Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Rutgers

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Rutgers

Submitted by Brian on November 2nd, 2017 at 4:35 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTE. Boy it's a little depressing to play a team that brings nothing other than disinterested New Yorkers who mostly spend their time watching Guy Fieri instead of football. Rutgers purports to be an athletic program but it's really just a way to reach into someone's pockets. Unlike HomeSure Lending, which does exactly what it purports to: sure, lend for homes. It's in the name and everything. Like if Rutgers's mascot really was the Cable Subscribers.

That's truth in advertising, and quick excellent rates for you, the discerning Michigan fan.

FORMATION NOTES. Michigan almost entirely shelved the 3-3-5 in this game. There were nine snaps with a three-man line, but eight of those were passing downs. The rest of the day Michigan played a 4-2-5. Usually that saw Michigan with two definite ILBs and Hudson following the tight end around, often a couple yards deeper than the LB crew:

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You will be happy to know that Michigan did not put either ILB outside in coverage. When someone got pulled out of the box it was always Hudson. Here Rutgers puts their tight end out wide and he's the guy in man coverage to the bottom of the shot.

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Rutgers didn't go empty, which would force one of the LBs out of the box if Michigan was going to play man.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES. Biggest change was a ton of second DT snaps, the vast majority of which went to Solomon. Michigan had 38 4-2-5 snaps and he got 30 of them, with Dwumfour getting five late and Mone getting just spot duty. The rest of the defense was as before, with the secondary the same five guys rotating through, McCray and Bush omnipresent, and Hurst, Gary, and Winovich the rest of the front.

Kemp, Jones, Dwumfour, and Paye got some snaps late on the line. Uche got in a little bit late, as did Gil.

[After THE JUMP: the usual]

Michigan 28, Purdue 10

Michigan 28, Purdue 10

Submitted by Ace on September 23rd, 2017 at 8:52 PM


John O'Korn (#8) breathed life into the Michigan offense. [Patrick Barron]

While it certainly wasn't how they planned it, Michigan may have solved their passing problems.

The trip to Purdue couldn't have started off much worse. Facing a fired-up, trash-talking Boilermakers squad, the Wolverines looked ripe for an upset in the first half. For a while, the game seemed designed for maximum frustration; first the preceding baseball game went into extra innings, causing out-of-staters to scramble to find the Fox Business Channel. Then, more disconcertingly, the offense looked even more broken than before.

Karan Higdon rushed for a first down on Michigan's first offensive snap. They'd go three-and-out to follow; the next two drives ended in the same fashion. The offensive line couldn't protect Wilton Speight or open up holes for the backs, the playcalling felt predictable and conservative. Midway through the first quarter, the game was deadlocked in an ugly scoreless draw.

Then an awkward hit changed the course of the game, and perhaps Michigan's season. As Markus Bailey came through the line untouched to sack Speight, 295-pound defensive tackle Eddy Wilson delivered a second blow that crumpled Michigan's quarterback, who stayed down before eventually being taken for X-rays and further testing. This was disaster. Yes, Speight hadn't been good this season, but he'd won the job for the second straight year over John O'Korn, and O'Korn didn't inspire any confidence in his previous appearances in maize and blue.


Zach Gentry dives for the touchdown. [Eric Upchurch]

So, of course, O'Korn promptly led the offense on a 13-play, 84-yard touchdown drive, completing all five of his passes, including a 12-yard scoring toss to Zach Gentry. Michigan had finally broken through. Two questions loomed. First, could Purdue counter? Second, could O'Korn keep it going?

The early returns weren't good in either regard. The Boilermakers hit back on the very next drive, covering 75 yards in only five plays after switching from David Blough to Elijah Sindelar at quarterback. O'Korn followed that with an interception after he threw a ball well behind Kekoa Crawford. Purdue cashed in with a field goal and entered halftime with a 10-7 lead. The Boilermakers had outgained Michigan 179 yards to 131. With Michigan's offense primed to struggle, the game would likely come down to a battle of wits between Purdue mad scientist Jeff Brohm and Don Brown.

Purdue would finish the game with 189 yards. Winner: Brown.

The total dominance by the defense would've been enough to avoid the upset. The offense, to everyone's considerable relief, did much more than rely on that to carry the day. After a punt and a lost fumble by Higdon, Michigan mounted an 11-play, 86-yard drive that calmed a lot of nerves. The coaches seemed to simplify the playbook for O'Korn, who looked to his tight ends and Grant Perry to catch and run with short passes. The drive only got going in the first place when O'Korn improbably spun out of a sack, reset, and hit Perry to covert a third down. It ended on a gorgeous playcall when M lined up showing a crack sweep look but instead had Chris Evans hit an interior hole off the pitch; the unexpected constraint play allowed him to waltz in from ten yards out.


Chase Winovich, with three sacks, had another dominant game. [Bryan Fuller]

O'Korn's next drive featured more creating outside the pocket, more big plays to Sean McKeon and Zach Gentry, and a targeting penalty on Purdue's Jawhaun Bentley. Ty Isaac finished that one off from a yard out, squeezing through a tackle off the right side and bursting into the end zone.

At this point, Purdue was desperately flipping quarterbacks, but had no answer for Michigan's ferocious defense. Blough re-entered in the fourth quarter only to be pummeled into the turf. After the eighth of nine three-and-outs forced by the Wolverines, Evans broke the game wide open with a 49-yard slice through the gut of the defense. Up 28-10 against a team that couldn't move the ball, Michigan went into clock-killing mode. The final six minutes and change passed in a hurry, helped along when Mike Wroblewski knocked the ball out of Terry Wright's hands for a Noah Furbush fumble recovery.

After averaging a woeful 3.7 yards per play in the first half, Michigan hummed along at a 7.3-yard clip in the second. O'Korn, despite a couple hiccups, looked like a completely different player from the one who underwhelmed when Speight was hurt last year. The defense, meanwhile, amassed five sacks, three of them by Chase Winovich, and took the run away from the Boilermakers entirely.

After the game, Jim Harbaugh said Speight suffered a "soft tissue" injury and declined to give a timeline for how long he'd be out. With a bye week ahead to work with the first-team offense, however, it's hard to imagine O'Korn hasn't earned his shot to lead this team against Michigan State. At the very least, Michigan heads into their week off at 4-0 and finally carrying some momentum on offense.

Beet-Red And Nude

Beet-Red And Nude

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2017 at 12:35 PM

9/16/2017 – Michigan 29, Air Force 13 – 3-0

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also this happened [Eric Upchurch]

I have ceased being a person who gets seriously exercised about the shortcomings, real or imagined, of Michigan's coaching staff. I will get my grouse on when it's fourth and a half yard and Michigan punts, because if I tried to hold that in I would literally die. There's some stuff later in this post about giving the ball to the Hammering Panda on short yardage and how it's dumb and stupid not to. There will always be niggling details that grate.

But I'm not going to freak out because Michigan's offense is struggling. If my mentions, or Ace's, or poor damn Nick Baumgardner's are any indication the Air Force game was HONEYMOON OVER for a healthy section of Michigan's fanbase. No doubt Sam and Ira have just completed four hours of radio where 75% of the callers were spittle-flecked, nude, and beet-red, proclaiming manifestoes about the personal embarrassment they were caused when Michigan could not score an offensive touchdown in the first 59 minutes of a game against a Mountain West team.

And... eh. I mean, nobody sane could disagree with propositions up to and including "this offense is butt and probably going to cost Michigan any chance of silverware." I wish the offense was not butt, too. In previous years I might be nude and beet-red, writing a manifesto about how I suffered personal embarrassment when Fitz Toussaint ran 27 times for 27 yards.

I am not. I'm going to see how this works out.

I'd like to think this is because I am so good at looking at football that I know that Michigan's problems under Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke were clear, severe, and systemic coaching issues while Harbaugh's are not. To some extent this is probably true: Harbaugh has not switched his base defense midseason in a panic (twice!), or decided that "tackle over" was an offense instead of a gimmick, or continued inserting a quarterback without an ulnar nerve in the second half of an Ohio State game. The worst tactical issue he's had so far was the increasingly disappointing Pepcat package last year, which is a speeding ticket compared to the grand felonies perpetrated by Michigan's last two coaching staffs. Check that: three coaching staffs.

But I'm also extrapolating based on track record. There is an element of faith that Harbaugh engenders, because... uh... I mean, obviously? If you need numbers, here's Stanford, with Harbaugh in bold:

Team Year Record FEI S&P YPC YPA YPP
Stanford 2006 1-11 N/A 113 2.1 (118th) 6.3 N/A
Stanford 2007 4-8 61 83 3.0 (113th) 6 N/A
Stanford 2008 5-7 48 31 4.9 (20th) 6.4 (82nd) 59
Stanford 2009 8-5 1 6 5.2 (7th) 8.7 (7th) 9
Stanford 2010 12-1 5 3 5.2 (16th) 8.9 (10th) 13
Stanford 2011 11-2 6 8 5.3 (13th) 8.7 (7th) 6

Harbaugh embarked on a similar project at San Francisco. The 49ers were 25th in Football Outsider's DVOA fancystat the year before his arrival. They improved to 18th in year one and then had consecutive top ten years (fifth and eighth) before a dropoff in Harbaugh's final season under Jed York. That last season is the only one in Harbaugh's pre-Michigan coaching career where the offense isn't either taking a significant step forward or an elite or near-elite unit, and it's saddled with a bunch of confounding factors. (SF got hit with a blizzard of injuries that year, oh and the owner was trying to force out a guy who'd gone to three consecutive NFC Championship games because reasons.)

At Michigan he immediately took the dead thing that was the Brady Hoke offense and made it okay, leaping from 89th to 38th in S&P+. Last year plateaued largely because the starting QB inexplicably went in the tank in Iowa and then did something nasty to his shoulder.

If the late slide a year ago and early sputters from a team that lost seven starters is enough to overthrow Harbaugh's long career of mostly great offenses in your mind, please go away. Yes, there are problems. No, this isn't Lloyd Carr turning Tom Brady, David Terrell, Anthony Thomas, and four long-term NFL starters into the 60th-best offense in the country. Bitching about Harbaugh's offense makes no sense after two years of inventive game plans, plays I have to invent terms for after a decade of doing this, and mostly solid results despite Brady Hoke's abominable late offensive recruiting*.

This feels bad man. But put your damn clothes on and stick to not sports.

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

*[Deep breaths. Ready?

The only offensive recruit to even make it to year five from the 2013 class are Patrick Kugler and the fullbacks. De'Veon Smith and Jake Butt were productive and graduated. Da'Mario Jones, Csont'e York, Jaron Dukes, Dan Samuelson, Wyatt Shallman, Chris Fox, David Dawson, Kyle Bosch, Shane Morris, and Derrick Green all burned out without making any impact.

Hoke's miserable 2014 class has Speight, the starting QB, Mason Cole, Ian Bunting, and nobody else even contributing. Moe Ways, Juwann Bushell-Beatty, Freddy Canteen, Drake Harris are all gone or benched.

And literally the only offensive recruits Hoke left Harbaugh in the transition class were Alex Malzone, John Runyan Jr, and Grant Newsome. That is three recruiting years producing four starters.]

[After THE JUMP: but hey the defense though]

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Upon Further Review 2017: Defense vs Cincinnati

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2017 at 3:33 PM

2017 logoo_thumb

SPONSOR NOTE: I would like to focus on that Larry Culpepper thing. Again. I mean, you've got HomeSure Lending. He's Pitbull here. He has parties. Sometimes underneath overpasses, and he just wants you to have a real good time. He's a Michigan fan, and he loves sharing the Michigan with you.

Other companies, when not putting kittens into their hummus, are running around blaring about rockets or how they invented mortgages and are very annoying and aren't offering you free food or #content. This is not a hard decision, especially when Matt gets you lightning fast quotes.

FORMATION NOTES: More four man fronts in this one. Excluding the final backup-laden drive, I had Michigan down for

  • 45 3-3-5 snaps,
  • 1 3-2-6 dime snap,
  • 11 4-2-5 snaps, and
  • 11 4-3-4 snaps.

They did this weird thing some, which I called "3-3 line slide":

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Winovich is your "nose tackle" and the other DL are to his left.

They'd also do this thing where they had a huge split between "NT" Hurst and Gary:

vlcsnap-2017-09-11-20h28m18s765

These were both pass rush exotics.

Here is a good old 4-3 even. Funny old thing.

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SUBSTITUTION NOTES: It was always Mone as the fourth DL, so Mone got 22 snaps, about a third of the total. Other starting DL went almost the whole way. Winovich/Hurst/Gary each briefly gave way to Jones/Marshall/Kemp but their snaps were probably under 5 each.

Linebackers were McCray, Bush, and Furbush throughout save the last half of the first UC touchdown drive, when Bush was sidelined with a minor injury and Wroblewski came in. Wroblewski will henceforth be called Robo. Furbush of course missed out on the 4-2-5 snaps.

In the secondary, Kinnel and Metellus were omnipresent; Hill, Watson, and Long rotated through the corner snaps with a scattered few claimed by Ambry Thomas. Glasgow did get one snap on which he defended a slant like a vengeful Kenny G. I think it was just one—he rather sticks out.

Depth chart mavens might be interested in the final drive, which saw Kemp-Dwumfour-Solomon-Paye across the front and a linebacker corps of Uche-Robo-Gil; secondary remained the same.

[After THE JUMP: the killers!]