Upon Further Review: Offense vs Eastern Michigan

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Eastern Michigan

Submitted by Brian on September 24th, 2009 at 1:43 PM

Formation notes: I usually don't try to determine what personnel the opponent has on the field because it's nearly impossible and the TV announcer men never tell you. So EMU may have just run the same sets of folks out there the whole game, I don't know. I do know that I dubbed this the "nickel" look:

emu-nickel

The guy over the slot receiver there is in man. This would normally leave only six in the box but EMU would walk a safety up, as you can see. The "base 4-3" is basically this with the linebackers slid over and EMU in a two-deep shell. Why would Ron English do this against a high powered spread run offense? I don't know. Ask Armanti Edwards YES I'M STILL A LITTLE BITTER.

Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 30
This basically never happened last year no matter how much Michigan tried: this is an outside zone that gets outside the tackle. When that happens it's nice play by the tackle in question, so +1 for Huyge. Also excellent work by Molk(+1) to seal the playside DT—reach block—and Koger(+1) to crush the OLB to the playside. Brown has huge space, darts into the secondary, and is on his way to six points when a diving safety manages to trip him up from behind.
O21 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Odoms Inc
With EMU not directly over the slots this is open, though there's a chance a crappy block by the outside WR ends this play near the LOS. We never find out, though, as Forcier throws it way high. (IN, 0, screen)
O21 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 0 2 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 4
Ortmann(-1) fails to cut the backside DT and the playside guy is slanting really hard; Molk eventually does get a seal but it's too late for there to be a crease. The hard slant opened up a cutback lane and Schilling(+1) cut the MLB to ribbons, so Brown's got a lane he takes. The backside DT tackles from behind.
O17 3 6 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Forcier -3
Eastern waiting for it, blitzing right into it. Forcier can't make the blitzer miss and loses three. Their rock, our scissors.
Drive Notes: FG(37), 3-0, 10 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M40 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read inside Brown 6
Maybe? This could just be a quick read; I'm not great at differentiating inside and outside zone plays. Anyway, the backside DT gets playside of Ortmann but it doesn't matter much because EMU is not running a scrape exchange and the DE, pulled upfield, leaves a big cutback lane for Brown. He takes it, slashing upfield and into a couple of linebackers for a good gain. Help here from experts and laity requested.
M46 2 4 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Grady(19) 3
Hard-charging EMU corner forces Grady to cut it up inside of Webb, who does a good job blocking the guy. Grady's got a choice between slamming it upfield for a first down and not much more or trying to pop it outside for lots. He picks the latter and gets taken down; mistake on his part. (CA, 3, screen)
M49 3 1 I-Form covered twins 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Off tackle (Down G) Brown 14
Oooh, look, a pulling guard. This is our version of that EMU play, I believe. EMU's playing this pretty soft, with both safeties relatively far back and the linebackers off the LOS. They are trying to slant inside and Michigan catches them with an off tackle play. Huyge(+2) gets an excellent downfield block and Webb(+1) seals away the slanting DL, leaving Grady and Schilling on the edge against one EMU player; Grady(+1) takes him out. Brown makes a quick cut upfield into lots of space. Huyge's block is really excellent.
O37 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Minor 13
Michigan again gets outside the tackle, so give Ortmann +1 and another +1 for Molk, who sealed his guy on a reach. Second level blocks from Schilling and Ferrara are good; Huyge manages to push his guy past Minor as the trio comes together a few yards downfield and Minor runs through the traffic for another first down. First time I've seen Michigan get outside the tackles consistently in the RR era.
O24 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read inside Minor 5
Virtual replay of the earlier Brown run where EMU slants hard to the playside, leaving a cutback lane because they're not scraping.
O19 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read inside Minor 3
Here Molk(-1) gets blown back into the backfield as the playside DT gets an outstanding jump. Minor's forced to cut up way inside of where he wants to go, and the timing of the play is blown up. Only reason this isn't a bigger loss is that Michigan down-blocked with Ferrara and pulled Huyge around him to get to the second level, so there was no pursuing backside DT this time. Shows some faith in Huyge to expect him to be agile enough to make this block.
O16 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout hitch Grady(19) 11
Zone read fake with Schilling pulling out to provide some pass protection on Forcier's rollout. He delays the backside DE, giving Forcier time to zip an accurate bullet to Grady for eight or so plus a little YAC. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
O5 1 G Shotgun 2-back 0 2 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown -4
On Forcier, I think, as the EMU DE sells out on the stretch, as does the rest of the defense. A keeper has Forcier 1-on-1 with a linebacker and is either a touchdown or close to it. EMI has thrown eight guys at this and it's pretty well blown up; if I had to finger one blocker I think it's Ferrara(-1), who got blown back and allowed the backside pursuit to be relevant when Brown tried to cut back
O9 2 G Ace 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Off tackle Brown 9
Michigan might have gotten away with one as Huyge moves what looks like a fraction early. He downblocks the DT, blowing him off the ball (head start probably helped); the unblocked DE gets confused by a Grady end-around fake, opening up a lane for Brown that he runs straight up into, getting chopped down just as he crosses the goal line.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-3, 2 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 0 2 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Corner Odoms 26
Michigan's trying to take advantage of the EMU linebacker on Odoms and running routes on him as he's in man coverage. This coverage is actually pretty good but Forcier lays it in there and Odoms makes a tough catch along the sideline. Excellent execution except maybe on the route. Odoms should be more open than this. (DO, 2, protection 1/1)
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Forcier 2
EMU shows cover one, so there are seven in the box. Forcier reads the crashing DE and pulls it and Huyge's out to block the WLB. Forcier doesn't read that aspect of the play and takes it too far outside. Slicing upfield immediately would have gotten him into the secondary one-on-one with a single safety; instead his outside angle allows the WLB to come around Huyge and tackle for little gain.
O41 2 8 ??? ? ? ? ? Pass Hitch? Hemingway 7
Miss this entire play for a replay of the last one. Here's a guess from memory: (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O34 3 1 Ace 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Inside zone Shaw 22
Poor job by Ferrara(-1) of sealing his guy to the outside; he just gets beat, which means the hole Schilling(+1) blew open by crushing the other DT is not open. Shaw(+2) cuts back into an unblocked safety, then makes him look stupid. Damn that kid is fast. Steps out, barely, or this is a touchdown.
O12 1 10 Ace 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Inside zone Shaw 7
Extremely aggressive by EMU, with nine guys in the box. A similar result to the last play except with all the guys jamming the LOS the lack of creases is understandable. Shaw again goes backside, picking up good blocks from Ortmann and one of the TEs—can't make out who—before the ninth guy, unblocked on the backside, tracks him down from behind.
O5 2 3 I-Form covered twins 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Down G Shaw 5
Same play as the earlier I-form, with Schilling pulling around as everyone else blocks down. EMU SLB must be in man on Koger or something because he runs himself a couple steps inside when Koger blocks down, which just about takes him out of the play. Koger and Huyge crush the playside DE; Grady(+1) blasts the SLB, taking another linebacker out with him, and Schilling picks off a filling safety; Shaw into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-10, 9 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M10 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone counter dive Brown 90
You know this play, as it's been discussed in Picture Pages. Michigan runs it again, with Webb(+1) kicking out the DE, Schilling(+1) pancaking the DT, Ortmann and Molk(+1 each) getting solid second-level blocks on the EMU LBs. One EMU safety is charging to the line on a scrape exchange with the DE and the other one heads outside a bit in anticipation of a stretch. Maybe the latter guy recovers against Brandon Minor, but not against Brown. Woop. Gone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-10, 7 min 2nd Q. OH NOES THE TIME OF POSSESSION. Robinson gets the next drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Throwback screen Mathews Inc
Great playcall that drags nine EMU defenders to Robinson's side and is one Schilling block on a safety from being six points. Robinson's throw is way outside and high though; instead of leading Mathews back inside where the corner can get walled off by Ortmann he throws a pass that's too high to catch and too outside for the corner to get blocked. (IN, 1, screen)
M13 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB draw Robinson 11
EMU has adjusted and is now dedicating a player to the slot receiver and walking up a safety. Robinson reaction? Also why the hell couldn't English figure this out against Armanti Edwards? One thing English hasn't figured out: aggression. All three LBs sit back and wait for the play to come to them; easy double for Schilling and Molk gets the playside DT out of the picture and Shaw(+1) pops the MLB, springing Robinson into the secondary. Robinson impressively drives for an extra three or so yards. BONUS: WMU replay sees color guy compliment Robinson for—no foolies—having the “headiness to pick the ball up.”
M24 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Shaw -1
Mplk(-1) driven back by the DT and Ortmann(-1) also gives ground, forcing Shaw to cut it up into a linebacker who Schilling can't block because the players in the backfield have robbed him of his angle.
M23 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout corner Odoms Inc
Man coverage on the receivers; Odoms gives a good shimmy to the inside, getting the corner to turn his hips and breaking himself open outside. Robinson lays it in excellently; Odoms bobbles it and on replay the play comes back. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1) Ugh. On replay, this is a dodgy overturn. It looks like Odoms secures the ball and still has a foot down. CONSPIRACY
M23 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Post Odoms Int
Live I thought this was a horrible decision; it's not. Odoms is two steps inside the defender and a step past him with no deep safety. If this ball is on the money it's a touchdown, but it's way short, undercut, and intercepted. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Interception, 24-10, 4 min 2nd Q. Well... if you want to look at the bright side, if Robinson ever completes a pass it'll go for huge yardage because the defense is freaking out about him.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA TE flat -- -9
Ends in a sack as EMU is shooting a safety towards the line of scrimmage to cover the TE (was he the contain on a scrape?) and he's covered despite the man coverage that would normally see him burst open. Playside LB is charging hard, forcing Forcier to hold up and attempt to reverse field. He's surrounded and sacked. Interesting note: Brown was wide open on a wheel finishing his route here. Wonder if we see that added where Forcier pulls up on the rollout and hits that on a throwback. Forcier(-2) fumbles, BTW. (TA, 0, protection N/A)
M22 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Brown 14
Same play as the touchdown; this one is a great example of the scrape backer running himself out of the play and giving the tailback huge room. Safety takes a better angle this time and prevents another touchdown.
M36 3 5 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Hitch Webb 4
Either Webb's got to run this past the sticks or Forcier has to look at the guy on a hitch right next to him who's open for two more yards and a first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-17, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Slant Stonum 10
Our zone-read-bubble-fake-to-slant play, which gets Stonum open for a nice gain. Good timing, good catch. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M35 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 0 2 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Brown 7
This is a modified form of the dive play that Brown took for 90 earlier with Grady(+1) functioning as the H-back and an end-around threat from Grady(er...) supposed to hold any potential scraper outside. This is M beating the EMU coaches, as the playside EMU DT is slanting away from the hole and gets blasted downfield by Schilling(+1). Good downfield blocks from Molk and Ortmann help; good safety fill holds this down somewhat.
M42 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 3
Seven guys in the box and a blitzing corner—aggressive run D—to the stretch side. Molk(+1) manages to get his reach block on the playside DT; Brown has a hole to shoot up into but I think he's trying to take it outside the tackle, which has been closed off by the CB blitz, and he's a little late hitting it, allowing the crashing DE to tackle from behind. Momentum takes them forward and to the first down.
M45 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Tunnel screen Mathews Inc
Excellent play by the DE to the playside to avoid a cut from Huyge(-1) and leap in the passing lane, forcing Forcier to throw it high and uncatchable. Poor downfield block from Koger would have seen this blown up anyway. I'm filing this as a TA since it could have gone a lot worse and I'm giving Forcier the benefit of the doubt. (TA, 0, protection 0/1, Huyge)
M45 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Stonum Inc
Great protection; Forcier loads up and tosses it to Stonum, who does have a step on his guy. Forcier leaves it short. I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd catches this, right? (MA, 1, protection 3/3)
M45 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack --
EMU gets a delayed, looping blitz and drops into an effective zone on the short side, where Forcier's first read is. Neither the slant nor the wheel is open, so Forcier hesitates, at which point the blitzer is on him. Time to take the sack, and he does. (TA, 0, protection 1/3, team -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-17, 13 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 0 2 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Shaw -1
Molk(-1) gets blown back and into the running lane, forcing a cutback into the crashing DE and no gain. Bubble was open, FWIW.
M46 2 11 Shotgun 2-back 0 2 3 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Forcier 3
Forcier pulls it out and runs into the scraping WLB near the LOS. He heads outside and manages to pick up a few.
M49 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Seam Webb Inc
Weird camera angle so I can't tell you much. Webb gets hit between the numbers, though, for easy first down yardage, and drops it. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-17, 10 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M40 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Inside zone Brown 4
This is something different, with Michigan shooting the FB backside but apparently intending this to go more up the center, possibly into the A gap between C and G on the strongside. Schilling and Ortmann are doubling the backside DT but can get him to the ground and he dives over Schilling to tackle Brown; Brown could have taken this outside, maybe, but wasn't expecting the DT.
M44 2 6 Shotgun 2-back Twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Brown 3
Koger pushed too far back to take it outside; Molk gets a seal and Huyge/Ferrara scoop the playside DE; so Brown's got a crease. Lot of guys in a small area, though, and Huyge(-1) actually gets blown back on his attempt to block a LB downfield, so not much room.
M47 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Scramble Forcier 20
Excellent protection gives Forcier some time and then a lane to step up into when he can't find anyone open downfield. With EMU in man Forcier recognizes the tons of space and just takes off. (TA, NA, protection 2/2)
O33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Odoms 7
Been wondering why they haven't gone to this a little more when EMU shows it's open. Here they do and Forcier takes the simple play. (CA, 3, screen) Good block from Stonum.
O26 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Shaw 18
Man, we're just gashing people on this all the time. Wonder how it will hold up during Big Ten play. Pretty much the same thing: TE pulls and blows out the crashing DE, line downblocks, and the scrape backer pulls himself out of position. Shaw zips into the secondary and puts a sick, sick move on the safety that doesn't result in a touchdown because the safety reaches out and manages to get a desperate handful of jersey. Robbed of a TD. I like that Shaw tries to juke these guys; seems like Brown and Minor just run into 'em.
O8 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Shaw 0
Ortmann(-1) lets his guy way upfield and forces a cutback; Huyge couldn't do anything to impede the backside DT and he and the backside DT converge to tackle.
O8 2 G I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Nickel Penalty False start Schilling Pen -5
Multiple guys move, actually.
O13 2 G Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Run Reverse Odoms 13
Odoms comes across the formation as M shows a speed option look. He gets the pitch. Backside guys are the DE, who is crashing and just gone, the WLB, who Savoy(+1) crushes, and two members of the secondary that Ortmann and Grady take care of. Odoms sets up his blocks well and cruises into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-17, 4 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA rollout -- Inc
Zone read fake an a rollout on which Forcier is contained and needs to get rid of the ball. He's got a little out for at least four and maybe more if Grady(19) can beat the guy in man on him, but instead of throwing it he starts running around, eventually getting crushed as he attempts to throw it way. Filing this as a mild bad read. (BR, 0, protection NA)
O21 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone counter dive Brown 8
Robinson in. Ferrara(+1) blasts the DT down the line, Webb(+1) again pops the crashing DL, and the linebackers 1) follow Webb in man, 2) attempt to scrape on Robinson, and 3) shuffle anticipating a stretch. Brown into the secondary; quick safety fill.
O13 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 13
Not sure if this is improvisation or misdirection as Brown shoots up towards the right side of the line, which draws some linebackers from that side but the hole opens up on the left; Robinson sees it and jets, moving too fast to be seen or caught. Good blocks from Molk(+1) and Schilling(+1) to open the crease.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 38-17, 3 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M5 1 10 Ace twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Inside zone Shaw 5
Good read from Shaw as the backside DT slants too heavily and the DE to that side is sealed away; he hits it up. He should probably try to go between the linebackers, who both have blockers on them, but heads outside and is chopped down by CB pursuit.
M10 2 5 Ace 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Inside zone Shaw -2
Nowhere to go as both Schilling(-1) and Ferrara get banged back and Koger(-1) slips. Shaw runs into Schilling's back and goes down.
M12 3 7 Shotgun 2-back 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Pass Fly Mathews
Safe either get the first down or punt stuff. Borderline interference, way way worse than the Cissoko one, but not called. (CA, 0, protection 2/2). Actually, yeah, this is totally interference as the CB is riding Mathews to the sideline.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-17, 8 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form TE RB WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 10
DL again slants into the backfield, leaving Smith nowhere to go. Smith should get crushed by the backside DE but zips around him and to the outside where Robinson gets a block on an OLB and springs Smith for a good gain.
O36 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 36
Weeeee. Double on the NT drives him back and blitzing linebackers attempt to fill both holes; Smith(+1) gets a pad-popping block on one and Robinson shoots into the secondary, where he is not caught because obviously.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 47-17, 7 min 4th Q. All backups for the rest of the game so charting stops here. Robinson's bomb is filed IN 0 and is at Roundtree. Here's Cox's run, though.

We kind of sucked, couldn't complete a forward pass, and still put up 45 points on an opponent. Woo spread 'n' shred?

Woo spread 'n' shred. The last time Michigan rushed for that many yards was the 2003 Houston game that preceded the 38-0 shellacking of Ty Willingham and ND that saw the student section chant "Houston's better" at the Irish, which latter point I bring up for no reason whatsoever. Remember this?

Before the Ohio State game I mentioned a remarkable statistic: in this year of safeties living in the box and injuries and a makeshift offensive line and just all-around disaster on offense, Michigan actually had a higher yards per carry than they did the year before.

!!!

It was close, though, and Ohio State stomped that. Michigan finished the year averaging 3.91 YPC. 2007 beat that out by six hundredths of a yard. Okay, that's still pretty remarkable. Here's a pop quiz: where does that YPC rank over the past eight years?

# Year YPC
1 2006 4.27
2 2003 4.25
3 2007 3.97
4 2008 3.91
5 2005 3.89
6 2004 3.83
7 2002 3.82
8 2001 3.59

Fourth! Above average!

Through three games, Michigan is obliterating every mark on that list by more than a full two yards. They're currently cranking out 6.39 YPC. Yes, two of those games were against MAC opponents and the third was against the nation's #74 rush defense, one that would rank considerably worse if they were going by YPC, etc etc etc. And yes that number is going to come down precipitously as Michigan churns through Big Ten play.

But the question here isn't "will this be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade?" It's "by how much will this be Michigan's best rushing offense of the decade?" Here's another handy—

Chart?

—chart I put together for Hail To the Victors 2008 comparing the rushing offenses of West Virginia, Northwestern, and Michigan over the same timespan:

Year West Virginia Northwestern Michigan
YPC Nat'l Rank YPC Nat'l Rank YPC Nat'l Rank
2001 4.19 36th 4.1 45th 3.59 78th
2002 5.16 8th 4.31 39th 3.82 66th
2003 4.6 19th 4.65 18th 4.25 44th
2004 5.14 9th 4.64 26th 3.83 68th
2005 5.23 11th 5.03 14th 3.89 57th
2006 6.68 1st 4.04 52nd 4.27 42nd
2007 6.15 1st 3.61 85th 3.97 61st

Northwestern ran the exact same offense Rodriguez did and crushed Michigan in YPC every year until Randy Walker's untimely death and Northwestern's ensuing descent into disarray. Four of Northwestern's seven marks on this list would be Michigan's best rushing year in the 21st century, and they never had the luxury of playing their own generally-horrible defense. Leap. This is it. The leap.

Okay, woo spread 'n' shred is stipulated. But how, exactly, is Michigan doing this?

I've beaten one aspect into the ground over the first month of the season: Michigan has devised a  suite of highly effective counters to the scrape exchange that exploit the opponent's over-reaction to the frontside and backside of the play to gash defenses not quite right up the middle but slightly to the left or right of the middle.

The other bits are an extension of what was happening at the tail end of last year, when Michigan's run game went from abysmal against Not Notre Dame to above average. The line learned their assignments better and stopped being such a sieve. Brandon Minor RAGED his way into the starting lineup and blasted through tackles instead of meekly submitting to them. The quarterbacks… uh… were the quarterbacks. So this year you've got a pair of senior tailbacks and and improved, non-gimpy version of Mike Shaw. You've got a line of veterans, though Molk's injury will provide some drag over the next 4-6 weeks. And you've got a pair of quarterbacks who either add to the YPC themselves (Robinson) or force opposing defenses to stop selling out against the run (Forcier). A reminder: over the second half of last year Michigan's rushing offense was about 30th nationally. The leap up to third is a fluke of scheduling and fortune, but once it settles down in the 10-20 range it's likely to stay there.

Surely you have more charts?

Charts, but they're not very useful since all the offensive charts focus on the passing game.

(Hennechart again; 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) - -

DENARD ROBINSON

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

Forcier was just 7 of 13 for 68 yards but his chart isn't too bad. Our Downfield Success Rate is 7 / 11 = 64%, which is about on par with what he's been doing so far, and one of those TAs (throwaways) was actually a 20-yard scramble. Forcier did zing a screen high, though.

Robinson… well. I don't actually think he made any bad decisions, he just made bad throws. On both of his interceptions he had guys running open downfield and left the ball way, way short. And he did mess up a tunnel screen throw that would have been vast yardage if he'd gotten it right. And the did lay a pretty pass in to Martavious Odoms only to see Odoms juggle it and (eventually) drop it. But I am searching for a bunch of excuses for an 0/4 2 INT day.

Receiverchart:

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

This was a less than great day from the receivers, as in limited opportunities two balls got filed as straight drops: the corner route to Odoms that was overturned on review (I still think he actually caught it but it's really close and result-based charting) and the seam to Webb that hit him between the numbers.

Also, let's talk about Darryl Stonum, deep threat. I mentioned this in the play minutiae most of you don't read so let me replicate it here:

Okay, Forcier left this short and Stonum had a step or step and a half on a guy that can't press him. But from above:

I'm grabbing this just so people can maybe talk about Stonum's adjustment to this. I think it's poor. He misjudges the ball and doesn't slow up enough and turn, which would probably have led to the DB running him over and a PI call. Mike Floyd [or Braylon Edwards] catches this, right?

Even if there's no catch, Stonum should at least give himself an opportunity to get both hands on it. And then there's this from the Notre Dame game:

Stonum is running a fly down the sideline with a guy sort of in tow and plenty of room to the sideline and Forcier gets it to him. Stonum turns inside and ends up doing a 360 on a ball that was perfectly placed to the outside. He turns a very catchable ball into a circus attempt. It was open.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a clip of this; it was worse than the above. Stonum's got speed to burn and a great frame, so what's preventing him from being Michael Floyd is the stuff you see above. Floyd is huge, great at adjusting to a ball in flight, and brilliant at using his body as an asset. Same with Braylon Edwards. Mario Manningham was probably the best I'd ever seen at it; he was as good as those guys without having their height. Stonum doesn't have it, at least not yet. I don't know if that's talent or coaching or a combination of both. Junior Hemingway seems pretty good at it. Could just be a thing you've got or you don't. If Steve Breaston had it he would have won the Heisman.

Anyway, that's why I think Stonum is behind where you'd expect he'd be given his recruiting profile.

Offensive line whatnot?

The most useless protection metric ever:

PROTECTION METRIC: 17/20, Huyge –1, Team –2.

Nothing to see here.

Heroes?

Pick a tailback, any tailback, and an offensive lineman, any offensive lineman.

Goats?

Well, you know… made of dilithium and all but Denard Robinson did throw two interceptions.

What does it mean for Indiana and the future?

The Hoosier's run defense is currently #15 nationally but it's hard to tell how legit that is when the opening opponents are Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, and Akron. Given that we're talking about Indiana, the answer is probably "not particularly legit." Michigan wants to continue the pounding ground game against the Hoosiers without showing more of their hand, and you'd imagine they'll be able to. Not to the tune of 10 YPC or even the 7.6 Michigan got outside of the third-longest run in Michigan history, but 5-6-7 in a game where Michigan hopes to spend the second half running out the clock would be fine.

We did get further indication that Denard Robinson is not a suitable replacement for Tate Forcier at the moment, though I figure at this point he's got to be above Sheridan just because I've seen him move.

John Ferrara did pretty well in his first start of the year, though it was against weak competition. The dropoff from the starting line to the Molk-free line might not be too severe. (Though I am pumped to hear Rodriguez describe Molk as not only one of the team's best linemen but "one of the team's best players" when discussing his injury. I lived in moderate fear that the insider reports about Khoury pushing Molk were anywhere near accurate, which would have been a black eye given the David Molk Hype Machine that lives in my keyboard. Then I am not pumped because Molk is out for a month.)

Farther down the road, Michigan looks in excellent shape next year at tailback, where all three backups performed well. Shaw was especially impressive; you could tell that all the stuff about being slowed by a sports hernia was no BS. Guy looked Brown fast. Maybe even faster. Smith and Cox had impressive runs as well, and Fitzgerald Toussaint's highlight tape from high school is a 0.8 McGuffie.

Postgame Presser Notes: Eastern Michigan

Postgame Presser Notes: Eastern Michigan

Submitted by Tim on September 20th, 2009 at 12:42 PM

After a little time to digest it all, here are important notes from the postgame press conference.

  • David Molk suffered a potentially serious foot injury, and Rodriguez hopes it's not broken. If he's out, Moosman and Khoury will step in at the center position. Tate's injury was just bruised ribs, and he should be fine. Rodriguez didn't say it was anything serious in the press conference, but I saw Mike Williams wearing a walking boot outside Crisler Arena after the game. Sitting Minor was precautionary, because he's still sore.
  • Rodriguez seems pretty angry about the Mouton suspension. The worst part: the team wasn't informed until after practice Thursday, which means they didn't even get to practice with the backups in the game. That's inexcusable by the Big Ten, IME. Rodriguez plans to make sure the Big Ten is equally diligent for the rest of the season in suspending players from every team around the conference. He specifically mentioned something that happened at the end of an early game yesterday when a Purdue lineman went after an NIU player with an elbow.
  • The team only had 2 penalties for 20 yards in the game, a major improvement to this point. RR implied that he thought one of them wasn't a great call (I'm going to go out on a limb and say the Cissoko PI), and wasn't happy about it.
  • Coach Rodriguez and Brandon Graham both said they don't want Michigan to be a second-half team, but rather a 4-quarter team. However, it's not surprising with their conditioning that they can wear teams out in the second half.
  • Kevin Leach and Brandon Graham both said there weren't many schematic changes at halftime, but rather an emphasis on players sticking to their gaps and executing their assignments.
  • Craig Roh said he didn't have to think about his interception - he just reacted and came down with the ball.
  • When asked if he really likes running into the South endzone, Denard Robinson had the quote of the day: "I think I had one going this way, too." Rodriguez emphasized that Robinson is a passing threat, and Robinson said his picks were mental mistakes, a result of inexperience.
  • Carlos Brown said it feels good to be healthy, and noted that he ran for more yards in the first half yesterday than he did for all of last year.

[Editor's note: here's the obvious cheapshot by the Purdue player:

You made this bed, Jim Delany, and now it's time to lie in it.]

Unverified Voracity Once Ate Sea Squirts

Unverified Voracity Once Ate Sea Squirts

Submitted by Brian on May 12th, 2009 at 2:22 PM

And by "ate" I mean "popped a little rubbery thing in my mouth, made a face, spit it out, spent a good two minutes trying to cut it into pieces, gave up, and looked it up on Google where I was horrified to find out it was a barnacle oh and by the way Wikipedia says they taste like 'rubber dipped in ammonia.'"

Softballin'. Michigan's perpetually successful softball team won the Big Ten this year and gets to host a regional. They're the #5 overall seed. Details:

Michigan is joined by regional No. 2 seed Notre Dame, No. 3 seed Cleveland State and No. 4 seed Miami (Ohio) in the double-elimination event. Michigan opens regional play against Miami [Of Ohio (Not That Miami Of Ohio) –ed] on Friday (May 15) at 7 p.m. following the Notre Dame and Cleveland State opener, which begins at 4:30 p.m.

Five to ten bucks gets you in for the day each of the three days; weather is supposed to be gorgeous.

(HT: Michigan Sports Center.)

Grinding it out. The Realests have a new project called "Lost Lettermen" wherein they track down college stars of yesteryear and let you know what they're up to. Marcus Ray is trying to break into coaching:

Being a GA is tough because of the grind and the low pay. Especially being 32 with a family. I really miss my family. They still live in Columbus, because I did not want my wife to relocate without the proper security. She is the backbone of our family. It will be a rewarding experience in the end though. I break down opponent's game film, recruit high school players, create scouting reports, as well as coach the safeties. Last season I didn't do as much hands on coaching, but as a result of some changes on our staff, I have become more like a position coach.

Ray was going to be a Michigan GA until Carr's retirement; he guarantees he'll be one of the hottest DB coaches on the market this year and hopes to latch on at a MAC school.

THIS IS A TERRIBLE LETDOWN. Denard Robinson finished third in Florida's state 100 championships. See for yourself, and marvel a bit at the internet:

To be fair, Robinson got beat by a guy who smoked the Florida state record. And he got off to a terrible start. I think we should revoke his scholarship. Or maybe shoot him.*

*(KIDDING, Mrs. Robinson! Kidding!)

Way to focus. Someday I hope to meet the man who writes Free Press headlines and call him a nasty name. (I'm leaning towards "obtuse twit" at the moment.) Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich participated in an all-star game called the "Academic All-American Classic". To get in you have to have a 3.0 GPA, which while not stellar is less depressing than most high major prospects. Michigan has two kids smart enough and good enough to be in this meaningless game. They had the usual amount of fun that is had at meaningless all star games. The Free Press headline?

U-M recruits hotdog in final game

Here's a tiny nofollowed link you shouldn't click on. 

He strikes again! Speaking of Free Press Headline guy, he translated this noncommital statement from once and future transfer Steven Threet…

Threet said he has no indication what will happen in fall camp but figures the tipping point will be decision-making, which gives Sheridan a chance to play.

"I feel like Tate has a good opportunity coming in early with the extra reps in the spring and that should be beneficial," he said. "But Nick does a good job of executing the offense the way they want it to be run. People may point out the physical things Tate or Denard may have at a physical advantage, but a lot of time at quarterback in this system comes down to decision-making."

…into "Threet gives starting nod to Sheridan." To me that quote is a standard boilerplate "Both teams played hard" answer. Nine of ten obtuse twits evidently disagree.

I can't seriously believe Sheridan executes the offense the way the coaches want it to be run…

Name Att Comp Int Yards TD Pct YPA
Sheridan,Nick 137 63 5 613 2 46% 4.5

…unless Threet means they've given that side of the ball a cigarette and a blindfold. Sheridan's decision-making last year was not a strong suit. Remember the desperate, insane heave that was intercepted late in the first half against Utah and proved to be the margin of victory? Even in Sheridan's opus to date—the reasonable performance against Minnesota—he threw two first-half passes that definitely should have been intercepted. Why am I even spending time on this? The chances Sheridan takes a snap over a healthy Forcier are 0.001%. Seriously, people.

(HT: Doctor Saturday.)

In the spirit. It's OT season on the message board, so it may as well leak in here. Some guy at the Chicago Tribune "gorged himself" in Ann Arbor for three days and reported back with rapturous praise. Unfortunately, the restaurants visited consisted of…

  • Zingerman's
  • Cafe Zola, where he eats Zingerman's challah
  • Sweetwater's, where he has coffee
  • Kosmo
  • Monahan's, a place owned by a guy who used to be a partner at Zingerman's
  • Zingerman's… again
  • Zingerman's Bakehouse
  • Blimpy Burger
  • Dominicks, where he has a $21.40 jug o' drink
  • Zingerman's Roadhouse
  • Zingerman's Roadhouse… again
  • Zingerman's Creamery
  • The Dexter Cider Mill
  • Zingerman's Roadhouse… again again

There is the slightest hint of a pattern here. Seven of the twelve places food is consumed are Zingerman's owned and nine are at least vaguely affiliated. This isn't a newspaper article, it's an advertisement.

I don't have the antipathy for Zingerman's that my girlfriend—who once flew into what can only be described as a conniption fit after seeing a Zingerman's catalogue that huffily advertised "Indonesian" cinnamon when 1) that's not actually cinnamon, but cassia, and 2) it's cheaper and widely regarded as inferior—does*, but I do think it's overrated based on reputation. Just like, I'm sorry to say, Blimpy Burger, which is certainly not "cheaper than food." The motto should be "where the yelling makes up for fries softer than Sam McGuffie's head, except not really."

There are plenty of awesome restaurants in town (Logan, Eve, Red Hawk, various sushi huts, Seoul Garden if you like dangerously authentic Korean, Angelo's if you like hollandaise sauce and you're a commie if you don't, and, hell, NYPD sells a killer slice) as long as you avoid Main Street; this guy went to exactly zero of them. And it's not like he was going the cheap route. Look at all the Zs above. I give this a FAIL.

*(Her take: "Assholes like this are why Zingerman's exists." Did I tell you?)

Etc.: Black Shoe Diaries examines possible Big Ten bowl realignment.

Unverified Voracity Is Personally Writing This

Unverified Voracity Is Personally Writing This

Submitted by Brian on May 6th, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Yeah, it's him. At least some of the coach twitter feeds are written by low-level marketing flacks, but Charlie Weis' is legit:

I, personally, am working on Nevada, our first opponent, this week; Michigan, our second opponent, next week; and Michigan State, our third opponent, the week prior to Memorial Day. Go Irish!

(FTR: That's two tweets conjoined.) Charlie Weis, personally, is on the case. Unlike all those other times people use the word "I".

Coach Cobra Kai. Hopefully Michigan will get to the point where this isn't a hypothetical situation:

show-no-mercy

That's part of the locker room door; as Michigan Football Saturdays points out it's not too far from that to "sweep the leg." Maybe we can be Bill Simmons' favorite college football team now.

Also, I'm pretty sure I know exactly which default photoshop gradient was used to do the effect there.

Kickin' up dirt. JoePa broached the topic of Big Ten expansion—he's in favor of it and name-dropped Pitt, Syracuse, and Rutgers as possibilities—sending everyone into the usual tizzy. Jim Delany said "eh, not so much" and life continues on. There's not much more to add than the usual, but I would like to address this:

Adding a twelfth team to the conference implies, in the minds of most, a move to a two-division structure not unlike that of Big 12, ACC, and SEC, all of which hold moneymoneymoneygrab championship games before declaring a champion. So what would the divisions look like?

That's We Will Always Have Tempe, which is frequent OSU gadfly poguemahone's new joint. WWAHT then goes through a bunch of scenarios that all point to the same thing: there's no division that makes geographical sense and hardly one that makes competitive sense.

Q: why do we have to have divisions? As we've seen in the Big 12 of late, sometimes you get the second-best team in the conference sitting at home crocheting asterisks to put everywhere as a far worse team shows up to get blown out.

If you add another team you can then add another conference game without running up against the horrible realities of math, and then you can just play everyone except two other teams and have a championship game between the top two. It would basically be like what we've got now except with a championship game on the end of everything. Sometimes this would be pointless, but I think it's better than the alternative of having the Michigan-OSU division and then a Penn State-someone else division unless that someone else is Notre Dame, which is not happening.

Score. The Daily scores an exclusive interview with Threet with a bunch of interesting stuff and one major typo: a "Feagin" where a "Mr. Plow" should go. For the record: Justin Feagin has not left the team or transferred. The rumor persists because the Free Press quoted from it on their blog*, linking to a Yahoo reproduction of the interview that hasn't been corrected like the original has.

Items of media interest:

  • The Free Press "blog" is, ironically, the exact sort of blog media people always complain about: it adds exactly zero to the content it lifts and doesn't even have the decency to blockquote the material so it's obvious the content is not Free Press content.
  • The Daily killed the Threet transfer story, absolutely wasting every other media organization out there, and the interview is the cherry on top.
  • …and they're pissing away a good chunk of the linkjuice and hits by allowing the syndication of it to UWire and therefore Yahoo.

To the interview itself: Threet directly addresses the "inconsistent like always" comment, downplaying it, and says point blank that he didn't think he'd keep the starting job with "the way they run the offense" but that it's hard to say for sure. Here's the kicker:

S: What does Michigan need to do to make sure last year doesn’t happen again?

T: They need to make sure that everyone is putting the work in to getting better at executing their job. There were a lot of times last year where maybe one guy didn’t do his job at 100 percent, and that’s the difference between a touchdown and a three-yard loss. Working together like that is especially important offensively. Defensively, you can get bailed out sometimes, but offensively it really does take all 11 guys.

The whole thing is well worth reading.

Zoom! More to file under "Denard Robinson is made of dilithium":

Dauntia Dotson, Adrian Witty, Cassius McDowell and Denard Robinson sent the crowd home contented by running a school-record 40.82 -- the second-fastest time in the country this year, to win the Region 3-4A title.

''I think we can go 40.50, maybe even faster,'' Witty said. ``Who knows? It's our work ethic. We don't want to lose. This means a lot because we broke our own state record twice this year.''

You'll note that Witty is also on this blazing fast relay—good news for his prospects at M—as is Deerfield Beach junior running back Cassius McDowell, who says Michigan leads.