan refused to put Brandon Harrison on the field—or why the 2009 defense spent most of its time in an eight-man front or why Michigan decided to install every front imaginable this year.

It's clear, however, that the position coaches are forcing the coordinators to adapt to them (again, this is exactly what happened in Tommy Tuberville's final year at Auburn) and the results are dismal.

Whether or not turning the defense over to Greg Robinson would help any is debatable. He has never built an effective college defense. After getting fired from the Chiefs he had a single year at Texas during which he turned in the same level of performance the DCs before and after him did. Then he went to Syracuse and could not field a minimally competent unit after his first year—the team went backwards fast and stopped in the triple digits. While he got a rep for being a good position coach last year it's obvious that the linebackers we can actually compare across '09 and '10 did not progress much over the offseason. Ezeh was the same, Mouton is a little better but still prone to the same mistakes he's made throughout his career. No one else has never seen the light of day before this year.

At this point there is no case for keeping him around. There is no reason to expect anything but failure from him; some good NFL defenses with the Broncos are now a decade old. All the reasons the defense should be bad are still valid, but the only way to salvage Rodriguez's job is to bring in a defensive coaching staff with proven recent success that cannot be undermined by whatever the deal is with the current assistants, whichever of them stay around.

Widgetz:

Good Afternoon,

In response to your recent post about the blood drive where you said: “I should put up a ticker that says 1343 DAYS SINCE OHIO STATE BEAT MICHIGAN AT BLEEDING. Ain't got no other tickers to put up” there is indeed a slightly more noteworthy streak that is still intact. Michigan’s Mens rowing team has beaten OSU’s mens rowing team 14 consecutive years at their annual dual race. According to the team’s website this streak is the longest continuous streak for Michigan over OSU in any sport ever (at least where head-to-head meetings are applicable). The matchup takes place right before the annual football game (with the first win coming in November 1996), so in my approximation this streak is at about 5,085 days or so and counting. Thought you might like that nugget of info.

Go Blue!

-Jake

Woo! Also, sincere congratulations to the rowing team.

And at least no one broke this guy's nose:

I dressed up as everyone's favorite defensive coordinator for Halloween this year!

greg_robinson-halloween

One guy I never met before came up to me and told me how much he hated me and how badly he wanted to punch me in the face.

Rick

Preview: Michigan State 2010

Preview: Michigan State 2010

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2010 at 11:53 AM

Essentials michigan-state-dumb-logo

WHAT Michigan vs Michigan State
WHERE Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 3:30 Eastern, October 9th 2010
THE LINE Michigan –4.5
TELEVISION ABC/ESPN2 reverse mirror
WEATHER 70 and sunny
mild wind

Run Offense vs State

The brahs are all like "OMG Greg Jones" as if Manti Te'o isn't a faster, better version of him, assuring everyone who will listen and their poor disappointed mothers that sometime in the second quarter Jones will violently disembowel Denard so a funeral can be held at halftime.

Unfortunately for the brahs, the State defense hasn't lived up to those proclamations. Aided by an injury, MSU held Wisconsin's John Clay somewhat in check. He managed 80 yards on 17 carries, 4.7 per. They didn't do so hot against his backup James White, a smaller, speedier guy who averaged almost 10 YPC. Between the two primary tailbacks Wisconsin had 178 yards on 27 carries, 6.6 a pop. (White, a freshman, was also responsible for a couple of terrible blitz pickups.) A couple of those long runs came when MSU sucked inside and got punished by bounce-outs because of irresponsible play; against Denard Robinson getting irresponsible is six points conceded.

Meanwhile, ND's Armando Allen averaged 5.5 YPC on just 13 carries, though MSU did keep ND's other tailbacks down. Overall, ND tailbacks averaged 4.5 YPC, almost exactly what they managed against Michigan. I think we know what happens when Michigan's rushing offense goes against the Michigan defense.

That's it as far as useful comparisons go. Western Michigan is 114th and Florida Atlantic 116th in rush offense, and Northern Colorado is a 2-3 I-AA team.

So that seems encouraging, but Michigan was expecting to run against Michigan State last year and ended up averaging one yard per carry. Brown and Minor combined to for 17 yards on 10 carries. This was the first inkling that Michigan's rushing offense was something of a mirage:

Forcier kept the ball when he should have handed it off, most painfully on Michigan's overtime drive where a veer play absolutely had State for a ton of yards and maybe a touchdown but Forcier kept it and was forced to follow Minor into the hole for only four. Twice Brown burst into the open field with a lead blocker and naught but one player between him and the endzone and both times Brown and the lead blocker failed to beat that one guy. Martavious Odoms took a reverse and had absolutely cavernous space to cut up into but did not realize it until far too late and slipped making his cut. On several plays State had left themselves open for a big cutback run behind the center but the tailbacks did not take it. And, yes, the right side of the line repeatedly failed to crease State's DL or chop the backside DT when plays went away from it. State did a good job—on both of those potential big gainers the State player in question made a huge, touchdown saving tackle—but Michigan left a ton of yards on the field.

The offensive line was blown up, too. On GS's run chart your winner was Mark Ortmann's +1.

david-molk- nd There were plenty of reasons for this, foremost David Molk's injury and the shuffling it imposed on the defensive line. David Moosman played center, adding another bad snap to the pair that killed drives in the Indiana game. Huyge played right guard and struggled so badly that journeyman John Ferrara got a drive or two in case he was better; Dorrestein was forced into the lineup at right tackle and struggled.

This year, Molk is back, Patrick Omameh has ascended to the starting right guard job and has performed at an all-conference level after a rough start against UConn, and donkey-hating Taylor Lewan has forced his way into the starting lineup past Huyge. Schilling and Dorrestein return as better players. And Michigan has the most dangerous runner in the country taking snaps.

State, meanwhile, lost Oren Wilson and Trevor Anderson from last year's defensive line. Anderson's been replaced by the clunky 6'7" Tyler Hoover, a redshirt sophomore who is a version of Greg Banks minus some of the veteran savvy. Wilson's replacement is a platoon of Kevin Pickelman and Blake Treadwell. MSU returns DT Jerel Worthy, their best DL by some distance, and meh DE Colin "Cam" Neely. Neely and Pickelman missed the Wisconsin game but will return this weekend. Their linebackers are senior versions of last year's guys.

State's been decent against the run but when BlueSeoul broke down the MSU-ND game in one of his extensive Picture-Pages-on-Steroids diaries a major reason for this was the general derpitude of ND offensive linemen in space:

rbboundaryscreen4

Michigan linemen are from space. They voted for Zoltan and everything. If you put them in space they and the mountain goat receivers will show you your O-I'm-on-the-ground-and-Denard-is-fast face.

Michigan is going to get yards against this defense, but the torrid pace—7.1 YPC, first nationally and a full yard better than all but six teams—they're on should cool off somewhat. If MSU is intent on leaving the safeties back, this will be a steady drip of five, eight, ten yards. If they go Indiana on things it will be more erratic but prone to bigger plays. One key: will Michigan break out the midline option or the veer that Oregon (and now Nebraska) are slicing defenses apart with? Worthy is a guy who just tears after people; he could be exploitable against the midline. Michigan hasn't had to do anything new except pop out a pulling lineman or two; this is the week to deploy a completely new package.

Key matchup: Schilling, Molk, and Omameh versus Worthy and Pickelman/Treadwell. Last year State owned this matchup. Worthy is a quality player but the other defensive tackle is something of a weak spot; Michigan must win this matchup to get second-level players out on the State linebackers and keep the ground machine operating at full death.

Pass Offense vs State

This was also a source of OL ownage on State's part last year:

PROTECTION METRIC: 37/57, Team –5, Dorrestein –4, Ortmann –4, Ferrara –3, Huyge –2, Minor –2, Moosman –1.

That is terrible, and large parts of it can be blamed on the absence of one David Molk. People who would not have been playing otherwise picked up –7 and one bad Moosman snap was given –1: more than half of the 15 negative points assigned to specific players on the line are attributable in ways direct or indirect to Molk's foot.

Michigan's offensive line gave up five(!) passes (or attempts to pass) that were marked "pressure"; Forcier also added ten more attempts that were IN, BR, or TA, including the fatal super triple BR on the OT interception. Three flat drops did not help matters.  Forcier managed to go 17/32 for 223 yards despite this, but the offense operated in fits and starts and relied on a burst of Stonum athleticism and desperation to get its two touchdowns.

That is not likely to repeat this year. For one, Michigan's tied for first nationally in sacks allowed with one thanks to a combination of Denard running, massive progress on the OL, and opponents being terrified of Denard breaking contain. Meanwhile, after losing Trevor Anderson and Oren Wilson, Michigan State is in the triple digits when it comes to acquiring sacks. They've got five; even Michigan's three-man rush is doing better (yes, yes, against an avalanche of passing spreads). When Michigan drops back to pass they'll have time.

Despite the lack of rush, State's pass defense has been at least decent:

Opponent Att Cmp Pct Yds TD INT YPA
Notre Dame 55 32 58% 369 4 1 6.7
Wisconsin 25 11 44% 127 1 0 5.1

Notre Dame racked up a bunch of yards and touchdowns but took 55 throws to get there and didn't put up a huge YPA; Wisconsin got thunked. A large portion of the latter was Tolzien having a bad day and Nick Toon dropping everything that came his way (and subsequently complained about not getting enough opportunities!). Even so, Michigan State has not been lit up in the same way Michigan has. A large part of that is the return of Johnny Adams from injury. Their okay senior corner (Chris L. Rucker) also managed to not explode his ankle, so they've got that going for them.

Even if the outside guys are kept in check, this could be a big day for slots. It appears that ninja-kicking former walk-on Jon Misch is going to be the weakside linebacker who spends much of his day hovering in the vicinity of the slots; the fact that he's in a true battle with hyped sophomore Chris Norman is probably not so good for State. MSU cornerbacks have also been historically poor at tackling, leaving bubble screens attractive options, and the main reason Notre Dame couldn't exploit MSU's addiction to the 4-3 was this equivalency: Stephen Threet : screen :: Dayne Crist : screen.

rudolphbubble3

Robinson will have to throw more than usual and in some uncomfortable situations; this will depress his remarkable efficiency ratings. He should still have enough opportunities to hit big plays in the passing game to win.

Key matchup: Magee and friends versus hyperactive Michigan State run defense. We've seen it all year: Denard takes a step forward, causing the entire defense to fly downhill at him, then flicks a pass to Roundtree that he runs into or near the endzone no matter how far away from it he is. While State's probably spent time on defending that particular iteration of Denard Automatic Play Action, there will be other opportunities to rack up RPS +3; in this game Michigan is going to have to lean more towards balance on first down to prevent the drive-stalling two yard plays that happen when a team sells out, Tecmo Bowl-style, and gets it right.

edwin-baker-204jpg-3819c34572bfaee8_large Run Defense vs State

Michigan's run defense isn't good but it's probably better than the pass defense; against State they will be severely tested. Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell, and Larry Caper are all quality backs in the same mold: big, fast tackle-breakers slightly light on the shimmy. Bell has more RAGE, Baker more breakaway speed. Caper is returning from injury and may have gotten Wally Pipped by Bell, a who-dat recruit out of Columbus who arrived in a chariot of thunder and said "surprise!" They're all OR on the depth chart, but Caper's had six carries in MSU's two actual games. He is OR in name only.

The other guys:

Opp Player Att Yds TD YPC
ND Edwin Baker 14 90 1 6.4
ND Le'Veon Bell 17 114 1 6.7
UW Edwin Baker 18 87 0 4.8
UW Le'Veon Bell 16 75 0 4.7

That's… uh… kind of terrifying, actually.

Michigan's most relevant outing was the opener against UConn and their similarly power-heavy stone age offense; in that game Jordan Todman had 20 carries for 105 yards, 5.3 per. That's not awful; Todman is legit. In his two other games against D-I foes he put up 192 on a Temple and 190 on Vandy. While those aren't the greatest opponents UConn returned Todman and four offensive lineman from last year's #39 rush offense and appear to be picking up at or above where they left off.

Oh, wait, right: UMass. Crap. Michigan also got imploded by UMass on a series of counters and power running plays on which the linebackers got lost. While Mouton and Ezeh played much better in the two games since the opponents were Bowling Green and Indiana, two passing spreads with no clue how to run the ball that are allergic to pulling linemen. Any hope derived from those games should be vague and humble.

HOWEVA, after watching the Wisconsin game I'm weirdly optimistic Michigan can not die in a fire. Wisconsin's DL was in the backfield a lot and big chunks of MSU's rushing yards came on a misdirection fourth and one pitch and an instance where Wisconsin was badly misaligned against a full house backfield. When it came to just lining up and running it State didn't open many holes. Their tailbacks did drag tacklers all day. If Michigan's linebackers have their heads on straight I can see something similar going down where Michigan does enough to force a bunch of second and long.

Simple power plays and zone stuff probably won't go very well but State has to run it to set up the rest of their offense of counters and play action; I bet the counters are consistent gashers and the regular stuff pops a run or two but also sees a lot of two-yard gains. Some of these will get up to four or five thanks to the quality tailbacks; by the end of the day numbers similar to the UW game are likely.

Key matchup: Cam Gordon run support versus backbreaking long runs. MSU's rush offense is the usual old-school thing Michigan fans will remember from Lloyd Carr's days: a lot of grinding, a lot of meh results, the occasional long gainer that happens when someone busts an assignment or a tackle. For Michigan to keep MSU's numbers in the Wisconsin-or-below range Gordon is going to have to go 10/10 on opportunities to take down MSU backs breaking past the linebackers.

Pass Defense vs State

HAI GUYS I'M THE MICHIGAN SECONDARY

explosion

You know the story on Michigan's side of the ball. When it comes to Michigan State, they still have Kirk Cousins. Cousins is a somewhat mobile pocket passer with good accuracy who makes a lot of excellent decisions… and two or three mind-boggling throws per game.

He usually does the latter bit when he's pressured. He has a tendency to chuck the balls Ben Chappell was tossing into the stands at covered receivers. He threw two interceptions against Wisconsin, one horrible, one a ball deflected at the line that seemed like it was going directly to a double-covered receiver and was going to be picked off anyway. In the second half he got lucky on a back-foot throw that could have been a pick-six if it was more accurate.

State's receivers are analogous to Michigan's—a solid unit without a Braylon/Plaxico superhero. Mark Dell, Keshawn Martin, and BJ Cunningham have split receptions almost right down the middle, and if you squish MSU's two TEs into one body you can say the same thing about Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum. There is no one go-to guy. If you're pigeonholing, Martin is the explosive slot guy, Cunningham the big possession guy whose ability downfield comes more from muscle than speed, and Dell a pretty good generic outside receiver. To compare them to Michigan guys: a poor man's Steve Breaston, Junior Hemingway, and… uh… a rich man's Ron Bellamy? There isn't really a good Michigan analogue for Dell. Anyway, it doesn't really matter who they are because they will be open. State's receivers have had a case of the dropsies this season, FWIW.

BlueSeoul picked out a specific thing State does well that Michigan's defense has seen a lot of in practice but still can't defend: the bubble.

MSUoptionbubble3

Prepare yourself for this. Michigan is going to put either James Rogers or a freshman out on the outside. One will be playing in the parking lot; the other will get blocked into the parking lot. Michigan State is going to eat up yards on bubble screens, and you will be enraged.

This looks like a functional passing game run by something that's not a duck. This means doom so far as it's possible. Will Michigan State abandon its usual gameplan of "run or play action on 80% of first downs" in an effort to attack the Michigan secondary? Probably not since it's not likely anyone will mistake the M run defense for the 2006 unit. Will they have considerably more success on third down than they should? Yes.

Key matchup: Martin and Roh versus the MSU OL. Michigan has the opportunity to pick off some passes of their own if Cousins is dealing. Sometimes this happens when receivers are covered and he just tries to MAKE PLAYS; usually its an artifact of someone getting in on Cousins. The turnover margin will be huge, and Michigan should have an advantage if they get quarterback pressure.

Special Teams

An advantage for Michigan State. Martin returned a punt for a touchdown against Wisconsin and the Spartans have one of those kicker guys. Dan Conroy is 7/7 on the year. They're also averaging 38 net yards on punts, which is around 40th nationally. Michigan can't return punts or kick field goals and freshman punter Will Hagerup is still working through the jitters. Hagerup seems to be coming around, but Michigan hasn't even attempted a field goal since the first half against UMass and seems happy to keep it that way.

Will it matter? Maybe not. Special teams have not played a major role in Michigan's last few games because touchdowns have been plentiful, and both kickoff return units are weak. Michigan's probably going to go for it on fourth and reasonable distance once they crack the MSU 40 until game theory concerns kick in late. MSU is more likely to make their field goals and more likely to get a big punt return; the net effect of that bonus will either be negligible or large with little in-between.

Key matchup: STOP KICKING THE DAMN BALL

Intangibles

7smf5Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • Denard allows his usual backup quarterback cameo, and continue worrying until he returns to the field.
  • MSU's line is kicking M's ass again.
  • This jumping the snap business happens again.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • Michigan State's maligned defensive coordinator leaves the safeties back in a Norm Parker-style adherence to old principles in the face of new technology.
  • A significant new addition (midline, veer) to the running game leaves MSU's defensive gameplan in shambles.
  • Roh rushes the passer lots.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 6 (Baseline 5; –1 for Michigan State's First Road Game Unless You Count Playing In Front Of Sixteen Fans In Detroit, +1 for They Hit Wisconsin Upside The Head With Ten Pounds Of Ham, –1 for Previous Defensive Performances Say Michigan Can Run Lots, +1 for Competent Passing Offense Versus Sack Of Confused Cats, +1 for Oh God What If Field Goals Are Relevant, –1 for Denard!, –1 for Vegas Is In The Tank For M, +1 for Annual Crazy Michigan State Over-Preparation, +1 for No Reason Except The Lump In The Throat.)

Desperate need to win level: 10 (Baseline 5; +1 for Would Be The Definitive 2010 Is Not 2009 Answer, +1 for Would Force Inane Media Narratives To Switch To A Different, Less Annoying Inanity, +1 for Would Cause Uppity State Fans To STFU, +1 for The Alternative About The Annoying State Fans Is Horrible To Contemplate, +1 for Constant Rich Rodriguez Job Rescue Campaign)

Loss will cause me to... get really annoyed at the little Dantonio head growing out of my shoulder. I mean, you think it's annoying now, let me tell you… man.

Win will cause me to... forcibly suppress any ideas Michigan might be playing Ohio State for the Big Ten title at the end of the year.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Well… dammit. I didn't really know what would happen against UConn. I didn't really know what would happen against Notre Dame. And I don't really know here. Is Wisconsin the top-ten team I was terrified of before the season or was last year a mirage? Is Indiana's passing offense really a high-powered knife cannon aimed directly at the Big Ten's tingly bits? Denard? Greg Jones?

There is a common opponent:

  • Michigan beat Notre Dame 28-24, outgaining the Irish by a narrow margin if you discount ND's last drive on which Michigan was happy to cede 40 yards. The game was on the road, but Dayne Crist missed a quarter and a half. Michigan missed two field goals, but why wouldn't they miss two more against MSU?
  • Michigan State beat Notre Dame 34-31 in overtime on the trick field goal. Yardage was basically dead even. The game was at home, but Crist went the whole way.

This tells us nothing. At the end of regulation ND had four extra points against State. The home-road flip is worth another six. A reasonable estimate of how many points Crist's absence cost Notre Dame is ten. Flarbity doo, I'm wearing a shoe.

So: I think Michigan's offense is not going to slow down much against what is likely a mediocre Big ten defense. Their drives will be longer because MSU is not a flamingly awful Big Ten defense, but the overall efficacy of them won't be too far off the high level they've established so far this year. I think State will do much the same to M. The home/road flip should be good for a stop or two; Michigan's defense will not be the wasteland it was against Indiana if only because they'll be going up against an offense less suited to torch it; the freshmen defensive backs will have more of a clue; Michigan is likely to end up in the black in TO margin since a somewhat pick-prone Cousins will be putting the ball up more frequently than Denard.

Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • MSU safeties combine for more tackles than Greg Jones.
  • Denard goes for 150 on the ground.
  • Michigan finally looks like they've prepared for this game specifically.
  • Michigan, 35-30.

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2009 at 12:58 PM

Personnel notes: I don't think I saw Webb or Savoy all game. The offensive line was the same as the Indiana game but at some point in the second half Huyge got pulled for Ferrara, at least briefly.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O14 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown -2
Okay, so 1) State's response to the bubble is the same as Indiana's: have the safety freak out about it as soon as he sees the route. With MSU in press coverage that really invites Michigan to go over the top; they never really do. 2) On the run here State's defensive tackles slant inside, coming around the attempted stretch blocks way too quickly for Michigan to handle and getting right into the backfield. This play is specifically designed to combat stretch blocking, but State doesn't run it again.
O16 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack Koger -3
Basically the zone read fake into the Koger flat route; State is prepared for this, too, with the DE shooting right past Koger without waiting and forcing Forcier upfield, where he gets sacked. (PR, 0, protection N/A)
O19 3 15 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Wheel Brown Inc
Michigan State blitzes and has an umbrella behind it, getting a guy in unblocked. Forcier's hot read is Brown coming out of the backfield; he doesn't look for the ball and it falls incomplete. (CA, 3, protection 0/2, team -2)
Drive Notes: FG(36), 3-0, 12 min 1st Q. Very disappointing; clearly Dantonio has gameplans for the exact things Michigan has shown so far and Michigan just plays into them. Same stuff happened last year. Just gap block some stuff and bring out new plays against Michigan State; they obviously spent Wisconsin week preparing for M. They weren't preparing for Wisconsin.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read inside Brown 2
Backside DT shoots upfield immediately on the snap, driving Schilling back and forcing Brown to cut it upfield, where a crashing defensive end tackles him for a minimal gain. Safety had the bubble, WLB the contain.
M30 2 8 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Brown 3
Michigan empties the backfield and tries to use this to run a bubble to the short side of the field. Brown picks up like three yards; he's got no room since it's the short side of the field. (CA, 3, screen)
M33 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Throwaway -- Inc
Anderson comes crashing around the end but there's a very nice pocket for Forcier to step up into and throw; instead he peels out to the sideline, finding no one and throwing the ball away. These looked like deep routes, maybe four verticals; the unnecessary scramble likely killed the play. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-7, 1 min 1st Q. 
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M8 1 10 Ace 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass Waggle Post Koger Inc
Zone fake into a rollout with some decent pressure but Forcier's able to get a pass off to Koger. Koger's got a step and throw that's a little bit upfield or arced a little more might be complete but the coverage is very good and the safety makes a play on the ball. Good all around. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)
M8 2 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 4-3 Under Pass Rollout out Grady Inc
Plenty of room as Michigan is attacking the fact that safeties are in man against Michigan's slot receivers. Grady(19) is wide open for a first down, hit in the hands, and... drop. Bler. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M8 3 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Improv bomb Koger 41
Really weird D from State as the three DL rush and then three(!) linebackers just kind of hang out at the LOS. Very odd. I know you want to contain Forcier but jeez. Grady pops a DE—he's in pass protect because the waiting LBs have drawn a couple of OL. DE then gets outside, avoiding a Minor block and causing Forcier to flush. Forcier chucks it up and Koger adjusts to his back shoulder, dragging in a big gainer. (DO?, 1, protection 2/3, Minor -1)
M49 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 3-wide 0 2 3 Base 4-3 Run QB off tackle Robinson 0
Robinson in; Forcier spread wide. I think this is supposed to and should go outside the tackle as the TE comes off to seal the SLB and it would be Robinson and a safety one-on-one but he cuts it up into no room. Jones got playside of the backside guard and there's not much in the way of creases.
M49 2 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Slant Koger Inc
Playing off the bubble over-reaction, this is wide open and will go for near first-down yardage; Koger drops it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M49 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Scramble Forcier 10
State sends five and drops a couple guys off into zones; field is pretty open. Forcier(+1) sees it open up and decisively decides to step up in the pocket and take off, picking up the first down, albeit barely. So decisive that I thought this was a QB draw at first; it's not. Not charting this as a TA, FWIW.
O41 1 10 Ace Twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Brown 1
Backside scoop goes all wrong as Huyge(-1) doesn't get much push and actually falls a bit, leaving Dorrestein no angle to block his guy and letting said guy playside and into the backfield. Brown's reaction is to cut back into an unblocked linebacker/DB; these are true eight-man fronts they're running against.
O40 2 9 Shotgun Diamond 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Improv Hitch Stonum 7
Fake bubble with the trio of guys going into pass routes; that's Forcier's first read. Not there, and then an MSU stunt sees Dorrestein(-1) whiff outside, then take a diving whiff inside. First whiff causes Forcier to start scrambling out; should just step up and fire or something. He eventually finds Stonum on the backside of the formation for a decent gain. (CA, 3, protection 1/2, Dorrestein -1)
O33 3 2 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Hitch Odoms 4
Quick tempo sees State align in a two-deep shell, which leaves one guy trying to cover two on one side of the formation. Forcier reads it and throws a quick hitch to Odoms for the first down. It's low and unnecessarily difficult for Odoms; he digs it out. (MA, ,2, protection 1/1)
O29 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Sack -- 0
PA fake into what looks like the same bubble fake to slant we saw earlier; backside defensive end sits there and then shoots up as Forcier hesitates. DE's on him and he has to cut it up, attempting to lose as little as possible. (PR, NA, NA)
O29 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout out Odoms 11
So here's one advantage of the backside DE trying to contain the zone counter dive: he delays instead of trying to get out on Forcier, allowing Minor to chop him easily. This is the same play as the earlier Grady drop: slot out can't be covered by a safety, hit between the numbers. This time it's caught. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O18 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Minor Yakety Minor -4
Not really sure what the intent is here since Brown and Minor collide soon after Minor grabs a handoff; he ends up tackled in the backfield because of the delay.
O22 2 14 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Penalty Offsides -- 5
Oops.
O17 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Draw Brown 6
Wow, this opens up cavernously as Moosman kicks one of the DTs out the intended hole and the other one rushes himself out o the play. Huyge(-1) pulls around and is one-on-one with Jones; Jones ninjitsus him and makes a tackle on Brown a few yards downfield. Pile falls forward; a Jones block is probably first and goal. Brown could get some blame for not setting this block up, too.
O11 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -10
Forcier fumbles a poor snap on an intended rollout, which allows a blitzing linebacker to close and tackle. On Moosman. (PR, NA, pressure 0/2, team -1, Moosman -1) Odoms was open for the first if this snap was efficiently delivered.
Drive Notes: FG(42), 6-7, 4 min 2nd Q. Aigh Molk donde esta?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Sack -- -7
Hard to tell if this is supposed to set up in the pocket or get outside; I think outside because they're pulling Schilling around to give some backside pass blocking on Anderson. Huyge(-2) gets pushed back, delaying Schilling, and then gets spun off of; when Forcier cuts back inside because Anderson is outside of Schilling the DT is there to sack. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Huyge -2). Note Huyge is at RG and Dorrestein RT.
M13 2 17 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown -1
Ortmann and Schilling actually get a crease here but Koger(-1), who's set up as the H-back but dives inside of Ortmann, runs right by Gordon, which means he's sitting in the hole unblocked and tackles.
M12 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Fly Mathews Inc
Max protect and three fly routes into lots of coverage. State is again doing that weird thing where they just leave three linebackers sitting a couple yards downfield; if Michigan was running a post or something here maybe they get an opportunity to make a first down. Instead its all covered fly routes and Forcier just chucks one well upfield of a covered Mathews. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-10, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M7 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 7
Argh. State's blitzing both linebackers right up the middle and Michigan runs by it, doubling the playside DT because there's no one to block on the second level anyway. Schilling(+1) does get a good crease for Brown. Brown is into the secondary and has a lead blocker in Minor; Minor(-1) is one-on-one with the filling safety with a block likely to spring Brown for 93... he whiffs.
M14 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 2
Same play. State's playside DT does a better job of flowing down the line and prevents himself from getting creased. Worthy avoids a lame Dorrestein(-1) attempt at a cut, flows down the line, and tackles on the cutback. A block from Dorrestein also gets Brown a lot of yards here.
M16 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB off tackle Forcier 1
On Huyge(-1) and Moosman, who get no push on Worthy and make no crease here. This is not really State being prepared for this play or doing something special, it's just the OL being inadequate. Forcier cuts it up, hitting the back of Huyge and going down like an inch short of the first down.
M17 4 In Punt - - - - Run BLERG Zoltan BLERG
BLLERG. Note: a reader suggested this was not really Mesko's fault because state guys got in too fast and would have blocked a rugby punt. On review: no way. Mesko had plenty of time to get a punt off but brought it down immediately to run. Just an unbelievable brain explosion. The protection was sliding, so it was a called rugby punt a la the Notre Dame fake from a year ago; Mesko's head blew up.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 6-10, 7 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M11 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Flare screen Brown 5
I don't know, I always think the timing on this is messed up but it works sometimes. Odoms(+1) cuts the nickelback to the ground and Schilling gets Jones, but a quick-filling safety is up on Brown before he can get much in the way of yardage. (CA, 3 , screen)
M16 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Pass Rollout out Odoms 9
A freeze play where M catches State offsides; Forcier rolls out and finds Odoms on an out as he reaches the sideline. (CA, 2, protection N/A)
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Minor 2
State shifted away from this and Michigan should have a good opportunity to pick up some yards here but Minor(-1) misses a massive cutback opportunity as Ortmann had cut the backside DT to pieces and the frontside has been slanted to and jammed; Brown runs by a couple of guys outside of their blockers and lets Anderson and Gordon track Minor down as he passes the LOS.
M27 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -3
Ferrara(-3) straight up smoked by an MSU DT, yielding quick pressure up the middle and a sack. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, Ferrara -3) Also note that it's Huyge who's gotten pulled, with Dorrestein still at tackle.
M30 3 11 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Improv Stonum 10
Dorrestein(-2) smoked by Anderson, forcing Forcier out of the pocket. He manages to find Stonum on the move and zing one to him despite tight coverage; it's low and Stonum digs it out (DO, 1, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-13, 3 min 3rd Q. Yes, the Molk injury single-handedly killed this drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Reverse Odoms -4
Robinson in. This is on Odoms(-1), who fails to recognize that he can cut it upfield into a lot of space and be one-on-one with a safety for the house until way too late; he then slips to the turf trying to make that cut way too late.
M29 2 14 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout scramble -- 2
Robinson rolls out, finds no one, and starts running around as the rollout has run out of time. He eventually gets to the line of scrimmage-ish. (TA, 0, protection 1/1)
M31 3 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Sack -- -12
Somewhat decent time but not great time as Dorrestein(-1) and Minor(-1) eventually lose guys at the same time; Robinson can scramble away from one but only into the other. (TA, 0, protection 2/4, Minor -1, Dorrestein -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-20, 13 min 4th Q. Forcier should have come back after the first down loss.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Improv cross Hemingway 9 + 15
Forcier scrambles up as the MSU DEs come screaming around the corner; this may actually be intended to flush Forcier outside like this because MSU has a spy who takes off after him as he breaks the pocket. Hemingway has run a little crossing route and the screamin' linebacker has vacated that area, so Forcier hits him; Hemingway can turn up for some YAC. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, but tentative) State gets a roughing call afterwards. It's pretty terrible, as Hemingway wasn't down and I didn't hear a whistle.
O22 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout hitch Stonum 11
Forcier rolls out with the aid of an excellent block from Minor on the corner, finding Stonum open along the sideline for about seven. Stonum jukes the first guy, picks up a first down, and fumbles the ball as he's going to ground. Argh. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Roundtree? Ok, I guess. Good pocket this time allows Forcier to step up and fire just as Roundtree's break to the inside gets him clear of his man. Could be a big gainer but it's just in front of him. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M31 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass RB Hitch? Minor Inc
Er? This is basically a wheel route from Minor except he stops on it two yards downfield. Hitch, I guess. Another good pocket and the coverage gets run off, leaving Minor wide open. Forcier goes to him... just as he falls down for no reason. Ack. (CA, um... 1, protection 2/2)
M31 3 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Improv Roundtree Inc
Forcier can't find anyone; sort of looks like he's got a slant or two here but he doesn't throw it, allowing pressure to eventually break through, at least sort of. He starts running around, possibly without needing to, and eventually pulls up to hit Roundtree a couple yards short of the first. It's on the money but late, so Roundtree gets pounded as the ball arrives and drops it. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-20, 8 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Improv Hitch Hemingway 9
A vast panoply of time sees Forcier sit and survey forever, finding no one. Pressure finally comes and he has to scramble out. As he reaches the sideline he chucks it at Hemingway and not incidentally a Michigan State safety, who has this covered and could possibly intercept but doesn't as Hemingway yanks it away for nine yards. Brilliant? Idiotic? I don't know. I'm filing this a BR. (BR, 2, protection 2/2)
M41 2 1 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass TE Seam Koger Inc
Zone read fake to the bubble fake to the TE slant Michigan's run a lot. State has a guy sitting on it in a zone; a slant is either broken up or a pick six. In what looks like a brilliant adjustment by both Forcier and Koger, Koger shoots upfield a bit, turning this into a seam, and Forcier lets it fly, hitting Koger between the numbers in a tight window between the corner and safety. Koger... drops it. Aigh. Safety coming over to blast him helped. (DO, 2, protection NA)
M41 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout deep Hitch Stonum 59
Minor gets a block on the edge defender and Stonum bursts open 20 yards downfield with only a late-arriving safety attempting to rein him in. He scoots inside of him, loping for the endzone. At the ten he stiffarms the last resistance and glides in. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) Replay.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 13-20, 4 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M8 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Hitch Stonum 9
State playing way off, which would be GERG BUBBLE frustrating to me as an MSU fan. Stonum just runs a hitch and is wide open despite no one throwing him the ball for a while. Forcier surveys, does not find anything he likes, and then flushes a bit, finding Stonum on the sideline for nine. He gets OOB. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M17 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Rollout out Odoms Inc
Shorter out than the other outs as MSU is in zone but Forcier finds Odoms open for what should a first down; he throws it low and Odoms can't dig out a tough catch. (MA, 1, protection 1/1)
M17 3 1 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Forcier 10
So there's no slot to Forcier's side of the field on this and therefore no contain defender out there; the DE slides down the line as he's been coached to do all week because of the zone counter dive, leaving the corner open. Forcier pulls it out and grabs the first down plus a good bit more.
M27 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Wheel Brown 2 (Pen +15)
Michigan gets MSU to jump. Spartan players come in unimpeded because of the freeze play, forcing Forcier to dump it to Brown, who gets lit up, dropping the ball. (CA, 1, protection NA) No matter. State also gets a roughing call afterwards. They take the roughing.
M42 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Bubble counter Odoms 9
Finally they run this and M catches it. This is a variant of their flare screen type thing where Odoms goes on a bubble route, drawing the requisite bubble freak out, then dives inside for a jailbreak screen. And this is open for days and days but for Moosman's inability to block or cut the LB spying on Forcier. Odoms has to cut behind the mess and gets tracked down just short of the sticks. (CA, 3, screen)
O49 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Forcier 12
Same thing, with the DE crashing down like a mother and no State contain in their pass D package opening up tons of space for Forcier. He would have 10, 20 more if he didn't slip on the turf due to the rain.
O37 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Unicorn dust Stonum 12
Jesus H Hopscotching Christ. Forcier has no protection because of the empty set, can't handle a low, wet snap from Moosman, and has an unblocked corner coming in ready to provide certain doom. He manages to grab the ball, slide up in the pocket past two blitzers, abort a planned scramble when another linebacker comes charging up, and peg Stonum for a first down. Jebus. (DO++, 2, protection 0/2, team)
O25 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Pass Post Mathews Inc
Aigh! Forcier's first read is Brown on the wheel but he delays coming out of the backfield, faking a block on a DE, and gets covered as a result. Forcier comes off him, zipping forward in the pocket past a rusher and unleashing a ball at a wide open Mathews in the endzone... it's to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
O25 2 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Mathews Inc
Actually comes with a half-roll to the opposite side of the field. Forcier pulls up and comes back to the near side of the field—no safeties. Mathews, as per usual, is pretty covered, but he does have a step on his guy. Ball is OOB. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
O25 3 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Rollout scramble Forcier 14
Rollout sucks everyone to the wide side of the field; Ortmann(-1) lets an MSU DE by that Schilling(+1) manages to dive at and take off his feet with help from the slippery track. Forcier looks over to avoid him, notices the wide open space to that side, and takes off. He's nearing the first down but not there yet when he spins inside a linebacker and still gets OOB. (TA, 0, protection 1/2, Ortmann -1)
O11 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Rollout scramble Forcier 2
A very similar play to the last one with a rollout and Forcier looking back for Mathews but deciding he's covered. He sees an opening to the side opposite the rollout; this time a DT has peeled around to chase him and tackles at the ankles. Forcier fumbles out of bounds... Michigan was screwed otherwise, because he was coming down in bounds. (TA, NA, protection 2/2)
O9 2 8 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass AIGH NO Mathews Inc
Forcier fumbles the snap, can't pick it up, finally gets it, no pressure, but he's panicking, and just lofts one into a zillion people that ACTUALLY HITS MATHEWS IN THE FACE MASK, but is dropped. What the hell? If this is complete everyone would explode. (BR, 2, protection 2/2)
O9 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Deep slant Roundtree 9
Epic coverage bust, Forcier rollout, reads it, hits it, touchdown, I know we lost but I need a cigarette and I don't smoke. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-20, EOG. Overtime.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Forcier 5
State's contain guy here is actually a safety, so he's away from the LOS. This allows Forcier some room; safety forms up and tackles.
O20 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout out Odoms 7
State lining up a LB inside of Odoms in preparation for a run; Michigan rolls the pocket and has Odoms run an out. Open, Forcier throws, Odoms grabs it as he nears the sidelines. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Forcier 3
State blitzes a linebacker inside and then stunts a defensive end outside of the tackle; the play here is actually the veer Michigan's run a lot and Minor could be poised to zip up into the safeties if he just gets the damn ball; Forcier keeps it. He does have the good sense to see the two guys outside and use Minor as a lead blocker, picking up four . Minor would have been quicker to the hole and more likely to pound someone; if this was actually a read Forcier messed it up.
O10 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read veer Minor 2
Um. So again Minor is shooting right upfield with an intent to hit it up quickly when the D overreacts to the stretch, and Michigan pulls Koger around to block the backside DE... Koger just runs right by him. So the DE tackles.
O8 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout deep cross Odoms Int
Michigan rolls the pocket and floods one side the the field; Forcier needs to get rid of it because a blitz confuses the OL and lets Worthy through unblocked. (Ortmann -2, his missed pickup). Forcier might have Koger on a short cross for first down yardage; instead, pressured, he chucks it at a very covered Odoms. Things happen afterwards that are not good. (BR, 0, protection 0/2, Ortmann -2). On replay you can see Odoms slowing up, possibly preparing to break back the other way if Forcier gets scrambly, which allows the safety to overtake him. Error on his part?
Drive Notes: Interception, 20-20, end of first overtime

Dammit.

Yeah. Hamburgers.

Charts?

Yeah. Charts.

(Hennechart legend; MA is "marginal", screen results are in parens.)

TATE FORCIER

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR
Western Michigan 2 14 1 2 1 2 - 3
Notre Dame 5 20 (6) 2 4 3 3 - 4
Eastern Michigan 1 8 (2) 1 1 (1) 1 4 (1) - -
Indiana 3 13 (3) 1 (1) 2 5 3 - 2
Michigan State 5 19 (3) 2 4 3 3 - 5

DENARD ROBINSON

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR
Western Michigan - 1 1 1 2 - - -
Eastern Michigan - 1 1 (1) 2 (1) - - - -
Indiana - 1 1 (1) - - - - -
Michigan State - - - - - 2 - -

Goddamn. You wouldn't know it because of all the pressure and the drops killing his stats, but Forcier had a spectacular day. His downfield success rate* was 71%, which is up there with Chad Henne's best game. Chad Henne's best games didn't come with game-killing overtime interceptions, sure. He made three and a half terrible decisions throwing the ball (with the half being the bomb to Koger) and some additional ones in the ground game.

But does anyone remember the "Sheridan Might Start!" meme? Will anyone own up to actually advancing that point of view? No? No.

*((DO + CA) / All Throws Not Marked MA or PR)

There are two man reasons Forcier's numbers didn't live up to the chart above. Reason the first:

This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - 1/1 1/1 2 - 1/1 6/6
Mathews 2 - 0/1 - 7 1/4 1/2 6/6
Stonum - 1/1 1/1 4/4 1 1/2 3/4 8/8
Savoy - - - - 2 - 0/1 3/3
Odoms - 0/1 2/2 3/3 3 1/2 3/4 10/11
Grady-19 - - - 0/1 2 - 1/1 8/11
Roundtree 1 - 1/2 - 1 - 1/2 -
Rogers - - - - - - - -
Koger - 1/2 0/1 0/1 - 2/3 2/3 5/6
Webb - - - - 1 - - 2/3
Minor - - - - - - - -
Brown - 0/1 - 2/3 - 1/3 1/1 5/6
Shaw - - - - - - 0/1 -
Smith - - - - - - - -
Moundros - - - - - - - -

That is three flat drops (Brown's "drop" was not looking for the hot route) and three catchable balls that were not brought in. Add the drops and maybe one or two of the tougher catches and Forcier is now at 22/32 for 260-280 yards and his performance looks almost identical to the Notre Dame game where he unleashed his inner Superman.

Reason the second:

PROTECTION METRIC: 37/57, Team –5, Dorrestein –4, Ortmann –4, Ferrara –3, Huyge –2, Minor –2, Moosman –1.

That is terrible, and large parts of it can be blamed on the absence of one David Molk. People who would not have been playing otherwise picked up –7 and one bad Moosman snap was given –1: more than half of the 15 negative points assigned to specific players on the line are attributable in ways direct or indirect to Molk's foot. And that's not even considering his keenly-felt absence from the run game.

Not going out on a limb: if Molk is healthy Michigan wins. When he got injured and Rodriguez called him Michigan's best player on offense he wasn't kidding. He might not be right, but he was serious.

So the right side of the line just can't block?

It appears so. Michigan again went with Huyge and Dorrestein on the right side and got so discontent with this arrangement that Huyge got pulled for Ferrara, who immediately gave up a crushing sack. GS's run chart is up early enough to directly reference it this week, so: both Huyge and Dorrestein ended up –2, with Ferrara picking up a –1. It's not like the rest of the team covered themselves in glory—your winner on the OL is +1 Ortmann—but there were major problems on the right side of the line in both pass protection and against the run.

All this invites one question: where is supposed new mega-star Patrick Omamaeh? Omameh was the projected starter at right tackle in the spring and now can't find the field despite serious issues over yonder. He remains a redshirt freshman and shouldn't be written off but if he was going to be an uber-star he'd find his way onto the field before a journeyman like Dorrestein. As per usual, the preseason hype machine run by mysterious insiders is of questionable validity.

Is that what happened to the ground game?

Partially. It was odd. On the first play of the game Michigan State brought out this crazy slant that came around the stretch blocks from the other side and crushed Michigan's first offensive play.

I've seen a couple other teams try this—the team foremost in my mind was Penn State last year—get gashed doing it, and then quit. Wisconsin and Penn State used to do this against the DeBord stretch all the time and since Michigan had very little in the way of counters, it worked very well. But IIRC this was about the only time State brought that out.

So it didn't seem that schematic. What I saw happen: Michigan got a reduced number of opportunities because of the game situation and on those limited opportunities there was a ton of terrible execution. Forcier kept the ball when he should have handed it off, most painfully on Michigan's overtime drive where a veer play absolutely had State for a ton of yards and maybe a touchdown but Forcier kept it and was forced to follow Minor into the hole for only four. Twice Brown burst into the open field with a lead blocker and naught but one player between him and the endzone and both times Brown and the lead blocker failed to beat that one guy. Martavious Odoms took a reverse and had absolutely cavernous space to cut up into but did not realize it until far too late and slipped making his cut. On several plays State had left themselves open for a big cutback run behind the center but the tailbacks did not take it. And, yes, the right side of the line repeatedly failed to crease State's DL or chop the backside DT when plays went away from it. State did a good job—on both of those potential big gainers the State player in question made a huge, touchdown saving tackle—but Michigan left a ton of yards on the field. Chalk that up to youth, first road game, rain, injury, whatever.

Why can't we throw the bubble? Everyone else can.

This is why:

Opposing safeties are zooming down into the box to handle it as soon as they see the fake there. Michigan needs to counter this, and quickly, but not with the outside receiver, which is a play that works but doesn't put the fear of God into opponents. Michigan broke out the counter screen to this on the 92-yard drive to tie the game:

And that's something that if it catches the right defense and the right safety/LB freakout will bust for a touchdown. Look for it more.

Heroes?

Tate. Tate Tate Tate. Also Stonum.

Goats?

The right side of the line. Also Stonum for fumbling. And Greg Mathews has a remarkable knack for getting Forcier to overthrow him or target him in situations where he absolutely should not be targeted.

What does it mean for Iowa and beyond?

Tate is still working on becoming a pocket passer but he put in another Notre Dame-level performance last weekend and every game we get like that is further evidence that he just plays at that level and will do so in the future. Yes, he remains a freshman too prone to scramble out of the pocket and too ready to chuck it into a mess of opponents. There is almost nothing else to criticize.

The run game had a horrible, largely self-inflicted day in a limited sample size. Adjustments should be lowered a bit, especially for the Iowa game, but going forward Michigan should do much better than they did against State. Getting Molk back is key.

Michigan got some clarity on the wide receiver positions: Savoy was not targeted and Grady took a seat after his initial drop. Odoms, Mathews, Stonum, and Hemingway appear to be the main guys there, with Stonum the man who gad the most looks (6). Could he be emerging into the deep threat he was reputed to be? Let's hope so.

Picture Pages: Scraping, Bubbling

Picture Pages: Scraping, Bubbling

Submitted by Brian on September 11th, 2009 at 3:04 PM

Picture Pages: you see, Rudy, sometimes you just need to break down a play that's representative of a larger trend. This series picks out a play or two per game that seem significant in the grand scheme of things, Theo, and attempts to explain why. Vanessa.

I brought this up in UFR and wanted to make it clearer so here goes. This is a first and 15 on Michigan's first drive of the day.

Michigan lines up in one of their common sets, a three-wide shotgun look. Here the tight end is lined up as an H-back. Michigan often used the h-back as a pass blocker for Forcier rollouts, but this time he's going to go with the play. Western aligns in a 4-3 look with the nickel back shaded inside of the slot receiver. Michigan will run a zone read, and Western will do a version of a scrape exchange. In brief: in a scrape, the backside defensive end will take off after the tailback instead of maintaining contain. A weakside linebacker or corner will provide QB contain, thus hopefully minimizing or eliminating the quarterback's athleticism edge over the defender he's dealing with.

triple-option-1

Below is the handoff point. As Western did basically the whole game, the unblocked backside end takes off after the tailback. Since this is the guy Forcier is reading, he pulls the ball out. A couple points: Michigan has six blockers against six defenders here and should be content to hand the ball off. As we'll see, Brown's going to end up with a lot of room.

triple-option-2

A few moments later we see the scraper coming in: he's the corner/LB who was lined up over Grady. He comes flying in and threatens to tackle Forcier in the backfield. The scrape exchange Michigan saw a lot last year saw the WLB head outside; this one is less vulnerable to the veer or other quick-hitting backside plays that exploit the fact that your WLB is flying around the edge. But there's an obvious cost: HOLY GOD LOOK AT THE SLOT RECEIVER.

triple-option-3

Forcier is, in fact, looking at a spectacularly open guy on a bubble route. One of the Western safeties is coming up but he's inside of and ten yards away from a guy who's quicker than him. At best he squares up and holds the gain down. If he misses a tackle Grady is born to run.

Also note the line moving to the second level and sealing those defensive tackles. Michigan had three or four plays like this where the tailback shot up to cavernous gaps in the line of scrimmage without the ball. And this isn't a reaction to Forcier's decision to pull the ball yet; only the WLB has seen that. The frames above make it pretty clear that if Michigan had handed the ball off Schilling was going to cut this guy off.

Forcier, unfortunately, decides against the bubble and cuts directly upfield:

triple-option-4

Molk has finished burying the playside DT and if Brown had the ball he'd be cruising, as the WLB who peeled off to Forcier was about to get his clock cleaned by Schilling. But Forcier pulled the ball and then made a poor read, so he's got one option:

triple-option-5

Four yards.

Takeaways:

  • Just because the backside DE is crashing down doesn't mean you have to pull the ball. This would have been a big gainer if Forcier handed it off.
  • Scrape exchanges are not a magic pill. They pull defenders out of position and the right play call—or read—can exploit them.
  • Forcier is, yes, a freshman. He made a number of mistakes against Western of this variety.
  • But even so it's nice to have a guy like Forcier who can turn his mistake into positive yards. Michigan had a lot of screwups in game one but most of them still went forward. That's a huge difference from last year.

Picture Pages: Bubble Screen Professor

Picture Pages: Bubble Screen Professor

Submitted by Brian on November 14th, 2008 at 11:31 AM

The bubble screen is a staple of the spread 'n' shred. It's tough to defend without committing a player that would otherwise be in the box to the slot receiver, and if you've got the right zippy dwarf running it it can break big.

Theoretically, it should be an easy throw, but it requires precise timing and location. If you're off by a couple feet on a longer ball you might take the receiver off his feet but you've still picked up eight, ten, fifteen yards. If you're errant on the bubble screen you'll slow the receiver and wreck the play. Or you could, like, throw it backwards and provide a free turnover to an opponent.

Since that last horrible example has actually occurred this year, this will be no surprise: Michigan's quarterbacks have been pretty iffy on them all year. However, Nick Sheridan had a couple beauties against Minnesota. Here's the purtiest:

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Minnesota lines up in a 3-4 with a linebacker or safety sort lined up over Clemons. The outside coverage is offering eight-yard cushions; this is a pre-snap setup that looks perfect for the bubble. (It's markedly different than Illinois' approach.) Especially when…

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…the guy covering the slot blitzes. Michigan gives the dive fake, then Sheridan pulls up for the bubble. Note the position of Clemons at the moment. He's four yards behind the line of scrimmage. He will give another yards as he searches for depth, then run forward to a designated spot.

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Here Clemons has acquired the ball. You can see the setup downfield, with the outside receivers blocking the two defenders and a safety attempting to close it down from the outside. The key here is the timing of the pass and its location: Clemons catches this in stride, facing downfield.  There is no delay between the catch and run. This has not frequently been the case this year.

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Excellent blocks from the two receivers and a not-quite-quick-enough reaction from the safety provide…

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…a first down. Clemons will use his momentum to get ten more.

Here's the video:

Here's a similar play against a defense that's basically the same except the opposition defensive backs are offering less cushion:

In UFR I said this one "isn't as upfield as it should be," and you see Odoms has to turn his body upfield a bit to catch a ball slightly behind him. I think I overstated my criticism a little bit on review (review-review, actually); this one also sees Odoms catch the ball basically in stride.

A couple notes:

  • I can't find where I read this, but IIRC when you see Michigan give a handoff fake before the bubble screen, that's a read. When it's a presnap call they just throw it.
  • I'm not sure if different defensive alignments call for different sorts of throws and may be partly responsible for the QBs not throwing these "right" much of the year. But I kind of doubt it; even this well-timed bubble is caught four yards behind the LOS.
  • This is the kind of thing I thought we would be surprised we missed without Henne. (We all knew we'd miss, say, laser post passes to Adrian Arrington.)

Picture Pages: Adjustments Not So Much

Picture Pages: Adjustments Not So Much

Submitted by Brian on October 8th, 2008 at 12:53 PM

We're back with a trips formation.

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Check out that guy lined up outside of Mathews way out there: that's a linebacker. He is on the LOS outside of a couple wide receivers. Weird.

Michigan will run a zone stretch, and Illinois will do what they did:

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Again we see the backside defensive end crashing in with no thought for Threet. He can do this because Miller is shooting out to contain the QB, like we saw on the last play.

Also, check the linebacker, already flowing upfield as soon as he sees the play start.

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Check the very top of the screen: if Michigan was to throw a bubble screen Odoms would probably get lit up, as the linebacker has used his advantageous position to hop past the wide receiver. This defense takes away all three prongs of the Rodriguez system.

But it doesn't take away everything. Look at the vast huge gaping hole between that linebacker and Miller. If Odoms was just to not go anywhere, or if he was to run a little hitch to the line of scrimmage, he would be wide open. Illinois's secondary is playing in the parking lot. If Odoms was to come in at the snap and establish a pitch relationship with Threet, there's no one to cover him on the option. This is not defeat for the zone read; it's just defeat for Michigan's zone read at this moment.

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Anyway, McGuffie is forced to cut back because Schilling's been driven into the backfield…

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… and gets smooshed.

The instant conclusion to jump to is that Rodriguez got beat. Illinois regularly deployed this gimmicky defense specifically aimed the staple of his offense. It has big gaping flaws in it that Michigan did not adjust to. They assumed Michigan would run on first down, put themselves in a position to stop it, and did; Michigan did not go to a throwing mode.

It's not that easy, of course, when you're a coach at a new school and you're using freshmen everywhere. Illinois, like Oregon, has guys who have been in this offense for multiple years and they pulled out a vast array of sleight-of-hand. Michigan probably doesn't have that rabbit in its hat yet.

Still… doing the UFR here was a sad trip into the recent past. At this point we know the line is better at pass blocking than run blocking—though Ortmann was way worse at guard than he was a tackle—and that teams are teeing off on the zone-read/bubble on first and ten; too rarely did we go away from that.