Stripped To The Metal, We Root For The Abstract

Stripped To The Metal, We Root For The Abstract

Submitted by Brian on November 12th, 2012 at 12:23 PM

11/10/2012 – Michigan 38, Northwestern 31 (OT) – 7-3, 5-1 Big Ten

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Maize and Blue Nation

College sports are a rich-get-richer kind of operation. American pro sports reward their best teams with crappy draft picks and salary caps that make it hard to keep successful operations together. Yes, successful operations can keep their heads above water for periods, and the Lions can be awful for 50 years. A relentless gravity still pulls everyone towards .500.

In college, success adds to success. You can tell recruits they'll go to the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl instead of, like, Nashville or wherever. Your pile of money is larger than someone else's pile of money and you can put up buildings where every brick is an XBox. You can point to some guy making millions in the NFL and promise recruit X will as well. You can tell recruits that you're not going to be fired and replaced by some guy from the Sun Belt, unlike every other school recruiting Derrick Green. The more you win, the higher your draft picks are.

Gravity has no place in college sports, just entropy. Entropy: the tendency of things to move from ordered states to disordered ones. Entropy: the gradual decline and fall of the Carr era. Entropy: Greg Robinson. Entropy: Northwestern football. With 18 seconds left there's a fifty-yard pass on the way, and things are about to get disordered.

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I mean, what can you say when your glorious victory is so clearly a gift from the cosmic random number generator? I have seen many things in my time as a sports fan. None of them have been an opposing safety taking a pass that is about to sail into the turf 10, 20 yards further downfield and flailing at it in such a way as to send it into the arms of the Michigan receiver he'd battered to the ground, gently. Feather-like. After all of that… easy.

Meanwhile, that event had been immediately preceded by a Northwestern fourth-and-one conversion on which the ref had to make sure every chain was ramrod straight and get his nose down to the field level before awarding the Wildcats a first down they probably didn't get but could not be overturned from above. Fitzgerald Toussaint's only decent run of the day ended with a bizarre pop-up fumble. Trevor Siemian came in and tore Michigan's secondary to shreds.

I like it better when the randomness is under a nice ol' narrative. When it's in your face so spectacularly, it's like the gods of math are taunting you for daring to care about anything they have their fickle fingers in. Go home, get a pen, and root for Fibonacci psuedo-randomness, they are saying. What you are doing is the equivalent of rooting for 3, they say. The number. The literal number. Woo 3. Go 3. You are so much more prime than 4. That's so 3! Oh god those people who like 4 are just animals. They poop in coolers, you know, and drive trucks. They're so… divisible.

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Stripped of the narrative bit the mind goes back to a game of partial information, high stress, and plain evidence that worshipping the gods of math gets you nowhere. Big stacks matter in tournament poker, too. With many chips you can lean on people, play with the numbers on your side, and force people to decisions for all their chips. You get to be the gorilla. You get the good recruits.

Back in the day when laws were unclear and jerks hadn't yet banned online poker by attaching a rider to a bill about port security, I played a lot. I was pretty good. I played online satellites until I'd gotten a buy-in to the World Series of Poker, and went. I made the second day in rough shape, and started repairing my busted stack by chopping off preflop raisers. While I'd risk more, I'd be in fewer hands, give off a tight image and get 5-6 blinds instead of 1.5. I would have no illusions about whether I should GTFO if someone played back at me. It was working, and I caught a couple hands. I was on my way to day three.

I'd done this to the guy to my right two or three times already, and his frustration was evident the last go-round. He raised preflop again, and I looked at kings. Long story short, we ended up all-in, he turned over aces instead of anything else, and I did not suck out. Short-stacked after, it was a matter of time.

Brady Hoke hasn't had kings, but he has sucked out, and sucked out, and sucked out.

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Maize and Blue Nation

With 11-2 and a BCS win in the rear view, Michigan picked up the kind of momentum that saw them lock down a top-five class by March. Getting there took a series of desperate heaves to Junior Hemingway. This year the heaves have been a little less desperate but twice Michigan has had 18 seconds and needed big chunks of yards to set up do-or-die field goals and got them. They're not getting every break—see refs in all Nebraska games—but with a combination of skill and fortune Hoke is building quite a stack for himself.

The latest chip is a 2013 starting quarterback out of nowhere, a guy who had looked basically awful in any extended playing time before Denard's elbow injury forced Devin Gardner into the Minnesota game. And even if Saturday was too transparently chaotic to go down as an all-timer, it's another step through this rough patch as Michigan waits for the large, mean cavalry to arrive.

In the meantime let's all just stay here on the floor breathing heavily and slathering narrative over the terrifying randomness of the universe.

Media

Football looks hurty sometimes, and by sometimes I mean all the time.

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Upchurch

Also, here's Gardner chucking that TD to Funchess:

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Upchurch

Brad at Maize and Blue Nation had a day with his shots. He's the guy who grabbed the shots that lead the post and then this is pretty great too:

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Also, nightmare fuel!

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Full gallery here.

The News got a great shot of Gardner:

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David Guralnick/Detnews

That's Bryant in the extremely large track jacket BTW.

More videos posted by Thorin on the board. UMGoBlog shots. Favorites from Mike DeSimone's page.

Awards!

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Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Roy Roundtree, come on down. Not only did you spawn a strange and likely short-lived meme when the Larrys, about whom more later, made a bizarre joke about how he would be better at catching the ball if his name was "Squaretree"—because square things are good at catching I guess—but you also put up 139 yards receiving, including the game-saving deep miracle. Also on 'Tree's docket: a beautiful corner route catch, getting run over on third and seventeen, and a critical hitch-and-run in OT.

Honorable Mention. Devin Gardner (at this rate will be Vince Young by next year, too bad about plateaus and such), Jeremy Gallon (hitch/bomb/punt return/let's ignore those other punt return opportunities), Kenny Demens (a close, close #2 with back to back OT TFLs).

Epic Double Point Standings.

3: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois) deytikerjerbs
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska).

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW

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YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

This must be awarded to the play that spawned it, which is Demens decleating Northwestern to end the game. In the future awarded to the BOOM YES play of the week.

Honorable mention: Kenny Demens stones Northwestern on third and one too, Treezy to the rescue, Devin Gardner kind of balletically flings a ball way high except it's to Devin Funchess so it's on the money, Jibreel Black forces a Colter fumble, Jordan Kovacs implodes Colter's back.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.

Offense!

Our hipster quarterback. WHICH ONE OF THESE DUDES IS DEVIN GARDNER

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you've probably never heard of me

Probably the one on the left. PROBABLY

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Upchurch

Open contempt. Northwestern fans were pretty hype on Nick Van Hoose as the cornerback who might rescue their secondary from its overwhelming Northwesternness; Van Hoose did not play. The Northwestern secondary was overwhelming in its Northwesternness.

This manifested on second down after second down when Michigan generally followed up a one yard run by going with a 2TE I-Form set and throwing a hitch in front of a helpless cornerback, or a corner at a helpless cornerback, or a hitch and go well past a helpless cornerback. I get pretty irritated when Michigan, which cannot run from under center even a tiny little bit, goes OOPS POW SURPRISE PLAY ACTION on obvious passing downs, but in this game it worked because every hitch route came with either a first down or some YAC baked in.

I have no idea why Northwestern didn't just bracket Michigan's single WR hard and dare Michigan to make them pay by getting to the second level—something it seemed they were four or five blocks from on every play. But they didn't. So, yeah.

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Upchurch

RUUUUUUUUUUUU—oh you are nevermind. IIRC, Michigan did not have any called runs for Gardner except the goal line rollout (and that did have a pass option). He got sacked once. That means his seven other rushing attempts were all scrambles. That's more than Denard has acquired in eight games. They were also effective—an average pickup of almost seven yards without any of those coming on fruitless third and longs.

Yeah, that is Vince Young-like. The combination of effective deep balls and a willingness to take off is potentially deadly. Covering four verts and containing Gardner seems hard, and add in dumpoffs to space players like Norfleet and Hayes, and that's a nice recipe. Hopefully Michigan explores that once they don't have to minimize QB impact at all costs.

[UPDATE: After checking out the Gardner errysnap video, Michigan did have another called QB run in a goal-to-go situation that went for five or six yards, so six scrambles.]

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not always pretty, but so far so good / Upchurch

Air check. We should erase the desperation bomb to Roundtree, which was a throw Gardner had to attempt, missed, and got a miracle deflection to complete it. That excised, Gardner was 15 of 28 for 8.3 YPA, two touchdowns, and a turrible interception. Add in the scrambles and that's good in a vacuum. Your context: Gardner was playing a poor defense minus its best cornerback and on an offense that can't run the ball even a little.

Those probably balance out, leaving Michigan with a good performance from a guy who'd been playing WR two weeks ago and has eligibility next year. That is huge.

Unlike last week, I can't remember anything particularly outlandish that happened to alter Gardner's stats since we've already set aside the desperation heave at the end of the game. Gardner actually lost a long completion to Jerald Robinson, and there was nothing on the order of Roundtree, Dileo, and Gallon going all circus for their QB in the Minnesota game. When Gardner missed, it wasn't by much. Minnesota was some good throws interspersed with a lot of shaky ones on which the receivers were great; Northwestern required a lot less heroism from the WRs.

You'd expect rapid improvement from a guy getting almost his first extended playing time and transitioning back to reps at QB from reps at WR; Gardner leapt even that high bar.

Y'all be jumpin'. Michigan has now pulled opponents offsides five times in two weeks with Gardner under center, with Northwestern threatening to go three or four more times.

That's a credit to Gardner's hard count and evidence of how much more comfortable Borges is with an offense that operates from under center. To run those freeze plays you have to be under center quickly enough to try it and then try something else if it doesn't work, something that has not often been the case for most of the year when Michigan was struggling just to get plays in. Against Northwestern, how often did you think "GET OUT OF THE HUDDLE" to yourself? For me, it was zero times. That's down a half-dozen from most games this year.

SIDE NOTE: I've seen a lot of credit going to Gardner for having the awareness to fling those fades when guys go offsides. That's a misunderstanding of what's going on. The way it works is this:

  1. Gardner huts his hut real hard, and then waits.
  2. Guy jumps or does not jump.
  3. If guy jumps, Mealer snaps it, free play.
  4. If guy does not jump, Michigan checks into something else.

So if Gardner gets the ball he knows someone is offsides and he has a free play and just throws the fade. He only gets the ball if he has a free play. The credit should go to Borges and Mealer.

SIDE SIDE NOTE: Yeah, Michigan did try to do similar things under RR from the gun. Bizarrely, what seemed to happen is that Michigan would get a guy to jump but he would get back before Michigan could snap the ball, leaving Michigan to burn a down on a low-percentage play.

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Upchurch

Hello, Fitz. Not that Fitz. Hey, three broken tackles en route to a touchdown on a nothing dumpoff: that is a play. I enjoy Fitzgerald Toussaint making plays. he also picked up a bunch of bonus yards on his 50-yard inverted veer give, and then fumbled. That's his first fumble, right? I guess he gets a pass for it. Even Mike Hart finally broke.

A tip, I say, a palpable tip. Did anyone else notice Michigan removing AJ Williams for Devin Funchess on the third and goal in OT, and think to themselves "rollout to Funchess's side"? Lo, it transpired, and Northwestern covered Funchess but had no one else on the edge once a playside LB tried to shoot inside Omameh and got walled off.

I require more Dileo. Michigan finally had enough of seeing punts hit the ground and put Dennis Norfleet back there in place of Gallon; Norfleet let the next punt hit the ground. Dileo fair-caught the next one. Meanwhile, balls are being tossed at the thus-far ineffective Jeremy Jackson and Jerald Robinson as Dileo watches from the sideline. I humbly request more targets for Dileo, who gets separation and catches passes, instead of larger receivers who do neither of these things

Defense!

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Maize and Blue Nation

Kenny Damn Demens. Remember when he was getting lined up two inches behind a nose tackle on a three man line and obliterated by guards releasing clean? Yeah. Demens isn't going to be a guy who makes every #25 in the future wear his name on the chest, but any time he walks into a bar for the rest of his life sporting that mustache of his someone is going to be like "CONSECUTIVE TFLS TO WIN 2012 NORTHWESTERN" and buy him a beer, and I love it when that happens. See also: Jerome Jackson, 2005 Iowa.

Demens did get beat by Northwestern's #1 WR on their last touchdown, but that's an RPS thing and a function of Michigan's LB slide plus Northwestern consistently gashing Michigan on the corners. Projected % of Michigan fans instantly reminded of Chris Graham against Anthony Gonzalez: 37%.

So sexy. Michigan came out with a a weird three man line featuring Jibreel Black as the NT that all but begged Northwestern to run up the middle on their fourth down, with the results noted above: Ryan gets cut off by the backside G, Black shoots playside of the tackle and forces a cutback on the handoff NW was baited into, BOOM.

That was exactly the plan:

“The last tackle there — number one, I like the call that (defensive coordinator Greg Mattison) made because it was one where it may have talked (Northwestern) into running the football because of some of the space inside,” said Michigan coach Brady Hoke. “And then Kenny just did a nice job of just working inside out to the ball, where maybe a little bit earlier he was maybe getting too far ahead of it.”

Michigan's defense finally got gashed, but man did they dial it up at the end.

Will it happen again? Ohio State is going to be checking out the Northwestern film quite a lot, but I'm not sure they have a Mark-like back to hit that edge. They've got a couple thumpers who will challenge tackling skills more than speed.

Linebacker switching. I didn't notice this live but a lot of people have said Desmond Morgan had a rough game, which seems logical since after a couple weeks of limited linebacker swapping we saw a lot of James Ross, including on the final two Northwestern drives. Ross was the guy who came an inch away from stuffing the Northwestern fourth and one. I'll get to the bottom of what went down in the UFR.

Pipkins comes on. Also receiving a lot more PT: Ondre Pipkins, who had a rough few plays against Minnesota before getting the hook. Again not sure why but probably based on Northwestern being one of those hurry-up outfits that puts a heavy demand on opposing defense's depth. Insert usual desire to be a team that puts that kind of pressure on the opponent.

Getting edged. Michigan's really got to do something about their option scheme, probably. I'll have to check it out to see if it was much different than what happened against Air Force.

Irrelevancies!

Oblig. Kovacs number switch bitching.

Me = Dude (obvs)
Car = Kovacs
Flame = #11
Nihilists = Brandon (obvs)

He's still JKovacs32 on twitter, at least.

“I’ve worn No. 32 for quite some time, I think I’ll always be No. 32,” Kovacs said

Yes. Dammit that needs to be the walk-on-who-plays number. Does no one understand how to make things? /wireseason2

Oblig. game theory bit. Big points to Pat Fitzgerald for going for it on fourth and short with around three minutes left. That is a spot in which it's easy to go NFL and derp your way to shrugging postgame coverage, but the obvious play is going. One yard and you've got the other team trying to complete a 50-yard miracle to tie. Punt and even Michigan's languorous two-minute drill still has time to ease down the field.

Northwestern got it by a few molecules thanks to what seemed like a favorable spot, albeit not one that is ever going to get overturned by the Big Ten's milquetoasty replay officials. (After the Penn State TD debacle they are now the Rod Gilmore Memorial Big Ten Replay Officials.)

Fitzgerald gives back about half of those points on the punt. You hate variance if you are Northwestern punting the ball back with 25 seconds left. NW…

  1. took a delay of game penalty instead of using a timeout
  2. ran out their rugby guy to bash a line drive into Gallon's chest
  3. got a net of 11 yards as a result

Rugby punts are generally effective but tend to be more unpredictable than regular stuff: shanks are easier, and if the returners are positioned correctly they get an opportunity like Gallon got. The play there was to take a timeout and hang one in the air to force a fair catch. The upside of that is about equal to the rugby punt and the downside is nil.

Michigan didn't really face any major decisions. They could have taken a shot at the endzone after the Roundtree completion but chose to kick. The difference between that decision and the end of last year's ND game was one second on the clock and a timeout, which they had against ND but not here. The Roundtree completion took six seconds, and it's easy to see that last one slip off the clock for any number of reasons.

FWIW, Michigan played their TOs right by taking all of them immediately once they were facing do-or-die time on defense. 

Git R Done, for values of R that equal racism. If you don't follow me on twitter you missed the saga of the Larry The Cable Guy clan in my immediate vicinity, a group of redneck yahoos that said a lot of things like "LEZ GO CUMONG" and "GIT EM CUMONG," which was annoying when they did that really loudly after a four yard run—now my hopes are all up and it's second and six—but mostly harmless.

That ceased on a Norfleet kickoff return on which one of them screamed "run like you stole it" and I was processing the I am somewhat uncomfortable with the racial overtones that statement displays thing when one of them almost certainly dropped the n-word. I looked at the MGoWife, and she looked at me to confirm, and then I just really hoped that it wouldn't come up again because if that happens a second time, well… words will be exchanged and I'm trying to panic myself to death at a football game thanks, please let's not get in a screaming match.

It did not come up again. Hurrah. There's no real lesson here except it's not very fun to be surrounded by Larry the Cable Guy.

BONUS BONUS BONUS: a Larry next to me left after the Gardner INT, which lol. I moved over because there was a tall guy in front of me… directly into the path of a woman with four pom-poms whose thought process in relation to those was:

I bet if I shake these really hard they're invisible.

If only, lady. If only.

Here

Inside The Box Score:

* NW ended up with 431 total offense yards. That's the same amount that Alabama, the greatest team ever assembled, a pretty good offense, had against us. I never would have guessed that Alabama and NW would be equivalent at anything. After the Alabama game, I wrote, "If we can hold everyone else under 431, I’ll be happy." NW didn't get more than 431, so I'm not unhappy, I'm just confused.

* Thomas Gordon led us in tackles with 11, not a good sign. Demens and Morgan were next with 9 apiece. Considering Mattison substituted freely with the LBs, that's a lot of tackles.

I bumped Best And Worst but in case you didn't click through:

…this week’s game definitely felt like the first one to showcase Al Borges’s “preferred offense.” It was a number of shorter passes, a dedication to running the ball with the RB, and play-calling that couldn’t fall back on a Dilithium-fueled QB if the first and second reads were not open.  Minnesota showed this a bit in the first quarter, but that game felt over at halftime and so I’m not sure what you could glean from it except that the offensive line still couldn’t get a push inside.

mGrowOld's kid meets Kovacs. MGoUsers of little faith.

Elsewhere

Opponent stuff. The Northwestern blog POV includes an analysis of Northwestern's success on speed option pitches, misery, more misery, and misery. Lake The Posts:

Inches.

Does it need to be said much more than that? Inches decide ball games, particularly close ball games. Against Nebraska inches separated Northwestern from a clinching interception and a devastating blown lead and loss. Against Michigan, those inches mattered even more.

You can slake your schadenfreude needs if you're weird and hold some sort of grudge against Northwestern at the SoP postgame thread.

Blog stuff. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has a photoessay documenting everyone recording the football game. Meta.

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not actually photos of the Roundtree catch

Sap's Decals:

KENNY DEMENS – He didn’t play a perfect game but he did make the tackle of his life – TWICE! It’s a play and situation you dream of as a kid growing up playing Pop Warner Football. Demens not only made the big stop to win the game on 4th Down, but he also made the stop the play before on 3rd Down! OUTSTANDING!

BWS:

Michigan struggled on defense in this game for a number of different reasons. Jake Ryan and Frank Clark both lost contain frequently which gave Northwestern big gains on the ground. In addition, and I think Mattison figured this out before the fourth quarter, but Michigan was defending the speed option in an unsound manner. The playside linebacker was always playing the quarterback, forcing a pitch to the running back who had nothing but blockers in front of him. I think Mattison assumed his corners and safeties could get off of their blocks on the outside the help contain the rushing attack, but Michigan's corners aren't very good at doing this. By the fourth quarter, Michigan started forcing the runs back inside.

I cannot agree with Maize and Blue Nation about this:

The running game. It showed signs of life this week. I think the more pro-style offense that Gardner runs suits Michigan better on offense. We're still trained to run the spread-option, but I don't think it's working for Fitz. He's a downhill runner. I really like that Rawls can come in and compliment Fitz...although, it might be the other way around, actually. I thought the line blocked better this week. Hoke stayed with the same lineup he's had all year across the line, so it was encouraging to see the interior especially, play better.

Michigan got a 50-yard gain on an inverted veer give—blocking not relevant unless you're a WR—and 41 yards on six Gardner scrambles. They also lost six yards on a Hayes jet sweep that's now scouted by opponents. Their other 23 carries went for 49 yards. Death. If Michigan finds itself trailing against OSU there's going to be a point at which it'll be time to run the quarterback from the shotgun even if it's Gardner and the backup option is Jack Kennedy. Michigan just can't move the ball on the ground without the numerical advantage provided by using the QB.

MZone:

U-M Student Section Sucks

And I thought the key play nonsense was bad.

Ha!

The empty seats are past the point of ridiculous now.  Michigan has been reduced to having its football players make videos begging fans (read: students) to show up on time for the games.  WTF?!  This isn't Ball State.  Bo's probably rolling over in his grave.

I'm not sure what more can be done since the athletic department already instituted the points system.  But seeing all those empty seats up there after the game starts is a slap in the face to Hoke and the Michigan players.

That should be "30% of the student section sucks." 70% of them are there. The solution is to give out t-shirts.

FWIW, the key play thing has not been done in probably ten years.

HSR:

It wasn't a perfect day.  The Toussaint fumble was maddening, but a great play by the Wildcat defense. Special K remembered where "In The Big House" was on his hard drive.  There weren't enough holes in the offensive line to run through, things of this ilk.

But it was sunny, warmish for a November day.  Al Wistert got a tremendous ovation from the Michigan Stadium crowd, the MMB put on a funny show, Devin Gardner continued to look good, Roy Roundtree remembered that he's a heck of a receiver, Gibbons is still money, and in the end, Michigan was victorious,   Really, that's more than we should be able to ask for from the football gods.  After all, you need to stay humble.

Warmish? High standards over at the Hoover Street Rag.

Mud Bowl.

Recaps from Maize and Go Blue, TTB, MVictors, Holdin'  The Rope,

Mainstream stuff. Meinke on the division race. Wojo:

For Michigan, it's never over until the last pass is thrown, and tipped, and cradled, and caught. For Devin Gardner, same thing — it's not over even when others think it is.

Nothing is over for the Wolverines, and it's just getting started for Gardner. How many times can a game, or a season, or a young career twist? Gardner was a receiver a couple of weeks ago, hoping to be a quarterback again. Now he's directing a team contending for the Big Ten title.

The Daily on Brady Hoke's magic:

The last time Brady Hoke and Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald were at Michigan Stadium together was Oct. 7, 1995.

Hoke was a first-year defensive line coach on the home sideline. Fitzgerald was Northwestern’s burly junior middle linebacker, wearing a white No. 51 jersey and terrorizing Michigan quarterback Brian Griese.

With the Wildcats leading 19-13 and just 1:40 remaining on the clock, Griese and the Michigan offense were 41 yards from the end zone facing a third-and-15. Fitzgerald had ended the previous drive by tipping a pass out of harm’s way.

Nesbitt FTW; great great angle there. Hadn't even thought about it. Also Estes on not saying sorry.

Gardner saying the right things:

Gardner on Denard Robinson : "This is Denard's team, and this is always going to be Denard's team. He's done way too much for two games to change that."

Meinke has like another column—indefatigable! And another! Baumgardner numbers. Game story.

One Frame At A Time: Northwestern

One Frame At A Time: Northwestern

Submitted by Ace on November 12th, 2012 at 10:58 AM

Note: Trying a new style with these gifs posts—aside from the first image, you will need to click on the stills to open the animated gifs in a "lightbox" (like the videos in UFRs). This should alleviate most of the bandwith issues.

Within mere seconds of Pat Fitzgerald's reaction to getting the fourth-quarter late hit call on Trevor Siemian, my Twitter timeline flooded with requests for a gif. I was still working, however, and in the meantime the indispensable Tim Burke (@bubbaprog) captured the moment. If you're looking for the straightforward gif, click there. If you'd like to know the real reason why Fitzgerald was so damn excited, look no further:

[COME ON DOWN below THE JUMP for the rest of this week's gifs.]

Northwestern Postgame Presser: Players

Northwestern Postgame Presser: Players

Submitted by Heiko on November 12th, 2012 at 12:24 AM

Jordan Kovacs and Kenny Demens

Opening remarks:

Kovacs: “Coach Hoke let me know early in the week that I’d be wearing No. 11. He asked me how I felt about it, and of course I felt it was a huge honor. I’ve worn 32 for quite some time. I think I’ll always be 32, but I think it’s a great opportunity to recognize our legends. That’s the approach I have. I did a little research on the Wisterts and I actually had the opportunity to meet Albert yesterday, and he said that when he was first given 11, he was just so humbled and so excited, and it was a huge honor for him. He said he prayed before every game that he put it on that he’d be worthy enough to wear it, so that’s kind of my approach. It’s a huge honor and I just hope I’m worthy enough to wear it.”

Kenny, were you 100% assigned to Colter on those last few plays, and what was it like to be able to make that play at the end?

Demens: “Well I just have my reads. The coaches, they give us bullets to come out with and to make that play, I just felt so proud of myself, but not for me, but for my teammates. The defense, we didn’t play as well as we wanted to, and just to come up and make a play and to finish strong how we did, it means a lot.”

Football Forever

Football Forever

Submitted by Ace on November 10th, 2012 at 4:06 PM


Upchurch

A referee makes an arbitrary approximation of the spot of the football as Kain Colter is brought to the turf. A couple of guys dressed like crossing guards then take out an extremely precise ten-yard chain. The referee, staring at the football like it's the bottom line of an eye chart, determines that the play has resulted in a first down by the smallest of possible margins. For all intents and purposes, the game is over, decided by an educated guess made at breakneck speed.

Football is the worst.

The contest continues, however, and Michigan sells out against the run for a stop. For a moment, it looks like Jeremy Gallon could provide a miracle as he briefly breaks free after fielding a line-drive punt, but he's tackled at the 38.

18 seconds remain. No timeouts remain. Little hope remains.

But then the backup quarterback hucks the football to the impossibly-skinny senior receiver, improbably left in single coverage, and this wisp of a man somehow bats the oblong projectile out of the air and controls the ricochet, an absurd feat of concentration and athleticism that brings 110,000 despondent humans screaming to their feet in elation.

Football is the best.

From that point, victory feels strangely academic given the prior proceedings. Brendan Gibbons, Keith Stone cool, splits the uprights from 26 yards out for the tying field goal. Three plays after Devin Gardner finds Roundtree again to give Michigan first-and-goal on the opening overtime possession, he fakes a give to Fitz Toussaint, breaks contain, and lopes into the end zone unimpeded. Northwestern can only get within two yards of that blasted first-down marker on their subsequent series before Kenny Demens stonewalls Tyris Jones in the hole on fourth down.

The stadium erupts, again hopelessly in love with the greatest game known to man. Michigan 38, Northwestern 31, football forever.

Picture Pages: Misaligned, Temporarily

Picture Pages: Misaligned, Temporarily

Submitted by Brian on November 7th, 2012 at 12:08 PM

[PROGRAMMING NOTE: Due to a three-pronged failure in various systems I lost the first half of UFR and had to re-do it. I tried, but couldn't get it done for today. 2x UFR tomorrow.]

Minnesota's offense struggled to move the ball most of Saturday. When they did move it was often because Michigan was in a difficult position against spread principles. For example: on Minnesota's first snap, Michigan slid their linebackers way to the field against a trips formation and gave up five yards when the tailback cut all the way behind the defensive line.

I'm not sure if this is actually a problem Michigan should fix or if they're taking away certain things that would otherwise be open and will just open up another hole in the dam. In certain cases, anyway. I caught a second-quarter run—at twelve yards, Minnesota's long run of the day—on which Michigan's alignment had them in trouble from the start. Since the Big Ten Network was running an uncommonly large number of useful replays, we can take a look at it from the end zone.

Begin!

outnumbered-1]

From the dead center of the field Minnesota comes out in a pistol formation with two backs flanking the quarterback. Minnesota has two WRs not shown. When Blue Seoul was pumping out With Pics on the regular he would often point out presnap alignment issues, and Michigan has one here.

This is a balanced formation right smack in the middle of the field, but note that the linebackers are shifted to the left—Demens is left of the center; Morgan is inside the tackle to the right while Ryan is well outside. The line is also shifted left: Washington is inside the guard, Campbell outside. As a result you can draw a line with five Minnesota players to one side and three Michigan defenders:

outnumbered-1

Minnesota will run at this, running the back on the left across the QB and pulling a guard to keep that two-man advantage as the center uses his angle to take care of Campbell.

outnumbered-2

Before the mesh point a few things are clear: the three backside defenders are basically nonentities. Demens has a shot, maybe, but he's getting a free release from a tackle with an excellent angle and is in tough. The two backs are available to take on Clark and Morgan.

At the mesh point and just after, two things. First, Clark:

outnumbered-3outnumbered-4

Clark dives inside the pack trying to get him, which could be a valid move. The second frame there has a pulling guard; if Clark hits him that's two blockers on one guy. Because Michigan was badly aligned that still won't matter, though. Minnesota will run this later at Keith Heitzman; Heitzman will do the same thing and peg the QB, so this was what Mattison wanted… sort of. I'll explain below what he actually wanted, probably.

Second, Demens:

outnumbered-3outnumbered-4

He eats a block, but I'm not even mad when he eats a guy before it's even clear who has the ball. Even if he reads the play on the snap this guy probably gets him since he's got a great angle; if the tackle doesn't the pulling guard literally has no one to block so Demens will again feel the wrath of two different OL on the same play. If Demens is at fault it's for presnap stuff involving this alignment that gets him in trouble.

By the time the back breaks outside, it doesn't really matter what Morgan does, the play is getting yards, whether it's inside or out.

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But man you still shouldn't get hewed to the ground like this and give up the edge:

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It was faintly possible that Washington, who beat a down block, gets in some sort of tackle attempt, and you also wouldn't be forcing Kovacs to get on his horse outside like he does. Note that Raymon Taylor is also on his knees after eating a cut block:

outnumbered-7

Kovacs has to take an awkward angle around that block and misses the tackle as a result. He does get the guy off balance; Taylor recovers.

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Twelve yards.

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Video

Things And Stuff

I don't really have a big theme here. Often these posts are attempts to explain a general trend—like Michigan not blocking anyone against Nebraska—with some concrete examples. This is just a thing that happened and probably doesn't mean much of anything. These things pop up from time to time; the defense is still really good.

If there is a theme it's that these things tend to get fixed, as we'll see in the next bullet.

Clark is less good at defending the run than other folk/Mattison adjusts fast. There are two main differences between this and a –1 yard run later in the game off this same play. One is Heitzman. Watch the defensive end to the bottom of the screen:

That may be a different playcall that causes Beyer to move down on the tackle and prevent him from releasing. It is more useful than what Clark does above. While that's not a two for one the guy taking Demens is now the pulling guard, who takes a lot longer to get out on him. That allows Demens to get outside of him; a gap further inside James Ross is also playside of that tackle when he finally releases.

The other difference is of course JMFR, who demonstrates what the coaches are talking about when they call him an "unorthodox" player by taking a cut block hard and still managing to fling his off-balance body at the RB for a TFL.

Even if that does not happen Michigan has this covered as this chain…

  1. Beyer holds up T
  2. Demens beats pulling G to outside
  3. Back bounces it outside
  4. Gordon runs past RB with no angle now

…has an unblocked guy waiting to clean up if'n Ryan isn't a wizard or something.

These things tend to get fixed. Note that Michigan's alignment above is even instead of slid to one side or the other.

I am sorry to remind you of our shared, dark past, but remember the GERG defenses when Michigan would frequently get annihilated by the same thing over and over again? In the Oh God Justin Siller game (to be fair, a GERG defense only in spirit, not in letter) it was ten yard outs over and over. In the 2010 Wisconsin game I think the Badgers ran power 28 straight times in the second half, and I am not even sure that's a joke. One of the most frustrating aspects of Michigan's terrible terrible defenses pre-Mattison were the times when the same thing just kept working.

Here Michigan gets burned for a first down. The next two snaps they see out of this formation are runs that go for zero and –1 yards. That's why there's not a theme, because the things that seem to be dodgy with this defense are pure talent issues. Michigan doesn't have an elite pass-rusher or a lot of speed in the secondary. This leads to lots of attempted deep bombs that have not come off yet, mostly.

Minnesota backs and receivers can really cut block. Seriously, our guys could learn something from the Gophers in that department. Michigan CBs and LBs hit the ground a lot in this game, even if sometimes they got up like an unkillable zombie and made the tackle anyway.

Washington: pretty good. He couldn't do anything about the 12 yarder above; he did get off a block and pursue in case he could.

Hokepoints: The Defense is Still The Wall

Hokepoints: The Defense is Still The Wall

Submitted by Seth on October 23rd, 2012 at 3:41 PM

stuffin

Stuffing. Upchurch

Eleven months ago I used this space to discuss Michigan's crazy success in defensive short situations. That was brought on by a staggering performance against Illinois, at which point Michigan had stopped 15 of 27 3rd- or 4th-and-one situations, and 13 of 19 against real competition. This was up from stopping less than a quarter of such plays the previous two years, and almost as far above the going rate for all defenses.

This was huge. Getting one yard for any offense is far easier that stopping it for any defense—one good block can usually do it. Forcing a 4th down situation from 3rd and 1 or a turnover on downs on 4th and 1 is worth half a turnover or more. Jamie Mac addressed this further in his HTTV article, showing that the stoppage situation was affecting the happy margin between our yards-ceded defense and scoring defense as much as having a ridiculous year in turnover luck.

Michigan last year was really good at stopping the short stuff, but folks chalked it up to Martin and Van Bergen playing to their strengths and figured it was a blip. Except it wasn't just those guys. Here's last year's chart for short situations, through OSU: BarnumRoundtreeRohSpringGame-Heiko

Player (2011) + -
Kenny Demens 6.5 0
Ryan Van Bergen 6.5 0
Craig Roh (right/Heiko) 6 0
Jake Ryan 5.5 0
Mike Martin 4.5 0
Jordan Kovacs 3 0
Campbell, Hawthorne & Heinigner 2.5 0
Black, Morgan, and Woolfolk 1 0
Herron and Beyer 0 -1
Total 42.5 -2
RPS 7 -2
Refs 0 -2

Two thirds of Michigan's short-down production from last year returned (as did bad refs). Demens, Roh, Ryan, Kovacs, and Campbell were all key role players in that ridiculous shutdown rate, and if the UFR can be trusted, they weren't getting it just because of things the Team 132 seniors were doing.

This doesn't even count things like stopping Ohio State on 3rd and goal from the 2. Actually it doesn't count goal line situations at all, though 1st and goal from the 1 is as hard to stop as 3rd and 1 from the 40. So I revisited when updating the UFR database. Get ready to be happy (through MSU):

Year    --FCS and MAC removed--         --All Opponents--
Stopped! They got it :( Stop % Stopped! They got it :( Stop %
2008 11 14 44% 16 18 47%
2009 3 11 21% 7 16 30%
2010 5 18 22% 11 24 31%
2011 14 10 58% 16 16 50%
2012 10 7 59% 10 8 56%
Total 43 60 42% 60 82 42%

It's still happening. It's happening more. We replaced Martin and RVB with Washington and Campbell, and if anything got better! And like last year Michigan's short defense seems to be getting tougher as the season goes on. Since Big Ten play started, the non-stops have read thusly: Purdue converting with 16 seconds left in the half while down 18, Illinois benefiting from a terrible spot, two plays where Bell was forced to cut back into the pile and just managed to squeak through, and one bust.

[After the jump, what's causing it, and the plays vs. State]

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2012: Defense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2012 at 2:35 PM

Formation Notes: Michigan actually spent a lot of this game in the plain old 4-3 even, which seems to be a spread adjustment for M.

2power-1

That's Ryan to the top of the screen at LB

This is against a 2TE set, which usually saw Michigan go to their default under; against three- or four-wide going even (with Ryan at DE) was the play.

In the past I've used "Diamond" to indicate a formation with four skill players to one side of the field in a diamond formation—invariably used for a screen or surprise backside TE thing—but I had to pull it our for the Holgorsen pistol thing that is a backfield diamond like so:

pistol-diamond

Note that Michigan's in the under there.

Substitution notes: Secondary same as it always is: Taylor/Floyd/Kovacs/Gordon with nickel Avery. Marvin Robinson came in once things got out of hand to replace Kovacs, thus giving us a hint of what next year's safety configuration is likely to look like.

The vets have fended off the challenge from the two freshmen at linebacker, it appears. Ross got a few snaps before garbage time; Bolden got none. Ryan was omnipresent until things got out of hand; Cam Gordon came in and did pretty well for himself.

Rotation on the line was more frequent. The starters were the same (Roh, Washington, Campbell, Clark) but both Beyer and Ojemudia took their turns at WDE; Pipkins and Black featured frequently at DT. Roh was replaced far less frequently. He gave way to Heitzman for only a few snaps before garbage time.

Scow scow.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 Pistol twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 7
WR comes for an end around fake. This draws Ryan(-1) well upfield and opens up a big crease. Roh(+0.5) comes under a down block to chase from the inside out; Demens(-1) runs into a block from the TE and gets stood up; he can't get outside, which allows a bounce. Gordon had come down late to be an extra guy in the box and tackles with a scraping Morgan.
O22 2 3 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Pass 5 Out Taylor Inc
Pass is to Tacopants. Ryan(-0.5) had opened it up a little by coming up on play action but the end result here was going to be five yards with Taylor(+0.5) coming up to tackle on the catch. Cover push.
O22 3 3 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 even Pass 5 Comeback Washington 4
Illinois flips their two TEs, drawing little response from M except Roh and Washington widening out a bit. Illinois has some tepid inverted veer PA; Demens (+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) are charging up the middle. Both get picked up but only momentarily and threaten to come through. Washington(+1) beats a block clean and takes out a second guy when the RB has to cut him. Scheelhaase has to throw it off his back foot. The throw is upfield and ends up being three yards; Floyd(+0.5) is there to tackle on the catch. Refs correctly spot the WR short of the first down since his own momentum took the ball short of the 25; replay guy is an idiot and overturns it. Woo replay guy. Pressure +1, Cover +1.
O26 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A A gap power Washington 4
Washington(-0.5) gives a little ground and gets sort of kind of sealed by what's really a one on one block as the G nominally doubling him moves to the second level quickly. This provides a small crease. Roh(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) make it smaller by bulling a TE and pulling G backwards, respectively, and everyone sheds to tackle the back as he hits it up in the only available lane.
O30 2 6 Pistol twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 9
Same play as their first. Either Morgan or Clark busts here as both of them fly hard upfield outside, containing the end-around, but also leaving a huge gap behind them. Think it's Morgan(-2) since the action suggests he is supposed to stunt behind Clark's attack, which ends up drawing two blockers and the end-around fake. Kovacs(-0.5) is rolled down into the box and reacts a little late; Ryan(-0.5) is folding back from a DE spot and has no threats anywhere near him and doesn't scrape down the line in time to make a tackle short of the sticks and set up a third and short; RB runs between arm tackles from both. Demens ate a free release but hard to blame him.
O39 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inverted veer keeper Ryan 5
Again TE flip; M is in an over to start and ends up in an under after the switch. Ryan flies upfield at the handoff, pull. I'm not sure if this is right since it seems M is slanting to the weakside and Ryan(-1) should attack the QB to force a handoff into a containing Gordon. Once that doesn't happen Scheelhaase has a lot of space and three blockers on the two LBs. Roh(-0.5) gave up a lot of ground, too. Demens(+1) sets up in a great spot to force a cutback and then surges through two blockers to cut off a lane inside of him. Morgan(+0.5) fends off a block to tackle downfield.
O44 2 5 Pistol twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Black 4
Pipkins(+0.5) bursts into a double, delaying a release from the G. Black(-1) gets blown down the line and sealed away; good cut from the back to take that hole. Ryan(+0.5) is keeping it down as much as he can; Demens(+0.5) uses the time Pipkins afforded him to pop up in the frontside hole and then scrape to the backside once he sees the cut; those guys tackle from the side.
O48 3 1 Pistol twin TE twins 4-4 even Run N/A Power off tackle Roh 0
I said this was +1 in the game column but Roh(+2) gets two here because he is the whole play. He destroys the TE, comes under him hard, and seeks out the pulling guard to blast him. This slows the tailback and allows Demens a free run. Washington(+1) had popped two DL, who get confused and also allow Morgan a free run. The TE Roh destroyed is collapsing to the ground down; Ryan(+0.5) reaches out to grab a foot and Demens(+0.5) grabs the guy's upper body to prevent him from falling over the first down marker. Morgan(+0.5) had also arrived to help if necessary.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Trap Washington 9
This looks like a draw, actually a trap where the G pulls around the center. Washington(-1) and Campbell(-1) split as the both try to get a pass rush in a situation where that's not wise. Morgan is now one on one in a ton of space with a blocker as Demens was dropping into man coverage against a tight end. Morgan(+0.5) does avoid a block and get the tackle in as Kovacs fills, which prevents this from being super dangerous. RPS -1.
O34 2 1 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 even Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Michigan was late lining up and accidentally got Ojemudia(+1, tackling +1) in for a TFL, but it gets called back.
O29 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 5 Bubble screen Kovacs 0
Or close to it anyway. WR just kind of stands there instead of moving towards the LOS as another guy comes down to block Kovacs, who motioned down late after Ryan blitzed off the slot. Taylor is unblocked; Kovacs(+1) blew past the block anyway. Morgan(+0.5) aborted the blitz quickly enough to be useful as well; Taylor(+0.5) comes up to fill with help from those two and there's nowhere to go.
O29 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Okie two Penalty N/A Offsides Morgan 5
Morgan goes early. -1.
O34 3 1 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A Inverted veer sax Ryan -5
M flips their line when Illinois flips. This looks like it's going to be a veer; bad snap. Campbell(+0.5) and Ryan(+0.5) do put an end to any ensuing wackiness before it can start.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A QB sweep Ryan 6
Michigan's run a lot of this this year. Playside TEs block down; C and playside G pull. Roh(-0.5) lets the play outside of him; not too bad but doesn't quite make a play. Ryan(+1) tosses away a RB trying to block him and comes inside, making contact a few yards downfield. Demens(-1) got cut pretty badly and thus can't help; Scheelhaase falls forward for a decent gain.
O31 2 4 Pistol Diamond 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Taylor Inc
Airmailed. Beyer(+0.5, cover +1) had dropped off into a short zone and may have had a play on the ball if more accurate. Taylor in decent position for quick tackle on five yard hitch.
O31 3 4 Shotgun trips Nickel even Penalty N/A Offsides Morgan 5
Morgan(-1) does come across the line to induce a false start.
O36 1 10 Pistol Diamond 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Pipkins 2
I guess, anyway. Not sure what Illinois is trying to do. Roh(+0.5) left unblocked, charges at the handoff point, gets picked off by one of the tailbacks flaring backside. Contains. RB now has to cut inside into a backside B or C gap, depending on what you believe constitutes which when a tackle releases downfield immediately. Pipkins(+1) has absorbed two OL entirely; Demens(+0.5) has an easy job to scrape behind him and tackle. Campbell(+1) had blown back a G one on one and there was nowhere else to go.
O38 2 8 Pistol twin TE twins 4-3 over Pass 5 Bubble screen Gordon Inc
Ryan slides down from the slot, WR again stationary, Gordon(+1) shoots in to blow him up on the catch. Dropped. RPS +2, but a lolzook +2.
O38 3 8 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 Improv Avery Inc
Ojemudia(+0.5) kind of gets the corner and Roh(+0.5) kind of spins through to get pressure on a three man rush; Scheelhaase has to bail but can. Ryan is spying and shoots up into him. (Pressure +1). Scheelhaase throws a back foot pass that turns into a great back shoulder fade on Avery(-1, cover -1) that's dropped. Oh, Illinois.
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-0, 14 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A QB sweep Roh -3
Same play as the first play of the last Illinois drive. This time Roh(+2) gets under the TE, drives him back, fights playside, and shows up in the gap Scheelhaase wants to hit just as he tries to hit it. Ryan(+2) got upfield of a pulling blocker after taking a false step and bursts upfield like he always does to finish the TFL.
O31 2 13 Shotgun trips bunch 4-3 even slide Run N/A QB draw Morgan 8
Pretty well played by M as there is not a huge gap but with the LBs pulled and Demens booking for the edge instead of checking QB there's only Morgan against two guys releasing downfield. When the crease does just barely open up it's yards. Morgan(+1) does set up, boom into an RB, and almost tackle Scheelhaase near the LOS. He slows him and keeps leverage, allowing Campbell(+0.5) to peel back and tackle. He got good push in a lane so not too mad about letting the QB through. Demens(-1) was really tardy recognizing and the slide seems like something Illinois felt they could exploit. RPS -1.
O39 3 5 Shotgun twin TE twins Nickel over Pass 6 Scramble Ojemudia 23
TE flip, Ojemudia and Ryan flip at DE. M sends a blitz, getting Demens(+0.5) through with Ryan(+1) beating a block to join the party; Scheelhaase dodges to the other side of the field; Ojemudia(-2) has gotten out of his lane badly despite clearly setting up to contain an escape like this and gives up the corner. Kovacs(-1) does not trust that Floyd will keep contain and ends up running into him; Black tackles on the cutback behind. Scheelhaase hits his head, is concussed, and out for the day. Wow... this did not look that bad from the stands.
M38 1 10 Pistol twin TE twins 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start N/A -5
Erp.
M43 1 15 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Power Black 3
Washington(+1) holds up to a double; when the G pulls he has very little crease to attack. Heitzman(+1) closes down the POA as well, getting a yard or so penetration; Black(+1) shucks the backside G and makes contact when the RB hits the LOS. RB does a good job to spin for yardage but there wasn't anything here more than YAC.
M40 2 12 Pistol twin TE twins 4-3 even Run N/A Power Demens 3
Campbell(+0.5) gives some ground but does not get sealed at all and Demens(+0.5) can scrape over the top of him without worrying about the wrong OL popping out on him. The one who does has the wrong angle. Washington(+0.5) avoids a cut and flows down the line a gap behind the play, so no cutbacks. Morgan(+0.5) moves and pops the lead guard, funneling to Demens, who tackles.
M37 3 9 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 even Pass N/A Scramble Taylor 5
Couple of short routes are covered(+1, Morgan +0.5, Taylor +0.5) by M and O'Toole is bailing after. More crappy QB play than anything great from M; Demens and Ryan are rallying to tackle in short zones against a not that mobile QB.
Drive Notes: Missed FG(50), 10-0, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Throwback screen Ross 12
WR comes on ostentatious orbit "I'm gonna option" motion to the wide side of the field. O'Toole stares at him as it appears Illinois is screening over there, and then pivots to a throwback screen. This works a lot. Clark(-1) could be helpful on a peel back; instead he's cut. Don't' really blame the DTs. Ross(+1) attacks hard and gets cut to the ground but did get a two for one, for all the good that does M since there are still two guys to block Taylor. That does let Kovacs fill without getting bothered and holds this down. RPS -2; burned pretty good here and it took a nice play from Ross to prevent a potentially large play.
O37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Draw Campbell 4
Campbell(+1) gets a lot of push and threatens to fill the gap in the middle of the field. RB has to pick a hole further outside and start moving laterally. Would like Roh(-0.5) to not get so far upfield and maybe have a play when this happens. Demens(+1) beats a block and flows outside to force yet more lateral motion. Eventually RB has to turn it up into Demens and Ryan for a small gain.
O41 2 6 Shotgun twin TE twins Nickel even Pass 5 Dumpoff N/A 9
M sends all three linebackers up the gut, dropping off both ends. Ross gets through clean but nobody really takes the RB and an easy dumpoff picks up the first down. Cover -1, RPS -1. Ross might have been late, not sure.
50 1 10 Pistol twins twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 3
This turns into a quick hit at the left side of the line. Black(+0.5) does okay to narrow the gap; Ross(-1) gets into a blocker near the LOS and is outside of him but weirdly ends up trying to fight away from the guy with the ball, which gives a small crease; Demens(+1) scrapes down the line, gets a small pop on the OL trying to get into him, and then moves past the Ross block to tackle after a meh gain. Kovacs helps clean up.
M47 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Draw Black 6
Huge gap as Black(-1) and Washington(-1) split in an effort to get pass rush; no delay for the RB. LBs are pass dropping and eh. Ross(+0.5) beats a guy, as does Ryan(+0.5); Demens(-0.5) gets blocked and disengages late, falling on the pile the other two guys already made.
M41 3 1 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A QB power Campbell 0
Ojemudia is standing up on this, which may tip mischief. Campbell(+2) slants playside on the snap and gets past an attempted downblock; he gets penetration and fouls the play. One blocker is taking him. A second squeezes through the closing gap and is now useless since he has no angle. A third runs up the back of that OL. Ross ends up washed out in the pulling G; Demens(+0.5) reads where O'Toole is going and puts in a hit that stop him in his tracks; Ryan(+1) had blitzed from the backside and was tackling as this happens. RPS +1, slant caused blocks to fail and exposed runner to Ryan.
M41 4 1 Pistol twins twin TE 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Ryan -1
Ryan(+2) blows inside of a tight end, getting upfield and picking off the pulling G. Demens(+2, tackling +1) has a free run and makes it count, making contact well in the backfield and tackling by himself. Boom. RPS +2. Perfect call.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 17-0, 1 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 TE post Demens INT
Orbit motion from slot WR. Play action fake. No sale from either LB; Demens(+3) gets a fantastic drop (cover +3, as no one is open anywhere) and picks the ball off as O'Toole chucks it into his chest.
Drive Notes: Interception, 24-0, 11 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A Counter Campbell 1
Campbell(+2) dominates the G, gets penetration, releases into intended hole, forces cutback; Washington(+1) has also gotten penetration and can release as RB cuts behind him to tackle; Demens(+1) finishes it off by beating a block and plowing the RB, already going down to the QW tackle.
O26 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Draw Washington -7
Zone blitz from M sends Washington and Campbell playside while dropping Clark. Ryan(+0.5) and Demens(+0.5) both zoom into the hole on the backside. Washington(+2) fights past a block from the center and is there to shoot upfield when the RB cuts away from the blitzers. He TFLs. RPS +2, dead meat.
O19 3 16 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Screen Kovacs Inc
Blitz gets a free run from Morgan(+0.5, pressure +1) , which forces a too quick, inaccurate throw. Kovacs(+1) had zipped past a defender and got blocked by another; two for one, very likely enough of a delay on the screen to allow the cavalry to rally, certainly before the sticks.
Drive Notes: Punt, 31-0, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O4 1 10 Shotgun twins 4-3 even Run N/A Power off tackle Washington 2
Campbell may move early, not called. He gets(+0.5) decent penetration on the backside. Washington(+1) gets push on the down-blocking G and fights playside. Roh's(+0.5) being doubled but doesn't give much. Demens(+1) reads and hits the G at the LOS. Nowhere to go, heap of bodies, pile falls forward a couple yards.
O6 2 8 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Power Demens 3
Kickout on Roh as the play goes inside. Campbell(-1) blown out by a double, big hole. G releases into Morgan. Demens(+2) reads, attacks, gets past the pulling G and gets in a tackle after funneling to help; that help is Washington(+1), who got push on the backside and came under to flow down the line and finish the tackle.
O9 3 5 Shotgun trips Okie one Pass 5 Sack Ryan -4
Kovacs moves up late and blitzes off the edge. Two more DL attack to that side as Ryan(+2) stunts inside past them at great speed. He's in clean (pressure +3) and flying at the QB; QB side steps and he flies by. Scrambling now; Morgan(+1) reads it and flows up to prevent the scramble from going anywhere. O'Toole prepares to throw and is annihilated by a recovering Ryan from behind. Fumble, recovered by M. RPS +2. I mean, goddamn watching Ryan find the hole and accelerate through it is not that much different than seeing Denard do it.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 31-0, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Counter Campbell 3
Campbell(+1) dominates the G, gets penetration, shows up in gap, forces cutback. Pipkins does even better with the penetration but does not understand where the ball is going and can't disconnect to tackle at the LOS, push. Morgan(-0.5) gets slashed to the ground and is lucky that the hole is narrow enough that he can reach out an arm from his knees and do something useful. He does, though.
O27 2 7 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle CGordon 6
M slants under. Heitzman(+1) is past his guy and into the backfield. Two guys follow. CGordon(-1, tackling -1) is now all alone on the edge with the back; he gets beat to the outside. Gordon(-1) is set up outside of a blocker after a few yards and also lets the back outside when he had a ton of pursuit helping out. Taylor and MRobinson combine to tackle at the sticks.
O33 3 1 Pistol twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Power Bolden 2
Double just gets enough movement on Heitzman for a crease; Bolden(+0.5) gets a good hit at the line on the pulling G, restricting and funneling; Morgan(+1) scrapes over to hit right at the first down marker, and it looks like it's short, generous spot. Very generous.
O35 1 10 Pistol twin TE 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Bolden 6
Washington gives some ground on a double; he also chucks a guard to the ground, so a push since that guy never blocks anyone. Bolden(-1) gets too aggressive and picks a hole that the back cuts out of; CGordon(-1, tackling -1) is coming down from the slot and overruns the play; RB runs through a tackle. Roh(+0.5) tackles from behind.
O41 2 4 Pistol Diamond 4-4 even Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 3 (Pen -15)
Black is doubled and gets pushed out, so the inside guy releases into Morgan(+1); Morgan goes boom and stands him up. The backwards motion takes away potential cutbacks and forces him in between that block and that of Black, where MRobinson(+0.5) is there to fill as the extra guy in the box. Illinois OL Morgan popped loses a helmet and gets a penalty for continuing to block him. Not a big fan of the rule here since the guy is already engaged. For some reason play is yardage gained minus yardage penalized but the down doesn't count? Someone screwed up I think.
O29 2 16 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 even Pass 5 Dumpoff Clark Inc
Blitz comes as Illinois cuts everyone; Clark(+1, cover +1) is dropping into this short out thing the RB is running and will kill it for minimal yards if caught; dropped. RPS +1.
O29 3 16 Shotgun 3-wide Okie one Pass 5 Sack Ryan -7
Another stunt gets Ryan(+2) under a guard before he can react to seal off the hole. This time Ryan doesn't quite run by the QB and gets a hand on; he's starting to bring him down when Roh(+1, pressure +3) beats his block to join in and make it a sure thing. RPS +2.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, EO3Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Screen N/A -1
RB falls down as he catches the ball for no reason. ILLINOIS! Ross and Pipkins may or may not have held this down.
O40 2 11 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 WR screen Gordon -1
Outside WR the target with slot guy blocking. Not a bubble, but not sure what it actually is. Anyway, Gordon(+2, tackling +1) reads this and is out on the receiver when he catches the ball, picking up a TFL. ILLINOIS
O39 3 12 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 4 Dig Taylor Inc
Ojemudia playing DT, a la HS. M stunts, sort of picked up, sort of not. CGordon(+0.5) and Clark(+0.5) threaten to sack; a containing Roh(-1) slips when QB starts moving around. He finds a guy running a dig a yard short of the first down. Taylor(+1, cover +1) reads, adjusts, and whacks the guy as the ball arrives, jarring it loose. Would have been short anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 11 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O13 1 10 Shotgun twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A End around CGordon 1
Actually a touch pass to the WR end around but whatever it's an end around. Heitzman unblocked, lets it outside, does cause some delay, push. CGordon(+1) is taking on two blockers and moves inside when the WR threatens to go vertical but has the ability to redirect to the corner once he play goes all the way outside; Taylor(+1) beats a block and joins to tackle after a minimal gain.
O14 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 PA rollout cross Bolden Inc
Bolden(-2, cover -2) is way late to read the PA and opens up a first down and more; ball is behind and incomplete. ILLINOIS.
O14 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even Pass 4 Sack Ojemudia -2
M stunts; CGordon(+1) gets inside a tackle and pressures(+2). He's too far upfield and can only force the QB to move around in the pocket, but that's an accomplishment. O'Toole still readjusting when Ojemudia(+1), who flew past a chip from a releasing TE without getting touched and got chopped by the back, gets up and sacks from behind.
Drive Notes: Punt, 38-0, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Ross 3
Nowhere to go; Black(+0.5) gets in a crease as Heitzman(+0.5) shuts down a frontside one; Ross(+0.5) shoots a backside gap to force the RB outside. Ojemudia gives too much ground, permitting the bounce, but does come off to tackle so a push.
O31 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A WR screen N/A 6
Black tracks it down from behind. GAF... expiring.
O37 3 1 Pistol twin TE 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ross -2
And the reason I bothered with the drive. Pipkins(+0.5) and Black(+0.5) get quality push; Ross(+2) shoots the gap with perfect timing and goodbye Illinois.
Drive Notes: Punt, 4 min 4th Q. EOG for D.

I AM ENJOYING THIS A GREAT DEAL

Hey remember the 67-65 game

NO

It just happened two years ago

WHAT IS THIS TWO YEARS AGO BUSINESS

2010

THE BIBLE SAYS FOOTBALL STARTED IN 2011

No it doesn't

MY BIBLE IS GREG MATTISON'S WIKIPEDIA PAGE

Oh then it probably does… n't

DO YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY CHOICE OF BIBLE

No not at all, I mean—

HOLY SCRIPTURE ANNOTATIONS

--chart?

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Roh 8 2.5 5.5 Half sack, half points, half ten
Campbell 9 2 7 just Illinois just Illinois just Illinois
Washington 8.5 2.5 6 ditto ditto ditto please don't just be Illinois
Black 2.5 2 0.5 Definitively backup three tech.
Clark 1.5 1 0.5 Eh
Beyer 0.5 - 0.5 Eh
Pipkins 2 - 2 Getting some push, still learning what to do with it.
Heitzman 2.5 - 2.5 Hope he can give Roh some breathers later.
Ojemudia 2.5 2 0.5 Half point WDE party.
Ash - - - DNP
Brink - - - DNP
TOTAL 37 12 25 just Illinois?
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Morgan 7.5 4.5 3 This is relatively bad!
Demens 16.5 3.5 13 Thanks for playing, freshmen.
Ryan 14 3 11 I call Clay Matthews mini Jake Ryan.
C. Gordon 2.5 2 0.5 Could probably step in without huge downgrade.
Ross 4 1 3 Knifing knife guy with knives.
Bolden 0.5 3 -2.5 Basically one blown coverage on last drive.
Hawthorne - - - DNP
TOTAL 45 17 28 excuse me I'm going to go run in circles now
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 0.5 1 0.5 Tea?
Avery - - 1.5 Oh yes please
Taylor 3.5 - 3.5 Cream and sugar?
Kovacs 2 1.5 0.5 Oh no thank you
T. Gordon 3 - 1 Here is your tea
M. Robinson 0.5 - 0.5 I like tea
Wilson - - - is there football?
TOTAL 7.5 2.5 5 not for the secondary
Metrics
Pressure 11 1 10 Multiple unblocked Ryans.
Coverage 7 4 3 what is this pass you say of speaking
Tackling 3 2 60% Eh.
RPS 12 5 7 Ah so.

So that's what a UFR chart looks like when I do a whole game in which Michigan holds the opponent to 130 yards.

Again, Demens has Stepped Up with capitals after picking OL out of his teeth for many of the first three games. Demens had an easy outing with Illinois OL virtually incapable of getting to him, and made the most of it with a series of third down stops and the track-and-follow INT. While I seriously doubt he'll ever scrape a +13 again if only because the opponent has to cooperate extensively for that to happen, this is a third straight game in which he has performed well as Michigan throttles an opponent's ground game (and everything else game).

Ryan is basically what we expect of him now. I would like to emphasize that sometimes when he comes on blitzes and accelerates through a hole in the OL after a change of direction, the feeling in your scalp is not entirely unlike that when Denard does it. He is a man of unusual speed. I mean, goddamn he hits this hole HARD:

And hey hey hey, defensive tackles. We has them, at least against OLs like Illinois. Let's check the schedule… yeah, lots of Illinois type outfits on the docket, not many Alabama's.

The metrics are pretty much irrelevant but a big part of Illinois's inability to pick up more than a couple yards per passing attempt was Michigan flinging its way at O'Toole whenever he tried. 11:1 is a pretty good ratio there.

So… things.

Yeah, I don't know man. Illinois was turned into goo, and helped the process themselves.

Any things?

Well, the Illinois offense hasn't been this throttled yet.

  • vs Wisconsin: 284 yards
  • vs Penn State: 364 yards
  • vs Louisiana Tech: 324 yards
  • vs Arizona State: 332 yards

The Arizona State game is particularly relevant since Scheelhaase missed it. Illinois put up 14 points, which is more than Utah and three less than Cal and Colorado have managed on ASU.

I mean, things happen to defenses. Guys blow stuff and then yards are acquired. Michigan hardly blew anything except a couple of contains on Scheelhaase; safety blanket Jordan Kovacs went virtually unused. This is kind of like picking through a UMass game for something useful, but even in that context what Michigan did was impressive.

Any, like, other things?

It does seem like Michigan's getting a bit better at containing short stuff. Illinois's screen game was non-existent:

RPS somewhat, also Kovacs beating a block like whoah. Gordon had a similar event late. I wonder if that will continue against teams that have a prayer of completing a pass longer than five yards.

So sort of a thing.

Personnel things?

Hey, here's Will Campbell getting under the pads of what's probably an awful guard:

And doing it again:

Also, the other DT there eats a double team without giving more than a yard—that's Pipkins. We'll all be watching for signs of progress from him over the next few games, as a Pipkins-Washington DT combo next year seems like the best available option. Both are nose tackles now, but Pipkins moving to the three-tech may be possible.

Also, add another to the pile of Craig Roh plays that don't show up in the box score:

I just love how effective he has been. That's pretty nice above; the TE chuck featured in picture pages is an elite play. Just Illinois disclaimers, sure—he's already made more plays this year than he did last year. That development is another data point for what we'll call the Heininger Theory: Michigan's DL is going to be awesome at technique for the foreseeable future. [UPDATE: Heiko suggests "Heininger Certainty Principle," which SOLD."

What about that extremely disturbing section of the game in which Illinois gained like 30 yards?

Just random stuff. On this play the end-around fake opens up a lot of room and holds Gordon outside; Demens and Morgan end up in the same gap:

Remember yesterday's picture pages? This is the same thing from M—note Beyer folding back. The difference? Ryan is way way outside because of the end around fake when that's probably not his job. Thus… seven yards. And a stop two plays later incorrectly overturned by replay.

After that overturn Michigan gives up nine yards when it looks like Desmond Morgan gets the wrong call and does not blow up a play by stunting inside. These things happen. For Michigan they are turning into 8, 9, 10 yards and that's it. Anemic opposing offenses, yes yes. We pillage the lemonade stands.

A couple of times they got RPSed by draws:

They'll figure that out, in all likelihood. After zero(!) shotgun runs from MSU a week ago they will undoubtedly break tendency a couple times.

Aaaand… that's all.

Heroes?

Essentially everyone but Ryan and Demens bear special mention; DTs and Roh are vying to show.

Goats?

GTFO

What does it mean for MSU and beyond?

Demens and Morgan are about to get a stiff test against LeVeon Bell. Even if they're getting in clean, Bell is more than capable of juking you or running you over. Bell YAC is the key stat for Michigan's defense, and I don't know how that's going to go. For all of Demens's excellent play in the last three games he has not faced a back of that caliber.

I am pretty confident that Demens will get his chances, though, after watching the Michigan DL and the post-injury Spartan OL. Chris McDonald has been getting knocked back a lot, and he's their #1 guy. Both MSU tackles were susceptible to slants against Iowa, which means guards won't be getting where they're going and holes will be filled by clean linebackers.

On the outside, Burbridge will be a challenge. He's probably the best receiver Michigan has faced to date—yes, already—and if Maxwell is protected (maybe) and dry (probably) M will probably get some yards in its face that you wouldn't expect given the stats. Other than that?

Ignore the part at the end where he catches one.

MSU will be a step up from the previous two offenses—I know I know you don't believe it—but I'm expecting them to score under 20.

I TOLD YOU ABOUT THE BIBLE

Yeah, yeah.

Picture Pages: Short Yardage Slant

Picture Pages: Short Yardage Slant

Submitted by Brian on October 17th, 2012 at 12:38 PM

fbz3gg[1]wsg Slanty, the football-playing, jean-vested gecko who is inexplicably the first hit in Google images for "line slant football", or at least was a year ago.

One of my main concerns going into the season was what would happen to the short-yardage defense that Michigan was so good in a year ago without Mike Martin and RVB. Turning a third and short into a punt is 50% of a turnover, and Michigan could paper over a lot of deficiencies last year by telling Mike Martin to destroy some guys on third and one, thus allowing other guys to tackle.

Illinois disclaimers are in full effect—they can't do anything against anyone—but the Illini could do even less of anything against Michigan Saturday, and getting bombed on short yardage was a major part of that.

Michigan blew up Illinois short yardage with slants. Multiple times we saw this pattern:

  1. Michigan slants away from a power run.
  2. The playside end gets inside and upfield of the tackle or end trying to block down on him.
  3. The pulling guard bangs into the playside end.
  4. Linebackers profit.

Actually, Michigan doesn't so much "slant away" as show one defense and run another. When Michigan isn't running their base 4-3 under call they are inverting it by blitzing Ryan and moving everyone else over a gap.

Let's see it in action. /fishduck'd

It's fourth and one on the second and final Illini drive to make it past midfield, just before the half. Michigan has just stoned a power run by Riley O'Toole for a half yard to set up this opportunity. Illinois comes out in one of their standard sets, a pistol with two tight ends to one side of the line and twinned WRs.

Michigan is in an over this time since the strength is to the boundary, but Illinois will move a tight end over and not have an unbalanced strength on the line on the snap anyway so whatever.

slant-vs-power

This is what Michigan does:

slant-vs-power-setup

They're essentially moving everyone over a a gap and dropping Ojemudia into a short zone. On run plays he "folds" which consists of backing off, keep an eye out for cutbacks, and allowing the linebackers to run to the frontside. If you're watching a replay and are wondering if Michigan's doing this gap-shift thing, the WDE backing off the LOS is a sure tip. If you watch for it, you will find it—Michigan runs this on upwards of 20% of downs.

On the snap, Ojemudia backs off and the line shoots down. Gordon, who is right behind Ojemudia in the above frame, has followed the TE across the field and now takes contain responsibility to the playside.

slant-vs-power-2

You can see the slant better from this angle:

ez-slant-1

Campbell is now attacking outside the left tackle, like he's a WDE. Roh and Ryan both shoot gaps to the inside. They get penetration, giving up an outside crease to do so.

slant-vs-power-3

Ryan gets under fast. He's essentially through clean, so the pulling G has no choice but to pick him off. Demens is already a yard off the LOS and charging as the handoff is made.

slant-vs-power-4

Now it's all about tackling.

slant-vs-power-5

Check.

ez-slant-3

ez-slant-4

Demens went inside out here as the back tried to go north and south on fourth and inches. That allows him to use the pile as help, and look at Desmond Morgan popping up to say hi/clean up any messes.

If you take a second look at this frame:

slant-vs-power-4

Note how Morgan is also clean and has stepped playside as the slant develops. He's still trying to check for any potential cutbacks and find the gap he's going to fill; he is available if the back makes Demens miss or threatens to power to the line.

Video

[After THE JUMP: play it sort of again, Sam.]

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-16-12: Greg Mattison

Tuesday Presser Transcript 10-16-12: Greg Mattison

Submitted by Heiko on October 16th, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Greg Mattison

file

Opening remarks:

“This is the week you look for. This is a big week for us, and you know, I know our guys are going to prepare that way. I think as a football program, we’re very very excited about this challenge.”

Can you talk about the emphasis on physicality this week?

“There’s no question about it. I think last year if you look back, that’s something that kind of sticks with us the entire year. They took it to us. You can cut it any way you want. They lined up, ran the football, and knocked us off the football and we don’t like that. We don’t believe in that at Michigan. It’s going to be that kind of game. It’s going to be a very physical football game.”

Do you feel like that game motivated your defense the rest of the way?

“Oh no. I don’t think -- any time you don’t play well, I hope you don’t use that for motivation. I think if anything, it emphasized that each and every week you must play physical. You can’t go out there anytime and think we’re Michigan, we’re going to play. In this league, against the people we play each and every week, you have to bring your a game.”

Illinois Postgame Presser Transcript: Players

Illinois Postgame Presser Transcript: Players

Submitted by Heiko on October 15th, 2012 at 3:37 PM

Something came up yesterday and I had to drive to Cincinnati, which is why this is late. I will  post today's presser transcript later this afternoon/evening. Apologies for the whacky timing.

Desmond Morgan and Denard Robinson

Opening remarks about Gerald Ford’s jersey:

Morgan: “I’d just like to say it’s quite an honor and privilege not only to represent a former Michigan player -- obviously left his legacy on the program, was a standout person and player -- but on top of that the President of the United States. It’s an honor, and I’m going to wear it proud.”

Denard, what did you hurt and were you scared that it was going to be more serious than it turned out to be?

Denard: “No, it was just a boo boo. I mean, everybody gets hurt, so I mean, it was all good. I came back in and it didn’t bother me at all.”

What’s ‘it?’

Denard: “It didn’t bother me. I don’t know. It was nothing. Funny bone. Nothing serious.”

Denard, can you talk about the defense and how much you feel like you can rely on them?

Denard: “Uh, I think every great team has to have a great defense. It starts with the defense, to be honest with you. If they can stop people, we could score three points and win the game if they shut them out. They’re playing well and it was a team effort.”