Michigan All-Extracurriculars Team

Michigan All-Extracurriculars Team Comment Count

Seth June 4th, 2018 at 11:22 AM
Hi it's a Norfleet. [Bryan Fuller]

[Site notice: It happened.]

You know those “make your all-time” lists that circulate in the offseason. That inspired me to make some themed versions, sort of like how Ace made his all-Beilein teams last year. Previously: The 5-stars. This week: Extracurricular Entertainment!

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Rule: This team is for those who made their contributions off the field. I don’t mean being a quiet model citizen; I mean doing things that we found entertaining, insane, or otherwise meme-worthy.

Cutoff Point: Had to exist in the Michigan consciousness during the Time of Blog (2005-present)

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Quarterback: David Cone

Please still exist please still exist please still exist DAMMIT.

full

Why you gotta use MySpace, Notorious C.O.N.E.? Since stone age social media no longer hosts, former WR Toney Clemons filmed roommate/former QB David Cone in their apartment laying some sick rhymes (free mgoshirt to whoever can track down a copy of the album for us).

mrdave

Mr. Dave

Fortunately MVictors still has the audio, if the vid is gone for all time. But that video was so good.

Honorable Mention: Denard. How do you separate Brian’s kid’s name, Shoelace, the smile, Whaaaaat?!?, the cover of the last NCAA edition for a decade, and a crumpled up mailbox from the actual dilithium? You can’t, and the purpose of this list is to honor the Coners because these lists otherwise exist just for an excuse to put Denard at QB when you wouldn’t otherwise.

[after THE JUMP: bang bang]

Comments

2011 Preview Review: Offense

2011 Preview Review: Offense Comment Count

Ace April 19th, 2012 at 12:37 PM


Molk as Rimington finalist: check, plus. Kelvin Grady's 30 catches: not so much.

Spring football is over, meaning we're entering the darkest days of the offseason, the times when college football bloggers must get creative (aigh!) and come up with something, anything, to post while hoping nobody on the team gets arrested (usually as a product of being as bored with the offseason as us).

This is one of those posts.

Last year, Brian went HAM with his football preview, churning out so much content that I ended up previewing Western lest the first game pass without comment. Now I get to look back on all of Brian's hard work, use hindsight as a crutch to make me look intelligent, and critique his predictions. It's up to you to decide whether it's coincidence that I'm doing this while he's rather incapacitated.

This review will be posted in three parts. Today, I'll look at the offensive personnel. Later, I'll tackle the defense (ooh, role reversal), then finally look at special teams and Brian's "stupid predictions," (his term, not mine). This first post was less fun than I expected; outside of some inflated projections for the wide receivers, Brian kinda nailed it when it came to the offense. BOO.

Greatest Hits

Koger's role will be up to him. He'll be somewhere between a B- and B+ blocker and will have opportunities to establish himself a major part of the passing game. Our sample size on his hands is still very small and the bad part is now two years removed and he's quite an athlete—his upside is high. I can't help but think he's been held back by things other than Rich Rodriguez's preferences, though. I'm betting on a good but unmemorable senior year.

I have a difficult time coming up with a better description for Kevin Koger's final Michigan season. He was a solid, but unspectacular, blocker who recorded 23 catches for 244 yards and four touchdowns. That was more production than he'd had under Rodriguez, but I had to check MGoBlue to see if he even earned All-Big Ten honorable mention (he did). My lasting memories of Koger will remain the insane catch against Western in 2009 and his battles with the dropsies the next year, along with his "KogerNotKroger" Twitter handle.

The Mouton comparison is ominous since we just watched that guy start for three years without getting any better, but Lewan hasn't suffered at the hands of poor coaching yet and won't in the future. This should be the year he drops the crazy hot girl act and establishes himself as an All Big Ten left tackle. He'll still be a little penalty-prone but it will be worth it.

Taylor Lewan earned second-team All-B1G honors from the coaches, honorable mention from the media, and generally was the team's best non-Molk offensive lineman. He still took a few dumb penalties, but not as many as he did in 2010. Again, spot on, old chap.

That is admittedly me trying to find a concern. David Molk is great. You can never tell which interior linemen are going to be up for postseason awards but I'll be incensed if he's not All Big Ten after a healthy year. I think he'll be a Rimington finalist.

See: picture at top of post.

Al Borges is going to do his damndest to keep Denard productive, upright, and beaming.

Check, check, and of course, check.

He'll give Denard a more sophisticated offense that he won't execute as well as Borges needs him to; he'll use Denard's legs but not quite as effectively as Rodriguez would have. These guys are good because they've spent a lot of time specializing in ways that make them successful. There is a necessary lack of efficiency once they get outside their comfort zones.

It was a near-impossible task for Denard to replicate his 2010 rushing production under Borges, especially since the coaches explicitly stated that wasn't at all the goal. He still finished as the team's leading rusher, broke the 1,000-yard barrier, scored 16 rushing touchdowns, and averaged over five yards per carry. As for the execution of the offense as a whole: yup, there were some efficiency issues. Yards/attempt, completion percentage, and passing efficiency all dropped, while interceptions rose to an unsightly 15. This prediction didn't exactly go out on a limb, but that didn't make it any less right.

Yards per carry drop quite a bit but nose above 5.

2010 YPC: 5.58.
2011 YPC: 5.15.

Close Enough

If [Junior Hemingway] can manage [to stay healthy] through the season he's going to end the year with a ton of catches. Even if the Michigan offense doesn't go full MANBALL right away continued development from Denard Robinson will make difficult pro-style throws that frequently target outside wide receivers more feasible; Borges's offense will make them more frequent. Combine that with Hemingway's main skill and there will be jump balls for the taking.

ALL OF THE JUMP BALLS. This piece of prognostication would've made it into the above category if not for this next bit:

If he can maintain his 18.5 YPC he'll challenge Roundtree for the most receiving yards on the team. Expect a bit under 1,000 yards from him.

Hemingway actually averaged a tic above 20 YPC and still led the team in receptions, but leading the team meant catching 34 passes for 699 yards. Junior did manage to stay healthy, which was nice, and then stole all of our hearts during (and after) the Sugar Bowl. Y U NO PREDICT HE STEAL OUR HEARTS, BRIAN?

Huyge's flexibility will allow Michigan to flip Schofield onto the field if anyone other than Molk goes down. He's likely to start a few games in preparation for a full time role in 2011… unless he rips the job away from Huyge right now.

Given the way Huyge's career has gone and the general vibe coming from camp chatter and Funk's public statements, that's a strong possibility. Huyge's never been much of a pass blocker and Michigan's offense is going to require quite a bit more of that as Robinson starts making more and more five and seven step drops.

This was right on in that a non-Molk OL (Ricky Barnum) went down with an injury, and Michael Schofield was the man to replace him. What Brian didn't see coming—and I don't think anyone predicted this—is that Huyge would remain at tackle while Schofield filled in admirably at left guard, keeping the job even after Barnum returned.

Tousssaint [extra 's' there, boss] seems to have that jittery short-range quickness that allows little guys to survive, even thrive, as they pick their way through the chaos.

I'm hoping he emerges as the guy. If he beats out a healthy Shaw he'll be well on his way to translating that tape to college, and I could get used to a jump-cutting Houdini with sprinter's speed. Toussaint is the offense's Roh: the wildcard. Anything from Mike Hart (except crappy :( ) to Mike Hart (except fast!) is possible.

No full credit here what with the significant hedging and the fact that Brian had Michael Shaw listed as the (tenuous) starter, even though that's because Brady Hoke flat-out said so before the season. Instead, Toussaint was the man all year, rushing for 1,041 yards on 5.6 YPC and surpassing all reasonable expectations in the process. Fitz's speed turned out to be more of the sprinter's variety than what he showed in his previous, injury-plagued season, and the jump-cuts were plentiful. He wasn't quite Mike Hart (except fast!); Michigan didn't need that with Denard playing quarterback. The potential is there, however.

Michigan finishes around 15th in FEI and other advance metrics. By yardage they drop to about the same spot; scoring offense increases from 25th to match.

Brian actually underestimated the offense in terms of the advanced metrics—9th in FEI—though successfully predicted that it wouldn't quite match the #2 rank of the previous year. Yardage fell to 42nd in the country, and scoring offense was 26th. The larger point remained true—the offense was quite efficient, but not quite at the level of 2010's spread-and-shred—but the raw numbers didn't quite match up.

Not So Much

Roundtree's production will drop this year as Michigan tries to get Hemingway and Koger more involved. He can't expect set the single-game receiving record every year. He'll still run neck and neck with Hemingway fro [sic] the most receiving yards on the team. [Ed-S: hey, I remember that vacation--it was nice]

Roundtree's production did drop, just more significantly than expected. With QB OH NOES mostly gone from the offense (and Roundtree flat-out dropping the one such opportunity I recall), he finished with just 19 catches for 355 yards, well behind both Hemingway and Jeremy Gallon on the stat sheet. Speaking of Gallon...

Entering his final season [Kelvin] Grady's best shot at extensive playing time is based on 1) a lot of three wide and 2) Roundtree playing mostly on the outside. In that situation he's the established veteran. He'd get a crack at screens and seams and whatnot en route to a breakout mini-'Tree year. More likely is a moderately increased role as Roundtree bounces inside and out with around 30 catches.

First, a sadface— :( —for the lack of screens, not to mention blitheringly wide-open seams. Now, Grady's final stat line: five catches, 75 yards. Brian did recover with a nice hedge—"It could go sour for Grady if Jeremy Gallon translates chatter into playing time"—especially since Gallon produced Grady's projected stat line: 31 catches netting 453 yards. Still, swing and a miss on which player would produce said stat line, and I'm really reaching for stuff to critique here

Denard rushes for 1200 yards. His interception rate falls significantly but is still not great.

Shaw claims the starting job to himself in week four, gets injured shortly after, and Toussaint takes over. Both are much better than Smith at making extra yards. At the end of the year they've all got somewhere between 400 and 800 yards.

Toussaint's rapid rise wasn't foreseen by Brian, who expected more of a backfield-by-committee, especially in the early going. Shaw never captured the starting job, appeared in nine games, and finished with 199 yards on 31 carries. That made Shaw a more effective runner than Smith, who had 298 yards on 50 carries, but both were surprisingly effective (6.42 YPC for Shaw, 5.96 for Smith, though obviously in limited action for both).

Hopkins creates windows other backs don't. When three yards and a cloud of dust is a win, he'll be in there.

Or he'll continue putting the ball on the ground—see: Denard's immaculate rushing TD against Notre Dame—and get relegated to fullback.

Comments

2012 First Look: Offense

2012 First Look: Offense Comment Count

Brian January 10th, 2012 at 2:33 PM

DEPARTURES IN ORDER OF SIGNIFICANCE.

0molkmofo[1]6370679027_722582bb70_o[1]kevin-koger-yell

Molk, Huyge, Koger

  1. C David Molk. Rimington winner, four year starter, epic team glue guy, man whose body does not narrow in its transition from shoulders to neck.
  2. RT Mark Huyge. Not great but consistently unkillable long-term starter who graded out well as a senior and must be replaced by exactly one person.
  3. TE Kevin Koger. Did not see production increase significantly from RR years; capable of circus catches and routine drops; decent but not spectacular blocker; zero depth behind him.

    [serious worry stops here]

  4. WR Junior Hemingway. Fairly ponderous leaper with inexplicable YAC knack; decent hands; should be replaceable if Darryl Stonum makes it back. Given the lack of swift action to boot after Stonum got pulled over, I assume that is the case. In the event Stonum is dismissed Hemingway moves up to #2.
  5. WR Martavious Odoms. The very first slot ninja; missed big chunks of the season due to injury and lack of trust from the coaching staff but came on late; mountain goat with arms; Jeremy Gallon is basically Odoms except quicker.
  6. TE Steve Watson. Used mostly as a blocker. Was okay at it.

    [slight worry stops here]

  7. RB Michael Shaw. BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE
  8. WR Kelvin Grady. Infrequently targeted slot receiver will be ably replaced by an expanded role for Drew Dileo.
  9. FB John McColgan. Lost his job to Hopkins mid-year.
  10. WR Terrance Robinson (maybe). Has a fifth year available but will have to earn it as a gunner on punts.
  11. RB Michael Cox (in all probability). Fifth year available, but highly unlikely to get it since he can't remember which endzone to run at.

WHAT'S LEFT

denard-postgame-smilestoussaint-um[1]

Robinson, Lewan, Fitzgerald

  1. QB Denard Robinson. Oh my gawd.
  2. LT Taylor Lewan. Should be the first of two first-team All Big Ten years.
  3. RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Will put himself in the conversation for best back in the league.
  4. RT (presumably) Michael Schofield. Established himself a quality Big Ten OL despite playing out of position at guard. Will likely shift over to tackle, his natural position, because there ain't no one else to play it.
  5. WR Roy Roundtree. Converted to outside WR and saw production collapse as Worst Waldo plays on which he acquired free 50 yard touchdowns evaporated; still managed some deep balls; should be reliable B+ option as a senior.
  6. WR Jeremy Gallon. Diminutive guy with extensive quicks; throwback screen merchant; seemingly good hands; cloaking device available.
  7. OG Patrick Omameh. Struggled early and still too light for Michigan's long term desires; improved his ability to pull by the end of the year.
  8. OG(?) Ricky Barnum. Won the left guard job over Schofield, who proved an able contributor once Barnum went down with injury; graded out decently before that; may move to center.
  9. RB Vincent Smith. Uninspiring runner; fantastic pass blocker; also a throwback screen merchant. Third down back.
  10. FB Stephen Hopkins. Fumble issues threatened to bury him on the bench before midseason shift to FB; tailback-ish agility serves him well; quality option; may have extensive role next year thanks to lack of TEs.

WHAT'S NEW, OR CLOSE ENOUGH, ANYWAY

Kyle_Kalis_Action-thumb-590x499-83764[1]chris-bryant-hat[1]
Barnum, Kalis, Bryant

One Of Three Guys On The Interior Line. The world assumes Schofield is the heir apparent at right tackle. This is a good assumption since the list of scholarship non-freshman, non-Lewan tackles on the roster reads "Michael Schofield." That paves the way for one and a half new starters on the interior.

The half is all but certainly Barnum, who had a few starts early in the season before ankle issues took him out of the lineup. He will start at center or guard, in all likelihood. Candidates for the one include:

  • Redshirt freshman Chris Bryant, a 350-pound mauler who needs to trim down if he's going to get on the field.
  • Redshirt freshman Jack Miller, a 260-pound dancer who needs to bulk up if he's going to get on the field.
  • True freshman Kyle Kalis, a five star reputed to be college-ready like a mofo. Moved to guard at the Army game and seems to acknowledge his long term future is on the inside.
  • Redshirt senior Rocko Khoury, the long-presumed replacement for Molk who snapped some balls not so well when suddenly pressed into service against VT. Khoury has a start against Iowa in 2010 to his credit but the buzz is he is not a preferable option.
  • Redshirt senior Elliot Mealer. Mealer was a utility guy deployed after Barnum's exit whenever Taylor Lewan needed a limb reattached. He is useful depth but seems likely to be passed by one of the above on the depth chart.

Losing Molk is brutal but finding a serviceable replacement from one of the above three seems likely.

Someone at tight end. With two departures and a bad gamble in last year's recruiting class the only tight ends on the roster are redshirt senior Brandon Moore and redshirt sophomore Ricardo Miller. Moore supposedly has stone hands; his main contribution to last year was blowing his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one attempt versus Michigan State. Miller is a converted WR who needs to add 20 pounds if he's going to press for playing time.

Reinforcements will come from two or three freshmen; 280 pound AJ Williams is probably the most pret a porter. He's big, you see, and Devin Funchess is not. Williams spent his senior year of high school impressing people at tackle and is likely to be more of a sixth offensive lineman than a dynamic receiver.

stonum-wild-thing

Stonum being indie

Sort of Darryl Stonum, maybe. The WR corps gets a one for one replacement on both of its departed slots and may/should/could return Darryl Stonum, who was suspended for the 2011 season after his second DUI. His latest legal trouble consists of driving to a probation meeting, which may or may not move Hoke's needle.

If he's back, Michigan gets its most physically gifted WR, someone who can beat you over the top and could have an explosive final season on the end of Al Borges's copious deep balls. Or he could be another version of what he's been most of his career: an athlete who doesn't really know how to play WR. Stonum's availability and play is the biggest wildcard on the 2012 offense.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 1972

Senior Denard, you'd think. Robinson panicked and reverted against the swarming VT defense; before that he'd put together a solid second half as he began to understand the offense and maybe possibly got healthy. With another year in the system he should improve on his throwing numbers.

Tailback, probably. Fitzgerald Toussaint is for real as long as he's healthy and Vincent Smith is a quality third down back. Depth still looks hairy.

The starting tackles. Lewan was impenetrable this year and Schofield had a strong debut at guard. Dollars to donuts they're the best bookends in the conference.

Going from year one to year two with the same coaches. Everyone was a freshman last year. Now they've got some sophomores.

WHAT'S ROD STEWART 2012

Tight end. After a couple years playing with Koger and Martell Webb it appeared that Rodriguez had come around on the idea of tight ends, as he recruited a half-dozen over the course of his last year at Michigan. Unfortunately, he struck out on all of them. When Hoke came in he grabbed Arkansas decommit Chris Barnett without checking into the guy; he was gone before his first fall camp ended.

With Koger and Watson out the door, this leaves very little at a position Borges loves. Fifth-year-senior-to-be Brandon Moore's most significant contribution to the 2011 season was busting his assignment on Michigan's ill-fated fourth and one against Michigan State; he's the only tight end on the roster now. To bolster that depth Michigan will bring in two or three in the fall and I bet you a dollar a defensive lineman with a Z in his last name finds himself on the other side of the ball this spring.

This does not mean things can be expected to go well here.

Offensive line depth. Rodriguez's 0-fer on the OL two years ago really begins to squeeze in 2012. The interior will probably be fine, with three of Khoury/Mealer/Bryant/Miller available to spot any starters that go out. Five-star freshman Kyle Kalis turns out to be 6'4" and is talking about how much he likes guard; plugging him in there will probably not be a disaster.

It's at tackle where there is a terrifying cliff after the starters. Past a couple of guys who could end up bookending the All Big Ten OL there is nothing but walk-ons and true freshmen. Michigan's best bet in the event of an injury to Lewan or Schofield is probably flipping Barnum or Omameh outside.

Gamebreakers at WR. Stonum, Roundtree, and Gallon isn't the worst unit Michigan's run out at WR in the past decade or so but it's no Edwards, Avant, and Breaston. Stonum's breakout junior year was only a breakout relative to his underclass performance: 49 catches for 633 yards.

WHAT'S HEISENBERG ROD STEWART UNCERTAINTY

Will Borges go with the flow? This blog spent most of the summer demanding a shotgun-exclusive offense that incorporated Borges's passing trees with some of the power blocking Hoke could not stop talking about. By the end of the year that's basically what we got en route to what was probably Michigan's best-ever offensive performance against the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne Mad Antz. The numbers, helpfully recompiled by Seth* after that game, are stark:

Formation Pass YPA Run YPA Total YPA
I-Form 8.1 3.9 5.1
Shotgun 8.1 6.7 7.2
Ace 10.6 7.4 9.1
Denard Jet 4.0 3.3 3.4
Fritz 9.4 7.3 8.6
Total 8.3 6.1 6.9

The Ace numbers are a small sample and are heavily dependent on Fitzgerald Toussaint's long jet in the Purdue game, FWIW.

When Michigan runs from the shotgun, holy pants. Downshifting into the I-Form may be appropriate for short yardage situations and as a change of pace, but that's all it's good for, especially when you consider that Michigan's ripped their tough closing slate for 5.5, 4.5**, and 6.4 yards a carry without dropping into the I for much more than goal line duty. As I said in the OSU game recap, by the end of the year it kind of seemed like the transition costs of moving from Rodriguez to Borges were zero.

So that worked better than anyone expected it to after Michigan learned a couple of harsh lessons. Q: will they accept that verdict in 2012 or try to change it? Despite the clear advantages of running from the shotgun in 2011, it's clear where Borges wants to take the offense long-term. With a lot more BEEFCAKE on the interior line it could work better… but…

[thousand word rant about removing Denard's legs from the equation]

…in the EYE with a FORKING FORK.

How much will Denard progress? It became less about accuracy late in the year and more about just knowing where to go with the ball. His default action when he doesn't know what to do should be take off; instead it's unleashing the deep-ball dragon. Michigan has to find a way to not completely bog down against elite defenses, because a quick glance on the schedule shows quite a few that promise to approach that level.

Will the real Toussaint injury vulnerability please stand up? Brionte Dunn has cast his lot with Test Drive U, leaving Michigan with a non-obvious answer to "what happens if Toussaint is injured?" It could be Vincent Smith but Toussaint's emergence has reminded us all of what a nice bonus it is to have a playmaker at tailback. Thomas Rawls comes Fred Jackson approved, for what that's worth. Justice Hayes is coming off a redshirt year with a lot of recruiting hype… that said he was a great fit for a spread.

MANDATORY WILD ASS GUESS

Static yardage-wise, more under center stuff I'll loathe, significantly reduced interceptions from Denard, about the same with less tendency to get totally shut down by top tier Ds. A slight upgrade overall.

*[Is it as much of a relief to everyone else that you no longer have to figure out how to pronounce "Misopogon"?]

**[Nebraska; these totals were depressed by a lot of predictable Michigan plods into the line in the fourth Q. Seth's numbers only include the first three quarters in games closer than 18 points, FWIW, which slashes out big chunks of Minnesota.]

Comments

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II

Michigan Museday: What We Asked of Them, Part II Comment Count

Seth November 23rd, 2011 at 7:27 PM

Seniors2

(Compare to yesterday's)

We're talking about these seniors. Yesterday was the Class of '08 plus Grady, players who either committed to Rodriguez or at least had time to break their commitments to Michigan after the coaching change. The level of commitment to the program by those guys may have been unparalleled in Michigan history but for some of their fellow seniors from the Class of 2007. This is Part II. It's running long still and I have family in town so the last four guys will have to be a Part III. Anyway, 2007…

This class committed to 'Lloyd Carr's University of Michigan' while the Wolverines were riding the best defense in the country to 3 points shy of playing for the National Championship. Their careers began by watching, redshirted, as The Horror obliterated every shred of mysticism the program had, yet they stuck by Michigan. They stuck by Michigan when their coaches and systems were replaced, stuck by Michigan when outsiders trashed the program and some insiders were actively trying to sabotage it. TroyFS_spreadThey stuck by coaches they hadn't chosen, right up until those coaches were shown the door. Then they met with their teammates, told their story, and made sure that when another staff came through the door, everyone would stick by Michigan.

It would be ungracious to not mention some of their classmates who stayed until their health or eligibility ran out: Renaldo Sagesse, a bonhomme Quebecois and one-time 20-year-old freshman. Secret weapon Martell Webb, a blocking tight end whose great contributions to the 2010 offense went largely unremarked. Michael Williams, maligned in these parts as only bad underclassman free safeties can be, who had to choose between the best years of his football career or having a functional brain the rest of his life. And James Rogers, a positional vagabond who finally went wherever he was very needed indeed. And some of the walk-ons like John McColgan, Jered van Slyke, Zac Johnson, Tony Anderson, and Tom Pomarico who've had to earn their roster spots (and some, scholarships) from three different coaching staffs. What follows is the story of eight more guys like that, again in reverse order of length of commitment.

Will Heininger had a story written about him once in the Daily by the inimitable Joe Stapleton. Will was the kid in Michigan gear who became the teenager who knew more about the team than the lifer sitting next to him, who gave up a likely career in baseball to walk on to the team of his dreams. As a redshirt sophomore Heininger beat out scholarship upperclassmen like Sagesse, Greg Banks and Adam Patterson to be the first guy rotated in when Brandon Graham needed a breather. With Graham in the NFL a 2010 starter role was in his grasp, but then Heininger tore his ACL at Will-Heininger-celebrates-Michigan-win-over-Notre-Damethe end of Spring Practice. He missed the first 10 games of the season, but fought his way back on the field, albeit not yet fully back to form, for Wisconsin, Ohio State and the Gator Bowl.

Finally this year he earned the starting job as a utility D-lineman, over guys like Jibreel Black and Will Campbell. While doing all of this Heininger has been named Academic All-Big Ten every year since '08, and has been nominated for his third Big Ten Distinguished Scholar award.

Yearbook quote:

My Papi, my grandpa, I like to have his initials or his name somewhere on me. My tape, or something like that, during the game to see him always …He’s from Columbus, but he’s a Michigan Man. He’s the biggest influence on my life and he passed just this past spring. He’s a great man and he’s part of the reason I’m here. He’s always out there watching over me."

Brandon Herron was a project*, a Texas (same school as TWoolf) kid built like a safety who played defensive end and projected as a linebacker. He had good athleticism but was consistently listed as something less than 200 which your mind rounds up to 200. He was raaaaaaww.

Raw freshman often don't pan out even if they're recruited by a competent coach for their specific skillset, and that coach then spends five years drilling a single system into the player's brain. Herron didn't have that; he was an afterthought classmate-of-a-recruit body in a "NEED LINEBACKERS LIKE WHOA" class, given first to Steve Szabo (the guy who spoke for Carr's assistants in Bacon's book, now EMU's LB coach), then to Jay Hopson, then to GERG. Other than an ankle injury for a chunk of 2010 his career was a lot of "contributed on special teams."

Herron kept plugging along, even when his name hardly popped up in the carousel of "Which weakside linebacker impressed Mattison today?" of this spring and fall camps. Then on Opening Day 2011 versus WMU he was suddenly the starter and proceeded to score two defensive michigan-western-michigan-interception-brandon-herrontouchdowns (one a 94-yarder that still stands as the most significant swing play of the year). Those won him a handful of national defensive player of the week awards (UFR of that game revealed his play was really just so-so). Then he got hurt, and fell back behind Hawthorne and the freshmen and his career was cooked.

Yearbook quote:

When Kovacs sacked the quarterback and he forced the fumble, we saw something in the offense so we made a check, which led me to come off the edge so it opened up a hole for him to get through. [The WMU OT] he kind of brushed me off, he didn't really pick me up, so I just kind of went around, then [breaks into huge smile] heard the hit, saw the hit, and saw the ball on the ground, and just went out there, and next thing you know I'm running towards the end zone.

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

*BONUS: The 'Hello:' article for Herron has their coach saying "I really believe he's a safety" about Woolfolk, and Brian saying 'not gonna happen.' Oh hindsight.

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

When Coaching Change the First happened, the offensive line was already one year into transitioning from MANBALL blocking to zone. The tackles were senior All Everything Jake Long, Mt. Alex Mitchell, and a collection of eh man-blocking dudes. Redshirting was one of just two offensive linemen (and sole tackle) recruited in 2007, and to be honest the 6'6, 280, two-star obscure guy whose next-best offer was Ball State was more someone's backup plan than a system diamond they'd uncovered. So came Mark Huyge. Brian wrote him off as "Unlikely to ever play extensively."

Huyge sat buried on the depth chart for a few years grumbling about having to puke for Barwis instead of down pizzas for Gittleson, took some padded LSA classes with some of the other dissatisfied guys from the Lloyd era, then watched as successive RR jackrabbits displaced him and finally transferred to Someplace Division II College Tech. That's about how it went, right Mark?

huyge-3huyge-2

Well, he could have done that. What Huyge did do was embrace the new staff, lifted his way up the depth chart against established returning starters, and by 2009 was Schofielding his way into whatever guard or tackle spot was available. Every time a guy like Omameh in '09, Lewan in '10, or Schofield in '11 emerged to finally displace him, Huyge would manage to either fend that guy off, or pop up to displace the next weakest starter on the line. He's never been spectacular, never threw a safety into Manti Te'o or killed a donkey, but he's been in there, so much now that when he's not there next year I'll be sorely missing him.

Had Michigan got any of the OTs they were after in '07, Huyge would probably have committed to Brady Hoke, then seen Hoke take off for SD State. So when the old staff entered and the new one came, Huyge 'grabbed the helm' as a senior leader and oft team spokesman. He was one of the seniors who organized the "don't anybody bail on your teammates" meetings that held the players together in the darkest days of last winter.

Oh and somewhere in there Huyge also managed to take a thousand bus trips up to North Campus; he'll walk in December with a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, then marry his fiancee. That must have been what the second star from Scout was for.

Yearbook quote:

“It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”

(caption) Michigan OL Mark Huyge (72) savors the Wolverines comeback victory. Michigan rallied from a 24-7 deficit with 28-fourth quarter points to beat their rivals 35-31. ***  With a miraculous second half, junior quarterback Denard Robinson led the Michigan Wolverines to a comeback victory 35-31 over the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in the first-ever night game at Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines battled back from a 24-7 deficit to eventually beat the Irish for the third year in a row.  at Michigan Stadium  in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 10, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

Tomorrow (sorry it's taking so long): Hemingway, Molk, Watson, Woolfolk, RVB.

Comments

Picture Pages: Argh Denard

Picture Pages: Argh Denard Comment Count

Brian November 22nd, 2011 at 12:53 PM

For a few weeks now people have been asserting that Denard Robinson has not been right. I wasn't sure what to make of those complaints since we didn't really get to see him in the open field much. After Nebraska, the answer appears to be "speed just fine, thanks" even if Lavonte David did hack him down on a couple of potential big gainers.

But, yeah, I do think something isn't right with Denard. That is not necessarily injury. Against Nebraska I've had more "argh" moments in re: Denard running than I've had in a long time. There was this:

argh robinson argh

That's a scramble on Michigan's botched end-of-half drive on which Denard, presented with a massive hole straight upfield, tries to bounce outside and gets tackled for a three yard gain—in bounds. Michigan ended up getting nothing here when making the really obvious cut (Denard knows the corner will be keeping leverage as his top priority) sees them set up with a first and ten near field goal range or better.

There was this on a play where Martavious Odoms came in motion to be a pitch man:

other-denargh

Denard handed off there when Nebraska had one guy containing two on the edge; Hopkins thumped straight ahead for three yards. Robinson keeps showing up in the run minus category because he's not pulling when the corner opens up like whoah.

Even when Denard did pull he made some inexplicable decisions. Here's one.

It's first and ten on the Michigan something or other and Michigan is in some variety of formation. So is Nebraska. I'm not entirely sure what they are because the director in this game comes from the Michigan Stadium Replay Guy school of framing where everything is a super tight closeup. I assume Michigan is in a standard three-wide set. You can see the slot to the bottom of the screen; M will have a WR on the line outside of him. The other guy could be in a trips formation below or to the top of the screen away outside.

Nebraska appears to be in a straight nickel with a safety as support.

denarrrgh

Michigan runs a basic inside zone read, leaving the backside guy unblocked and flaring Koger out.

denarrrgh-2

The above is the mesh point. Robinson is reading the end. The end is square but he is in shuffle mode.

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

What's shuffle mode?

Remember that period in 2009 when Carlos Brown or Brandon Minor would slam up the backside of the line and run untouched into the endzone? That was Michigan's response to various games defenses were playing with the backside end. The shuffle is the DL's response to that response. He is protecting the soft spot behind the backside tackle that the zone read often causes. He's not really containing the QB, though he's a lot more useful on a keeper than someone screaming down the line. He's more of an RB defender.

Michigan's started seeing this because they brought back the RR H-back inside zone where there is a guy cracking back on this DE.

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

On the next frame Robinson has just pulled it:

denarrrgh-3

Denard Robinson is Denard Robinson. Koger has flared out to seal the playside linebacker. There is no slot to the top of the screen. Robinson is about to run to the corner for a billio—

denarrrgh-4

I SAID, ROBINSON IS ABOUT TO RUN TO THE COR—

denarrrgh-5

Dammit.

Robinson does run past Meredith and David but Huyge can't extend his block on that defensive end, and that defensive end…

denarrrgh-6

…eats Denard after a two yard gain.

denarrrgh-7

Video

Items of interest

Yeah, this is kind of the same thing Scheelhaase did last week. You know, this:

The difference between the plays is that Scheelhaase screwed up his read and pulled when the defensive end was upfield in a QB contain mode. It was a plan B, one that worked. Here Michigan's plan A is "Denard in a race with a defensive end going the other way." That's a good plan. Let's try that.

It does almost work, but Huyge isn't great and he loses his guy. If Michigan sustains that block they get a decent gain.

Note the difference in the defensive ends. Clark is not shuffling down the line. He's a couple yards further outside and a yard in the backfield. Meredith is at the LOS and tucked in behind a Michigan OL. That should be enough to get Denard the corner but…

Denard seems hesitant. I don't know what the deal is. Unless there's something outside the frame that's relevant—not likely—it's really weird that Robinson wouldn't just run outside. Feel the panic in this linebacker:

denarrrgh-4

That is a man going "oh shiiiiiiii" in slo-mo. He's done and Denard pops outside the DE and is dealing with that safety. Maybe he gets five yards. Maybe he gets ALL OF THE YARDS.

In recent weeks it seems like he's been less of a north-south guy. In this game he is way less of a read threat than he needs to be. In just the first half of last week's game you've got the above three plays, a speed option on which Denard cuts all the way to the backside of the line to little effect, and three or four seemingly obvious pull reads he's missed.

It is possible the reads aren't actually reads, but given what Borges has said it seems like they are. I'm not sure we've seen him pitch on the option yet, though. Is it really an option, or is it just a decoy?

The picture painted is of a guy who's thinking, not reacting.

Too much cram cram. This is a downside of not having a true base offense, I think. Lacking reps on all these things, Denard makes mistakes. If the speed option is just another way to run a QB stretch that's because they don't rep the option enough to be comfortable with the pitch. If they miss a bunch of keep reads it's because they're not repping it enough to make that clear to the quarterback.

Remember that last year Michigan largely dumped the read option in favor of just running Denard. This isn't a regression, it's Denard trying to do something he might not have been very  good at last year. That plus an entirely new passing offense means there's a ton on his plate.

We've seen progress in the passing game. They may be emphasizing that since it turns out handing the ball to Toussaint isn't that bad of an idea even when it's a bad idea. Hopefully Michigan can get some of this corrected over the next week because Denard left a lot of yards on the field even when Lavonte David wasn't tackling him by his ankles.

Comments

Nebraska Postgame Presser Transcript: Players

Nebraska Postgame Presser Transcript: Players Comment Count

Heiko November 20th, 2011 at 1:16 PM

Martavious Odoms and Denard Robinson

Denard, did you have any idea that this kind of performance was in you guys today?

Denard: “Oh yeah. We play as a team and came out like we did. Of course, oh yeah.”

Martavious, can you talk about battling back from the slow start due to injury and the feeling of catching that touchdown?

Odoms: “It felt great. I got my chance. Coach called a good play. Denard threw the ball and I caught it.”

Denard, how important was field position for you guys?

Denard: “That’s the thing. We played as a team, and that’s what we needed. We got everybody executing. Those three teams [were] executing.” Were you just more comfortable today? That was probably your best game in a while. “Oh yeah. Everybody felt good today. The offensive line gave us time to do what we had to do and [gave] the running backs holes to run [through].”

Denard, can you talk about what you saw on the Odoms TD?

Denard: “Me and Martavious had a race, what, two years ago? So I saw that he can run, and he went right past the defenders and I put it in the air.”

What happened in that race?

Odoms, to Denard: “… What happened?”

Denard: “You have to tell them. You have to tell them.”

Odoms: “No, you should tell them.”

Denard: “Ah … he beat me. He got a win there. He got a win.”

Martavious, Denard gets a lot of scrutiny about his arm, but can you talk about his perfect throw from the 50 to the back of the endzone?

Odoms: “Yeah a lot of people doubt his throwing because he can run so well, but when he needs to throw and make a play, he gets the job done.”

Your reaction to the “Beat Ohio” chant in the fourth quarter?

Odoms: “I knew it was coming. I was prepared for it.”

Denard: “We have to celebrate this one first. Tomorrow we’ll be on Ohio.”

Denard, you had the chance to talk to Lavonte David. What did you guys have to say?

Denard:“I told him to keep going and have a great rest of the season.”

Fitz had another great game. Can you talk about how he’s grown in the past four weeks?

Denard: “I mean, I knew he was a physical running back, and once he gets into an open field he can make guys miss and run the ball. I think he’s been ready. He just had a couple injuries.”

Was any part of Nebraska’s defensive play a surprise to you?

Denard: “I mean, it’s always a little surprise, but we kind of adjusted -- coach adjusted well and called some great plays, and we executed.”

Denard, today you matched Tom Brady’s 35 career touchdown passes. Thoughts?

Denard: “Oh I didn’t know that. I’m not a big stats guy, so I’m going out there having fun with my team, so that’s the biggest thing.”

Looking at where the season started to where you guys are now, especially given the expectations externally, how does it feel to be 9-2 heading into the Ohio State game?

Denard: “I can’t tell you how it is outside, because inside I know everybody in here knew we could have a great season this year, that we would go and do some special things this year. That’s the biggest thing everybody knew. We worked hard all offseason and that’s it.”

How big was the roughing the kicker penalty in terms of momentum?

Denard: “Oh that was big. The offense we knew we had to take care of the ball and do what we had to do.”

Martavious, did you feel like you were close to breaking a long run?

Odoms: “Yeah, I think I was really close to breaking through. There’s always the guy that I don’t see that so happens to trip my leg or hit me.”

Was this the best special teams performance you’ve had in a long time?

Odoms: “I wouldn’t say that.”

Is there another game that stands out more? 

Odoms: “Um … not really. I mean, I feel like on special teams we really take pride and Coach Hoke takes pride in special teams. People just go hard on special teams and [in] regular play. I think special teams is  a really big part of the game. It’s most of the game, really.”

Denard, did you appreciate the crowd counting down the play clock when the scoreboards weren’t working in the first quarter?

Denard: “Yeah, that was the biggest thing. I was supposed to send someone as soon as I walked in about it (Ed: I think that’s what he said. Denard was speaking Florida here.) I mean, I appreciate the fans helping us out because we really needed it. Shout out to the fans and I hope they’ll be ready next week.”

Denard, you can win 10 games, beat Notre Dame, Nebraska, and maybe Ohio State next week, but you can’t play for the Big Ten title. Can you talk about the good vs. bad of that?

Denard: “We can only control what we can control, so that’s the only thing we worry about. We worry about playing Ohio next week.”

Martavious, have you ever seen Terrence Robinson make a hit like that in practice? Can you talk about the emphasis on special teams?

Odoms: “We have some pretty fast people on our team, and Terrence Robinson is one of them. He does a great job on special teams getting down there. We knew if he gets down there he can make a hit, and that’s what he did.”

Denard, can you talk about cashing in our your opportunities today compared with last week when you were unable a couple times?

Denard: “We still think we had missed opportunities today, too. We have to still grow and start putting the ball in the endzone when we need to.”

Can you talk about the momentum going into the Ohio State game that may not have been there the past couple years?

Odoms: “Like Denard said, everybody knows what next week is. We’re just going to enjoy this one and prepare for next week when the time comes.”

Denard: “I feel the same way. We have to enjoy this win and tomorrow we’ll be preparing for Ohio.”

Do you feel this is the highest level you’ve played at in years?

Denard: “Not that Michigan has played at.”

Since you guys have been here.

Odoms: “I mean, games are up and down so you really can’t tell if you played at your highest level. When you feel like you played at your highest level, you go watch film and you didn’t do so well. Can’t really say.”

Is the team playing as well as it has since you’ve been here?

Denard: “You could say that because all three of the teams are playing well.”

Mark Huyge and Fitzgerald Toussaint

 

You guys held the ball for 40 minutes. How important was that?

Huyge: “Yeah I know for a fact that our defense plays better when they have a limited amount of time on the field. I didn’t know we held the ball for 40 minutes. It’s a good deal. Uh, yeah. It’s great when special teams can contribute like they did. I swear every time we’d come off the field and sure enough we’d be right back on with a quick turnover or a three-and-out. It’s a good deal.”

Both of you guys heard about the “Blackshirts” defense and watched them on film. Were they as advertised?

Toussaint: “I would say it was a very physical game, but we prepared all week for this game and we knew what was coming and we expected everything we were given.”

Huyge: “It was very physical up front. The main thing was that we knew we had to be physical throughout and just try to wear them down. With the time of possession, I think that helped.”

Can you talk about how the running game has evolved from the start of the season?

Toussaint: “I would say a little bit more execution. Up front the guys handled their business. We prepared for these moments, and that’s what happened.”

How much did the turnovers help your psyche today?

Huyge: “It’s great. I mean, we can get turnovers and even though you’re on the bench and you don’t expect it, I’ll take it any day of the week. Just to be able to run out there with great field position as an offense, we know we have to get it done once we get down in there.”

Hoke has said this is the most well-rounded game you’ve played. What’s the cause of that?

Toussaint: “I would have to say it’s more teamwork. Organize the team and focusing mainly on unity.”

Huyge: “Yeah, execution. Just executing on every play and in all three phases.”

Why is that better now than earlier in the year?

Huyge: “Maybe just time. More games, get more experience.”

Thoughts on “Beat Ohio” chant? Also, the fact that fans are calling them Ohio rather than Ohio State?

Huyge: “It’s going to be a big one next week. We’ll enjoy this one for a little bit, but the whole emphasis starting back in January when these guys got here was this game coming up. We’ll be really looking forward to them, and we’ll be ready.”

Re: Denard, there’s a lot of criticism about his quarterbacking. Can you talk about his game today as a runner and a passer?

Huyge: “Well Denard … I love playing for Denard. I really do, because I know in the run game he makes stuff happen all the time. In the pass game, he can pull the ball down and run, too. When he threw that ball to Martavious Odoms in the endzone there, that was a great throw and a great catch. That was something that we need.”

Mark, how much confidence does this win give you going into next week?

Huyge: “Well, it does give us a lot of confidence. In the past -- and I don’t want to bring up the past -- but past seasons we haven’t been playing well in November. It’s very important to be playing well at the end of the year. It’s a definite boost for sure.”

In the last couple weeks, you’ve really gotten the ground game going. How does that change the offensive scheme?

Toussaint: “I wouldn’t think it changes any schemes. It’s just the way we prepare and the guys up front execute.”

After you lost to Michigan State, guys like Mike Martin and Jordan Kovacs said this year was different and there would be no second-half collapse. Why was it different?

Huyge: “I think it’s just an emphasis of getting better every week, where improvement was the key. You had to put the one behind that you lost and the fact that that was our main goal was to get better. We knew if we got better in November we’d be playing better football, and that’s obviously what’s shown.”

Molk said Monday that last year the philosophy on offense was “score score score” because the defense couldn’t stop anyone. How does the success of defense change how this offense operates?

Huyge: “It gives us more confidence, that’s for sure, that we know that if we do mess up or have a three-and-out, we can rely on our defense to make plays. Obviously they’ve been doing that all season, and special teams, too. That was huge.”

Senior legacies and rivalry games -- what does Saturday mean for that legacy?

Huyge: “It’s a big one. It’s a big one for all of us seniors, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Either of you guys catch yourself peeking at that countdown clock?

Toussaint: “Everyday. Everyday.”

Huyge: “You walk in that building it’s right there.”

Toussaint: “It’s right in your face. Can’t miss it.”

Do you guys do anything related to beating Ohio State throughout the year?

Huyge: “Yeah the emphasis is definitely on Ohio. When we bring it up in meetings, we talk about it everyday.”

You might not have been aware, but the power was out in Michigan Stadium. (surprised laughs) Could you hear the crowd chanting the play clock? Did it affect you guys not being able to see the play clock on that side of the field?

Huyge: “Well after the first little mishap, I think Denard didn’t know which ref had the signal that was making the calls, but yeah, you could hear it, 'Five, four, three, two,' and I’m like, 'Snap the ball … snap the ball …' ”

Mike Martin and Jordan Kovacs

 

Mike, can you talk about Ryan Van Bergen’s impact the last few weeks?

Martin: “Yeah, he’s stepping up. The whole line up front is doing a great job of communicating and executing. Ryan does a great job on the vocal side of things. Helps us execute, and we all do a great job echoing the call so we can all play tough.”

How much did you focus on stopping the option?

Martin: “Yeah that was one of the main focuses we had during the week. Preparation was key and talk about that everyday on our team. Beginning Sunday to Monday watching film and getting looks from our scout team -- they did a great job. So I feel like we prepared well and it showed on the field.”

Anything you saw on film that made you think you could do certain things?

Martin: “You know, a few things -- coach does a great job of tweaking things week to week and giving them a different look on our side of it. For us to be able to execute and attack them differently with keeping in mind how dangerous they are on the perimeter with the option and everything, that was big for us.”

You’ve played in the first night game, now first game against Nebraska. In games like this, is it important to make a statement, or is it more like “another game, another win?”

Kovacs: “I mean, coming into the game we knew it was going to be a big game, both [teams] coming into the game 8-2. We want to make a statement every time we take the field. We knew it was going to be a big game, and we played pretty well in all three facets of the game, and we earned this one, so we’re excited about it.”

Hoke says this is first time you’ve played in all three phases. Why are you peaking now this late in the season?

Kovacs: “I just think we’re all starting to click. Defensively, we’re gaining some confidence every game. We’re improving every game. The offense did a nice job of complementing us. They did a good job of holding onto the ball and making some big plays when they had to. They moved the chains on third down, which always helps. And you can’t say enough about the special teams. Any time you cause two turnovers, it’s kind of tough to lose a game like that. I think you have to take your hat off to those guys. Offense, special teams, and defense played well. There’s a few plays we’d like to take back, but we’re always looking to impove, but we’re excited about next week.”

You’re allowing three touchdowns fewer per game this year compared with last year. You’re basically the same players. How does that happen so quickly?

Martin: “It’s always going to be in the back of your mind, but this is a new year. Really our mindset has just completely changed 360. This senior group, and this team, they learned when coach Hoke and the staff came that we were going to have to buy in. It really started from our winter conditioning, summer conditioning, fall camp, all those different phases leading up to the season, and now it’s showing with our focus and our dedication to this team and this coaching staff. We know we’re getting better, but the season is far from being over. We still have a lot of work to put in, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Kovacs: “Just to piggyback off that question, it’s guys like Mike and Van Bergen stepping up and being great leaders for our defense and for our team as a whole. But the same time I think our offense helps us out a lot. Anytime you’re not on the field as a defense, they can’t score too many points on you, so I think they do a great job holding the ball and moving the chains. They aren’t doing that hurry-up tempo anymore, so I think that’s really helped us out.”

After the Michigan State game, you talked about being out-physicaled and out-toughed. Is that what you did to Nebraska’s offense today?

Kovacs: “We knew that they were going to be a physical team, and that the tougher team, the more physical team, was going to win this game. To a certain extent, I think we played pretty physical, but like I said, there’s always some lapses and always some plays that you’d like to have back. I think that’s still an area that we need to improve on everyday.”

Jordan, can you talk about how huge this win is for this program, and where does it rank in your career?

Kovacs: “This was a big win. Huge. I can’t stress that enough. Like I said, we knew it was going to be a big game coming in. I think that this is the best win that we’ve had since I’ve been on the team just because it’s so late in the year. I don’t think that we’ve ever had a game this late in November that really meant as much as this one. I think it was a big for us. We played well in all facets of the game, and it was a fun win. I guess we’re looking forward to next week.”

Mike, how different will this week feel knowing that you’re on par/favored going against Ohio State for the first time since forever?

Martin: “Yeah, well, like I’ve said before, the mindset of this defense and this team is on a whole n'other level this year. We’ve had young guys step up. We’ve had great leadership with the seniors. A lot of juniors and the underclassment have gotten a lot of time. It’s really just putting all those pieces together knowing that we can play Michigan defense and Michigan football for a full 60 minutes. That’s what you need to win football games, because you can’t start a game out strong and not finish it. We’ve done those things before, and it’s never worked out. I feel like we’ve improved as a team each week, and we have to make sure we take a positive step for this week coming up.”

Can you talk about the pride that special teams players take in their job since most of them are backups? Also, their impact on this game?

Kovacs: “I think all special teams players take a lot of pride in that facet of the game because a lot of those guys don’t play on offense or defense so that’s their contribution to the game. I think a handful of them are walk-ons as well, so they’re excited to get out there and play in the Big House and wear that winged helmet. I think they played great today. They made a huge impact and caused some turnovers, and I think they won us the game.”

“Beat Ohio” chant ftw. Thoughts?

Martin: “We all know what next week has in store for us and this program. That’s the end of November, that’s the deal. This stadium, this team, and all of us, we’re just going to enjoy the win tonight, but tomorrow get focusing on Ohio, and that’s something that we’ve done each week for every single team. This is a huge game for our legacy as a team, for this senior group, for team 132. We just have to make sure we finish the season out the way we want to, the way we’ve envisioned the whole season.”

Jordan, you’re an Ohio guy. What does this game mean to you?

Kovacs: “I think that as the game winded down the last minute and a half, and we were kneeing the ball, I think that everyone was thinking that in the back of their heads, like, ‘All right. This was a big win, but it’s on to the next one.’ We’re excited about it. Like Mike said, this was a huge win today. We’re going to enjoy it for the next few hours, and then we’re going to come in tomorrow focused and ready to improve and ready to get after Ohio.”

Is it different going into the Ohio State game this season than in years past?

Martin: “I believe, especially as we progress through this season, this team has taken major positive steps. It’s showed every single week we’ve made an improvement. We know what our capabilities are as a team. We know [that if] we play together, play as a team, that good things are going to happen. We have to complement each other.”

Is there any extra punishment this week if you slip up and say “Ohio State” instead of “Ohio”?

Kovacs: “Not that I know.”

Martin: “I don’t know. This week’s going to be an intense week. I don’t know if any of you media want to come to practice. I don’t think you guys will be able to make it. This will be a good one.”

Mike, can you talk more about shutting Nebraska down on the perimeter?

Martin: “We knew how dangerous they were, the weapons that they had, Martinez and Burkhead. We knew we had to attack them a certain way. We took advantage of the strengths that we have on our side of it. I believe we did a great job with executing. We had a few plays here and there that we wish we could have had back. That’s something that we have to improve on and we will do that, but overall I feel like we did a great job executing.”

Did you feel like you were successful in accomplishing what you set out to do when the first half ended and Burkhead didn’t have very many yards?

Martin: “I have no clue what he had at hafltime, but I knew that we were playing together and we were playing hard. We were having fun playing defense and playing Michigan defense. We knew we had another half at that point to play. You clock in for 60 minutes, you have to make sure you finish them all out.”

What does it mean that this week will be intense? How much more intense than normal?

Martin: “Everyone knows how big this game is. From our side of it, from the other side of it -- that’s what makes it such a great game, because of how much time’s put in, how much it means to each program, and really playing this great game of football in the month of November. Can’t get better than that. This week has to be one of our best weeks of preparation, period. That’s what it needs to be.”

Can you talk about last night’s team meeting? You were tweeting photos.

Martin: “Today we honored the armed services for everything they do. We’ve embodied and embraced some of their principles and things that they believe in on their team. You can never compare it -- what those guys do is something that is just amazing, but accountability and the different essences of teamwork are something that we adopted, so they visited us, talked to our team, really gave us a few words of wisdom, and it meant a lot. They gave us a couple of their tridents that represent the U.S. Navy Seals. That’s something that represents what they embody. That meant a lot to us as a team.”

Just to follow up, from “Beat Ohio State” to “Beat Ohio” -- is that something you immediate adopted because of your head coach? Is “Ohio State” forbidden?

Kovacs: “That’s what he calls them, so that’s what we call them.”

Can you talk about the uniqueness of Greg Mattison’s defensive scheme?

Kovacs: “He brings an unbelievable scheme. Obviously he was coaching with the Ravens before and he’s established an NFL defense here. I think that we do a pretty good job disguising and giving them a bunch of different looks and giving the quarterback something to think about. But at the same time I think our D-line has really been playing great so far. They really help us out on the back end. You can’t tip your hat off enough to those guys up front.”

Mike, has it hit you that this is your last time preparing to play at the Big House?

Martin: “That’s something that I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks here. That’s why you have to take each day for what it is. It means a lot. You always tell those younger guys it’s going to fly by. You never listen, though. I didn’t listen. But this is huge for our program, for our seniors. Really I thought about my last time having clam chowder at the Campus Inn, because that’s the D-line’s favorite thing to eat on Friday. This is going to be huge, and we have to work hard this week.”

Comments

Picture Pages: Denard Three-In-One Threat

Picture Pages: Denard Three-In-One Threat Comment Count

Brian November 15th, 2011 at 2:37 PM

You know the drill by now: always Denard's legs always. Michigan went away from using Denard's legs as a threat against Iowa and suffered through a day where their tailbacks averaged 3.6 yards an attempt. Against Illinois virtually every play saw Michigan threaten a Denard run, often with the additional threat of a triple option from a motioning slot receiver or fullback Stephen Hopkins

Additionally, Michigan brought back Rodriguez's old offset H-back formation. This allowed Kevin Koger to either flare backside and open up the designed cutback runs Toussaint had success with or attack the frontside of the play on QB draws and the like. This stretched Illinois out and gave Toussaint some extra creases.

Toussaint's 65-yarder on Michigan's second play demonstrates both of these changes. It's second and ten after the NT jumped he snap on the first play and Denard missed a keep read on a triple option. Michigan comes out in a formation that could be a shot from any of the last three years but for the WR tight to the line at the top of the screen, who isn't actually a WR but is TE Steve Watson. Illinois responds by shifting its linebackers to the field and half-dropping the free safety.

denard-attention-1

There are five second level defenders on this play: the three linebackers, the overhang corner, and the rolled-up free safety.

On the snap Koger starts to head backside. The slot LB charges on an exchange as the backside DE comes in unblocked:

denard-attention-2

By the mesh points defenders one and two are dead on a handoff.

CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 1: Scrape exchange designed to contain threat of a Denard keeper; Koger's backside block.

CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 2: Drop into zone designed to combat the threat of a mesh point oh noes play-action pass (that still does nothing to combat a bubble screen or quick out by Hemingway.

Denard sees the DE containing and hands off. Koger comes backside to prevent #1 from running down the line and making the play from behind. Defender three is blitzing up the middle…

denard-attention-3

…he manages to get through the small gap beween Huyge and Omameh but the two guys combine to slow him down long enough for Toussaint to hit the hole.

CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 3: Blitz picked up by Huyge and Molk.

denard-attention-4

The Illinois line creases between Schofield and Molk. With the Illinois line clearly slanting to the playside this is mostly thanks to Molk controlling the NT well enough to prevent him from getting upfield. This defense is clearly designed to get Fitz cutting to the backside of the play; Molk's block means he doesn't have to.

By the time Fitz is hitting the line, the gap is obvious.

denard-attention-5

When he's two yards past it Illinois is done.

CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 4: General uselessness of one guy in twenty yards of space against a blocker; need to maintain leverage.

CAUSE OF DEATH, DEFENDER 5: Derp. He's containing Denard Robinson, who doesn't have the ball and was never going to have the ball on this play, or he's anticipating a cutback that he doesn't wait to see develop.

denard-attention-6

ZOOM!

denard-attention-7

Toussaint gets tackled by his shirt tail because that's what always happens to Fitzgerald Toussaint.

denard-attention-8

He manages to pick up another 15 yards after the initial contact, but someone needs to get Fitz a slippery jersey.

Video

Items Of Interest

Denard's legs: all threaty and stuff. The zone read fake eliminates one linebacker, which helps the run game but isn't a miracle. When Michigan operates from under center they still eliminate a guy because all defenses leave backside ends for potential bootlegs.

Where operating from the shotgun helps Michigan is with defender #2, who has to back out into a short zone because of the threat of a quick seam over the top. The quick PA ability of the spread 'n' shred means any linebacker who sucks up and reacts is DOA.

This is enough to put Toussaint one on one with a safety. Since that safety derps it's one on none. That's a third player the threat posed by Denard in the gun eliminates. That's their starter and fourth-leading tackler, by the way. Don't know what it is about Illinois safeties and massive breakdowns on Michigan's first possession but I like it.

Molk's block: key. Illinois is slanting the line hard and trying to funnel the play back to their backside blitz. If Fitz has to cut behind Molk that blitz may or may not get home. Since he's got a crease to the side where the Illinois line slanted it has no chance. 

This isn't entirely up to Molk. Zone blocking is frequently about taking the guy where he wants to go, then taking him past that point. You can see on the replay that the backside DT is slanting, then stops, then tries to extend as Fitz hits the hole. He waves an arm at him but can do no more.

If the NT pushes hard to the playside Molk is tasked with kicking him past the point he wants to end up at; with the MLB handled by two guys Fitz likely has a cut either way. But not getting blown up/shoved back/chucked provides the crease.

Flinging Koger backside: nostalgic. Michigan also did this with Hopkins when they aligned with two backs. This is likely because of a heavy dose of plays like this where Illinois takes a quick linebacker and shoots him down the line.

A few years ago Calvin Magee said he'd worry about the guy crashing from the end "when he makes the play" on stretches; Illinois's goal with this exchange is to make the guy left unblocked a quicker player with a running start. On inside zones blocking the backside guy is mandatory because all possible creases are in the danger zone.

The bubble: screamingly open here. The slot LB will blitz as the MLB drops into coverage, so… yeah:

denard-attention-1

On this play the threat of the seam still eliminates the linebacker that the bubble usually forces out of the box*. I am still in favor of at least throwing a few bubbles because they will pick up big chunks if the defense plays like this.

I'm in favor of them generally because they put pressure on the defense by restricting the ways they can align without either getting 8 yards in their face or playing games that end with Worst Waldo passes. I mean, by the snap there isn't a guy on the field with a prayer of defending a slot bubble here.

*[When it doesn't it's forcing a safety either to the line or into a dangerous game of jumping the bubble route and opening up wide open bombs.]

Comments

Purdue Postgame Presser Transcript: Players

Purdue Postgame Presser Transcript: Players Comment Count

Heiko October 30th, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint

 

Denard, can you talk about re-establishing the running backs? Denard: “First of all, our offensive line played a great game, and once Fitz got the ball in the open field, he made things happen.”

Fitz, can you talk about the long touchdown run and what you saw? Toussaint: “I just saw daylight. Coach Jackson always stresses, when you see a crease, shoot through it like a cannon. That’s what I did, and credit goes out to the offensive line for creating that for me.”

Talk about focus you had coming up to this week? Denard: “We knew we had to bounce back this week. Everybody prepared hard, and everybody was ready. We did what we had to do. That was a great team we faced.”

Do you enjoy the diversity of the offense, and are you excited about how it gets so many of your teammates involved? Denard: “I think I was excited about everybody. Everybody that watched the game was excited, and I’m in it, so I’m loving it.”

Fitz, you look like you found an extra gear. Did the bye week help you get healthier? Toussaint: “A lot of it was to get off my feet more and get a little bit more treatment on my body for me to be healthy for this game.”

Does this game show that you can be the lead back for Michigan? Fitz: “I still feel like we have to go out there every Tuesday and throughout the whole week to just compete. All the running backs.”

Fitz, on your touchdown run, what was the moment you knew you were going to go all the way? Toussaint: “There wasn’t really a moment. I … kind of just saw it and hit it.”

At what point did you know that Taylor had sprung you? Toussaint: “I really can’t even remember the moment. It just happened so fast.” Did anyone touch you at all? “I have no clue. I’m just happy that the line opened up the hole for me.”

Denard, can you talk about being 7-1 and it could be anyone’s division to win? Denard: “We just have to focus on this team, Michigan. We have to come out ready to play every weekend because [in] the Big Ten there’s always competition. That’s what we have to do every week.”

Fitz, can you talk about what it feels like walking off the field this week compared with how it felt two weeks ago? Toussaint: “Every team faces adversity. It’s not really how you have adversity. It’s really how you respond to it. We knew we had two weeks to get prepared for this game, and we did what we had to do.”

Denard, you guys have gone against the Michgian defense in practice. What’s different about it this year? Denard: “Well, everybody holding each other accountable. That’s the biggest thing. If the cornerbacks don’t play good defense the D-line won’t get pressure. So everybody holding each other accountable.”

Fitz, in the deuce packages, how do you guys see defenses playing that? Toussaint: “It’s kind of hard to play it because when you have your best athletes in the game, it’s kind of hard to really actually practice that formation. I think it’s kind of hard.”

Can you guys talk about how tired you are of hearing about people waiting for the Michigan collapse? Toussaint: “We really just focus on going out there and preparing every week for Saturday.” Robinson: “We don’t really care about what other people think. It’s about this team. Team 132.”

Denard, do you feel half the defense going with you on the jet sweep fakes? Denard: “Coach Fred -- Freddy J -- he told us one good fake equals two blocks. I just run full speed and hope somebody runs with me.”

Mark Huyge and Craig Roh

 

Mark, how much did you emphasize the run in practice the past couple of weeks? Huyge: “Well it’s always an emphasis. One of our main goals is to get some tailback yardage, too, and really put it on that, because when we can get our tailbacks out and take some pressure off Denard, that’s a big thing, and that’s a big key to our success on offense.”

Mark, how hard is it for you to shuffle the offensive line and still produce the way you did? Huyge: “Well even in practice and throughout the couple years here since all the guys have been here, we’ve been playing next to each other. I know I’ve been on both sides. Ricky, Mike Schofield, Patrick Omameh, they’re all going back and forth, right and left sometimes. It’s not really that big of a deal, though. We have pretty good chemistry up front, and it showed.”

Craig, when you see Mike Martin produce the way he did, how does that alter your own attitude? Roh: “Well, that guy is just a physical beast. He’s a very dominating player. When you see that, you’re like, ‘I can do that.’ It’s cool to see him because you’re like, ‘That guy’s right next to me, and I know he’s going to beast his guy, so I have to beast my guy.’ ”

Craig, what changed after that first touchdown? Roh: “We just made a few adjustments. Usually in games, offenses come out with a few tweaks here and there. We just adjusted and we came down and played Michigan defense.”

After the last game, did you feel like the offensive line was under a lot of scrutiny? Huyge: “We didn’t get it done in that game. The key was to move on as quick as possible from that, make the necessary adjustments. We were under a little bit of pressure, but we knew if we played our game and executed to how we’re capable, we’ll be just fine.”

Craig, what was discussion like after the first touchdown, and what were the adjustments? Roh: “We knew everything was okay. They scored a touchdown. We never want that, but we weren’t freaking out or anything. We were like, “Okay, let’s just settle down and play Michigan defense.’ ”

Was that the most confident you’ve seen Fitz? Huyge: “I think he was just himself. I didn’t really see anything that stood out. I know he had a couple big runs there and that one long run when he cut it back. I was really impressed with that because he found the opening and got some good blocks downfield. Steve Watson threw a great block to spring him.” You said he was just himself. What does that mean? “He’s actually a pretty sarcastic guy. He’s always trying to start stuff with me, and then he’ll back off right away. He’s just a cool guy.” He does this in games? “No, not in games.”

You’re 7-1, tied for division lead heading into November. What’s your feeling about that, and what’s your motivation? Roh: “We just need to keep improving and play the way we know how to play. We can win every game here.” Huyge: “That’s just the main thing. One game at a time.”

Mark, can you talk about Taylor Lewan’s toughness?  Huyge: “Obviously Taylor is a pretty tough guy. He’s been banged up before. He just keeps fighting through it. I know in the game I remember him saying he might have gotten rolled up on a couple of times, which happens, but he just kept fighting through it.”

Craig, can you talk about the effectiveness of your perimeter defense? Roh: “Offenses are going to look at tape and if one thing works the offense is going to do that, but that’s something that we’re working on as a defense to be tougher on that perimeter.”

How much of a focus was that in practice? Roh: “I mean the focus is always on technique and perimeter defense comes from good technique and aggressive playing. I think that was more of the focus than just perimeter defense. We take unbelievable pride -- this whole entire defense takes pride in perimeter defense and inside defense. Really everything.”

Mark, can you talk about the challenges of flipping from right tackle to left tackle when Taylor went out? Huyge: “I’ve played both in my career and I do it in practice a lot, too. It’s not too difficult. Sometimes it takes a little bit, a few plays to adjust. I feel confident I can do that.”

What was Taylor’s demeanor while he was trying to soldier through the game? Huyge: “He was just saying that, ‘I’m going to stay in, and let’s go.’ I mean, yeah, he wasn’t going to get pulled out.”

Craig, on the safety, were you looking for the safety, and how much of a turning point was that? Roh: “I mean, you’re looking for the offensive set. You’re looking for the tendencies coming off of that. When you have them pinned back, that’s always on the forefront of ... you front that that is a possibility. When Mike Martin got that safety, I couldn’t be any happier.”

Craig, what is your definition of Michigan defense? Roh: “Michigan defense is just dominating everything. And every aspect of life. That’s a rough definition.”

Does anything change for you guys when Marve comes into the game? Roh: “I mean we just keep playing our technique. Keep playing our defense the way we know how to play it. We adjust somewhat to personnel.”

After Devin’s interception, you turned to the power play and the run game. Huyge: “We like to run the ball as an offensive line. I’d personally rather run than pass. It’s fun to get going. When the offensive line gets it going, the running backs running hard, it’s a fun thing.”

During the off week, was there anything special you paid attention to that paid dividends today? Roh: “I just thought technique. We just focused on technique and played hard-nosed Michigan football.” Huyge: “Just improving from last game and getting back to the fundamentals and basics of football.”

Hoke said he wanted to challenge the offensive line. How did he challenge you guys? Huyge: “All of our practices are pretty physical, and that’s one thing where we try to go out and hit people. Sometimes we’re a little -- I don’t want to say tentative, but it looked like on film. We did not get it done, and we needed to just go out and just play as hard as we could.”

Mike Martin and Courtney Avery

 

That safety -- kind of a defensive lineman’s dream, eh? Martin: “Van Bergen did a good job with giving me a little bit of a presnap idea of what they were going to do. We were looking for a few things, but he did a good job of where they were going to slide the protection, and when it came down to it, we were just aggressive off the ball, and good things happened.”

On the play following the touchdown, did you feel like the defense needed to step up? Martin: “Yeah. This defense is great with responding to adversity whether it’s a sudden change -- whatever it might be -- or we get scored on, which we never want that to happen. But we did a great job of coming to the sideline and regathering and knowing that we had to play better defense, and that’s what we did. We responded well. Period.”

Craig defined the defense as dominating every aspect of life. Do you have different definitions? Martin: “Playing Michigan defense, and coach Hoke says it all the time and Coach Mattison -- it’s really playing with the mentality that first of all no one can run on you. No one can run the ball. You have to have that as a defensive line, up front, as a whole, as a defense. When they pass, getting to the quarterback. Really just getting 11 hats to the ball every single play with the effort that’s just crazy. I think we did that today. We’ll watch the film, have improvements, and we’ll get better for next weekend.” Avery: “Going off what Mike said, from the secondary’s standpoint, we want to keep everything inside and in front and then just get 11 hats and pursuing like crazy to the ball.”

Why is this team better equipped to handle the second half of the season? Martin: “Well, our mentality every single day when we take the practice field, whether it’s on a Tuesday or Wednesday, any work day during the week, watching the film -- we just have the mentality that we want to get better. Every single day. This defense is hungry to get better. We have young guys, stepping up, playing. That’s what it’s all about. We’re just going to keep on taking positive steps forward, and from this point on every single game is a championship game for this program.”

That easy touchdown was the first of the year. Avery: “I just feel we didn’t attack it as well as we would like to and we didn’t cup it as well as we would like to, but we made some adjustments and coach brought us over to the side and told us just to attack it and that’s what we did. We stopped that play later on during the game.”

Mike, you got the safety in the first quarter, but then in the fourth quarter when they were backed up in their own endzone again, you got called offsides. Did you get a little trigger happy on that one? Martin: “Well, the mentality of our defensive line is getting off the ball. That was definitely all my fault and I was really trying to get a good jump on the ball, which is what you try to do every single snap. I should have been smarter on my part of it knowing they were going to do it in the black. I just have to get better on my half of it. Coach talked to me about it, and I didn’t do it again.” So it was because they did something with the snap count? “Yeah, they got me. They did a good job with that.”

Mike, after the Michigan State game, Hoke said he was going to challenge the offensive line. Did you notice anything different in the way they practiced? Martin: “Yeah, that was probably a big part of it. They did a great job of executing, and really it’s because of how good of a look we gave them during the bye week. We played really physical in our bye week. It wasn’t lackadaisacal, take-a-week-off-because-we-have-a-week-off type of practices. We were going after each other, and we were giving each other the best looks we could up front, and it showed on the game field today.”

Hoke praised Mike’s tackle 16 yards downfield. He said that means something. Courtney, what does that mean? Avery: “It just goes back to the effort and pursuing to the ball. You just have to keep fighting and the ball’s not the endzone until it’s in the endzone.” Does it help the rest of the defense to see a guy hustle like that? “Oh definitely. …”

There’s been a lot of questions about the defense. After eight games, do you feel like those questions have been answered? Martin: “You know, every week’s going to be a test for us. There’s always going to be people saying different things about our defense, but the most important thing is really the guys that are in that locker room. The guys that are in that team defensive room. Those are the most important guys. We’re going to play for each other. Courtney and myself and everyone else in that defensive room, including the coaches, we’re all in this thing together. We just have to make sure that we control what we can, which is how we play, every single week.”

Courtney, can you talk about your interception and the ability of this defense to make stops? Avery: “That’s a great thing about our defense. It just seems when we have our backs to the wall, we seem to rise to the challenge. With the interception, they ran that play before, and they got a big play out of it. Coach brought us to the sideline, told us to attack that, so I just did what the coach said and attacked it and it came out good for us.”

Is it different to feel like there’s something to play for in November other than just pride? Martin: “Yeah, time’s flown by. Senior year and this year for this team is huge. November is championship football for us. Going from month to month, we know we have to get better. Week by week, I think we’ve done that. Sometimes we haven’t taken the biggest steps forward that we want to, but we’ve gotten better, period. I’m confident that we’ll continue to do that. These games coming up, we’ve got Iowa away. That’s going to be a great test for us as a team and as a defense to respond in a high-[stakes] environment. That’s going to be a battle for us.”

Courtney, how did Blake Countess play today? Avery: “Blake’s been solid in practice, and during the game he looked really good. He’s coming along, he’s improving, he’s working hard. He’s a hard worker.”

Courtney, you said Purdue got a big play earlier in the game using the same play on which you got the interception. Was that the touchdown pass on their first drive? Avery: “Yes, sir.” How close was the ball to hitting the ground?“It was pretty close. He bobbled it actually twice, and then once I got it, it was pretty close to the ground, yes sir.”

How close was this game to Michigan football on both sides of the ball? Martin: “I think coach probably said he hasn’t seen the film yet, but he probably said that we played with great effort … But I say the same thing. I just know period that we were busting our butts to the ball, we had guys doing whatever they could to make a play. You’re never going to play a perfect football game. That’s going to happen. The thing’s that’s important is to take steps forward every single week. We’ll look at the film and make sure that we correct those things and play even harder next week.” What about the offense? “They were playing their butts off. The thing we’ve gotten better as a team is complementing each other. Offensively, them holding onto the ball, time of possession, running the football, putting points on the board. And then us getting the ball back to our offense. They were playing physical and it showed on the scoreboard, period.”

Comments

Upon Further Review: Offense vs SDSU

Upon Further Review: Offense vs SDSU Comment Count

Brian September 29th, 2011 at 2:53 PM

THING OF THE WEEK. No thing.  :(

Formation Notes: So here's this:

trips-te-rb

See that guy way at the top of the screen? That's Hopkins. WTF? I don't know. Michigan showed a half-dozen snaps with this formation, often motioning the RB (sometimes it was McColgan) out of the backfield to his position on the edge of forever. They didn't seem to use this for anything.

As for SDSU, I gave this a passing mention in the Toussaint picture pages and here it is again: this was not what I expected the 3-3-5 to be. As you can see above, SDSU would often align in a four-man front—the above is over-shifted—by using one of their teeny linebackers as a standup DE. Only rarely did they deploy a true stack:

sdsu-stack

They did blitz off this to create different fronts, but mostly it was an array of standard fronts run with really small guys. I was disappointed—I wanted to see what this thing was all about.

Michigan didn't bust out much else worth noting.

Substitution Notes: Nothing out of the ordinary save Watson supplanting Moore at the second TE spot. Not good for next year—he's a senior. Smith and Toussaint got the vast bulk of the RB snaps, with Hopkins getting a few. Hopkins also saw a little time at FB. Schofield came in for Barnum after he got injured.

At WR it was the usual.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 man Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
Late shift by SDSU sees backside end slide towards the C and a linebacker come down over Koger. Seems like a D meant to defend ZRD and it does. Backside LB scrapes over to take Robinson; handoff. Late-shifted DE has an advantage on Huyge on the backside; Omameh(-1) should have paused to offer a scoop there but thought he was uncovered, which he was until the late shift. Huyge(-0.5) could have done better here, too. RPS -1. RUN-: Omameh, Huyge(0.5)
M41 2 8 Shotgun trips TE 2 1 2 3-3-5 man Run QB power Robinson 3
First of a number of plays that sees a second tailback, this time Hopkins, flare out into a WR position. Michigan never makes this relevant, so its purpose remains a mystery. Man... there are eight guys in the box here and no one deeper than five(!) yards save a corner way out over Hopkins. Robinson checks, flipping Toussaint, and runs power at the overloaded side of the formation. I'm not sure what he thought he saw. Koger(-1) gets beat up by the playside DE, forcing an early cutback from Robinson. Lewan and Barnum(+1) blow the NT up; Lewan does not peel fast enough to take out a linebacker. Molk(+1) seals away the other DT, leaving a cutback lane for Robinson. He takes it; it's filled by the extra guy in the box pursuing down the line and the LB Lewan did not get out on. RPS -1.
RUN+: Barnum, Molk RUN-: Koger
M44 3 5 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 two deep Run QB draw Robinson 19
I thought this was a scramble live but the receivers aren't running routes. Also, Huyge goes after a LB after it's clear he's dropping into a short zone. SDSU blitzes up the middle; Michigan picks it up thanks to Barnum(+2) shoving one guy past where Molk(+1) can pick him up, then popping out on one of the blitzers to shove him past Robinson. Smith(+1) blows up the blitzer to the other side. Robinson(+1) is through the gap Barnum provided. He makes a linebacker miss and is into the secondary. As he's angling away from a pursuing safety one of the linebackers comes back to trip him.
RUN+: Robinson, Barnum(2), Molk, Smith RUN-:
O37 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 3-3-5 man Pass Waggle WR flat Odoms Inc
Open but well overthrown. Not even much pressure on him. (IN, 0, protection N/A, RPS +1)
O37 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-3-5 man Run Zone read dive Smith 32
God, I want Michigan to run QB oh noes to the RB on a streak right up the middle here. Maybe later. SDSU has seven in the box against five blockers, M runs anyway. Backside LB running right at Robinson; handoff. Molk(+2) takes a hit from a lineman and bounces down the line as Omameh(+1) pancakes said DL. Molk shoves a blitzer past Smith. Omameh's blocked a dude with his back as Huyge shoves a man down the line; Lewan(+1) fends off a DE for a long time. Barnum pops out to the second level after letting that LB Molk picked off run by him and does wall off a pursuing LB but no plus since that was easy and he might have screwed up. All this is is just enough for Smith(+3) to have a tiny, tiny crease that he stumbles through inexplicably. Nice thing about getting through seven guys in the box is there is no second level; he runs a long way. RPS -1
RUN+: Molk(2), Lewan, Omameh, Smith(3) RUN-:
O5 1 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 under Run QB power Robinson 5
More of an under look with 3-3-5 personnel. Michigan runs at the 250-pound DE pretending to be a three tech and crushes him. Huyge(+2) gets under the guy and starts crushing him towards the endzone. Omameh(+1) helped, then popped off to steamroll a linebacker. Barnum(+1) pulls around to do the same to another linebacker; Molk(+1) and Watson(+1) kick out their guys to make this easy.
RUN+: Huyge(2), Barnum, Omameh, Watson, Molk RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 3-3-5 man Pass Fade Roundtree Inc
Tough to complete this with very good coverage from the Aztec corner. Denard floats it up in a decent spot; Roundtree comes underneath the coverage to get a one-handed stab at the ball. Shouldn't they be throwing this to Hemingway, not Roundtree? There are better ways to test this cover zero look. (CA, 1, protection 2/2) BWS picture paged this, though I disagree with the conclusion. More later.
M39 2 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 two deep Pass Throwback screen Gallon 8
Not a tunnel screen since this play goes well outside the tackle box. Lewan is flaring out to help; Barnum is supposed to get out there too but gets hung up at the line. Linebackers are gone and Denard hits the easy screen; Lewan can't actually block the corner but does delay him enough for Gallon to scoot upfield for a good chunk. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
M47 2 2 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-4 tight Run Speed option Robinson 53
Outside zone blocking. I'm just saying? I'm just saying. Huyge(+1) and Omameh(+1) execute a beauty scoop block that seals the playside DE and gets Huyge out on the weakside LB. That plus a good block from Koger(+1) on the edge plus two San Diego State guys taking the pitchman means that when Robinson cuts upfield he is one on one with some grass for a touchdown. Credit to Watson(+1), the backside TE, for getting out on the backside safety to remove all doubt. RPS +3.
RUN+: Huyge, Omameh, Watson, Koger, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 6 min 1st Q. Lloyd Brady sighting.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 under Pass Oh noes hitch Roundtree 10
Draw fake into a ten-yard hitch. Robinson nails it this time; had Hemingway screamingly wide open but his first read is there, so no complaints. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M40 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 3-3-5 under Run Zone read dive Smith 6
This should have been a bigger gainer, but Smith made a bad cut. He makes it because Barnum(+1) pancaked the NT and he thinks he can cut back for a big gain. He ends up running into the fallen Barnum and slowing down; doesn't matter too much because Omameh(+1) destroyed the playside G with help from Molk; Huyge(+1) out on the playside LB. Without the delay by Smith(-1) he's out on the corner nearing a first down before being angled OOB. With it the MLB has time to shuck Molk's block and the playside DE has time to recover after getting way upfield.
RUN+: Molk, Barnum, Omameh, Huyge RUN-: Smith
M46 2 4 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-3-5 under Pass PA slant Roundtree Inc (Pen +15)
Zone read fake to patterns that SDSU have covered pretty well. Robinson is getting pressure and has to get rid of it. He picks the most open of the routes—still not very open—which is Roundtree's slant and throws a ball that looks like it is sailing high. It's close enough that Roundtree being interfered with matters, though, and Michigan picks up a flag. Not charted since I can't really tell if this is accurate or not. (N/A, 0, protection N/A)
O39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 even Run QB iso Robinson 4
Playside DT holds up well enough against a double from Barnum and Molk. They can't seal him away. They do get some push. Outside blitz eliminates one linebacker, leaving two for Smith and the peeling Barnum; they both get blocks. SDSU maintains leverage, forcing it back inside, where the DT makes the tackle. Adequate all around.
O35 2 6 Ace 3TE 1 3 1 3-3-5 under Pass PA dumpoff Smith 8
Gallon lined up as a TE. This does not sucker SDSU: the safeties are moving backwards at the snap. The two guys in the route go deep; Gallon has like three guys surrounding him. No one takes Smith as he leaks out of the backfield, so Robinson checks down when the deep stuff is uber covered. Smith shoots for a first down, then fumbles. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, Smith -3)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 3-3-5 under Run Zone read dive Smith 4 (Pen -10)
Late shift inside by the playside DE; he goes straight upfield at Barnum. Barnum seems to throw him to the ground with his strength but picks up a holding call. I guess he's got his arm around the guy's shoulder but he's not pulling it; this seems pretty weak to me. Smith still has to cut upfield behind Barnum's block, which puts him in a bunch of traffic. Omameh(+1) got a good seal on a guy playside of him, which allows Smith(+1) to pick his way for a couple yards. Barnum -1 for allowing the penetration and picking up the flag. On replay this is a really bad penalty. He's not holding the dude, he's pushing him. Refs -2.
RUN+: Omameh, Smith RUN-: Barnum
M19 1 20 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 5-3 stack Pass Quick hitch Roundtree 5
Quick three step strike to Roundtree. Fine on first and ten. First and twenty, though? (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M24 2 15 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 5-3 stack Pass PA quick seam Koger Inc
Zone read PA gets Koger and Hemingway wide open in the short seams. Robinson takes the easier throw to Koger, nailing him in the numbers. Dropped. If caught a certain first down and maybe more. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +2)
M24 3 15 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Okie Pass Scramble Robinson 11
SDSU stunt gets Barnum blocking no one and almost gets Denard sacked; Molk comes off his guy and manages to hand him to Omameh at the last second to prevent total chaos. Team minus there but pretty decent work by those two. Denard has a lane thanks to a Smith pickup and comes up through the pocket, where a couple spies are. He's got no one open so he takes off. Maybe he had Gallon on an out but not seeing that is no surprise given the heavy pressure. (PR, N/A, protection 1/3, team -2, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 14 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 3-3-5 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Lewan and Watson momentarily double the playside DE-type substance (actually a LB), with Lewan chucking him upfield and Watson(+1) sealing. Molk(+1) controls the center well, so there's a crease frontside for Toussaint. Lewan(+1) and Omameh(+1) get good second level blocks; Barnum(-1) gets shoved off balance by his guy, forcing Toussaint to slow up and cut outside of him, where an aggressive safety is there after just a few yards.
RUN+: Lewan, Watson, Molk, Omameh RUN-: Barnum
M25 2 4 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 stack Run Speed option Toussaint 5
Barnum hurt; Schofield in. Toussaint motions to the option from the opposite side just before the snap. SDSU blitzes into this; Denard(+1) makes sure to suck up the edge guy before pitching. Toussaint(+1) has to dodge the charging safety, which he does; QB guy then gets stiffarmed; pursuit now tackles the slowed Toussaint. Two broken tackles for five yards = RPS -1.
RUN+: Toussaint, Robinson RUN-:
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run QB iso Robinson 3
Oh, man, Robinson misses a huge cutback lane. SLB moves to the line late and blitzes upfield; Koger(+1) kicks him out way out of the picture. SDSU line slants playside, beating Molk(-1) to the point where Smith has to hit this guy on the LOS. Lewan(+1) has managed to get playside of his guy and wall him off, allowing a cutback lane. Robinson(-1) begins to take it but instead of exploding outside into open space he inexplicably bowls over the guy Lewan's blocking.
RUN+: Koger, Lewan RUN-: Molk, Robinson
M33 2 7 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Denard misses a keep read. Play still works as Schofield(+1) gets enough of the NT to give Toussaint(+1) a crease he hits speedily; Omameh(+1) kicked out a blitzing LB and Molk nailed the MLB. Safety comes up to hit at the sticks.
RUN+: Schofield, Toussaint, Molk, Omameh RUN-: Robinson
M40 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 3-3-5 stack Run Busted play Robinson -1
Robinson tries to hand off but Smith thinks it's a pitch. Robinson manages to get somewhere near the LOS.
M39 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass PA RB flat Smith Inc
Blitz gets two guys in Robinson's face immediately and he just dumps it off to the flat thinking that will be open; it's not. This is actually a good throw considering—he's under a lot of pressure and the coverage is there; he places it in a spot where Smith can get it and pick up some YAC if the LB doesn't make the diving PBU, which he does. Instant pressure plus coverage on the hot route == RPS -1. (CA, 0, protection N/A)
M39 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 under Pass Out Hemingway 9
Half roll does nothing to prevent pressure; Smith does not cut an edge blitzer and Molk(-1) lets another guy through to block no one. Robinson gets lit up. He throws just before that, hitting Hemingway in front of tight coverage. It's a bit high but not so much that Hemingway can't go up and get it. (CA+, 2, protection 0/3, Smith, Schofield, Molk)
M48 4 2 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 stack Run Speed option Robinson 7
NT goes right by Omameh but is not flat enough to make that count. Molk(+1) slides down the line, finds no one to block, and sets up. He never actually impacts the LB twisting from the inside but delays him with his presence. Lewan(+2) hates the playside donkey, donkeying him into the donkeyground. Koger(+1) kicks out the LB on the end; Robinson slashes up for the first.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Molk, Robinson, Koger. RUN-:
O45 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 3-3-5 over Run QB power Robinson 34
Robinson sees something he likes and checks. This flips the RB to the strongside; Michigan runs power over there. SDSU twisting, I think. Barnum(+1) adjusts to the twisting DL over him, kicking him down the line and into the guy next to him. That erases both. Lewan(+1), Koger(+1), and Watson(+1) are two on three on guys on the strongside POA and blow those two off the ball. The combination is a cavernous cutback lane for Robinson(+2) that he takes. Molk(+1) has wandered out to the first down line, where he takes out a safety; Robison accelerates behind and is again angling away from the last man when someone trips him from behind.
RUN+: Molk, Barnum(2), Lewan, Koger, Watson, Robinson(2) RUN-:
O11 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 over Run Power off tackle Toussaint 9
SDSU misaligns and does not adjust to TE motion. Lewan(+2) annihilates and pancakes the playside DE. McColgan(+1) kicks out EMLOS. Koger(-1) releases into the MLB and actually gets his butt kicked, falling backwards. This is fortunate as it impedes the progress of the backside DE, who Molk(-1) bumped but did not seriously delay. Toussaint(+1) zips into the hole, steps through an arm tackle, accelerates once clear, and nears the goal line.
RUN+: Lewan(2), McColgan, Toussaint RUN-: Koger, Molk
O2 2 1 Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Run Power off tackle Toussaint 1
SDSU guesses right and gets linemen into the backfield by diving; not much you can do there. This could still make it if Barnum(-1), the puller, doesn't whiff between two linebackers. Toussaint's following him and manages to split those two guys for a moment before they rope him down. Run-: Barnum
O1 1 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Run Naked boot Robinson 1
Does not fool two guys on the edge; fools everyone else. Schofield(+1) is left standing, realizes what's happening, and gets out to wall off the interior guy who knows what's going on.
RUN+: Schofield RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-4 tight Run Zone read dive Smith 0
No safeties. A 3-4 front and man on the WRs. They twist two DL, getting a guy in to roar down the line like an unblocked EMLOS on a scrape. They also have a linebacker forcing the handoff. Schofield(-1) is beaten badly by the playside DE. DE is in the hole ready to tackle; Smith(-1) should have cut it up behind that block, but realistically that's not much better. Too many guys when you've got five blockers against seven defenders. RPS -2. RUN-: Schofield, Smith
M20 2 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 3-4 base Run QB power Robinson 8
Huge hole as Koger(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) cave in the playside DE; blitzing LB comes outside and is kicked out by Smith(+0.5). Robinson hits it straight up. Schofield(+1) was pulling and got a downfield block that buries a DL; Koger gets his extra half-point by moving out into the second level. RPS +1; this was wide open.
RUN+: Koger, Huyge(0.5), Schofield, Smith(0.5) RUN-:
M28 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-4 tight Run QB inside zone Robinson 7
Twist stunt by the playside DE and NT. Schofield(+1) manages to adjust, pushing the DE past the play and giving a last lunge once on his knees that gets that guy to the ground; Molk(+1) rides the twisting NT way out of the play; Denard(+1) sees the crease and hits it. Huyge(+1) got a great driving block on the backside DE; Koger(-0.5) lost the backside LB; Omameh got a decent shove on the MLB. Denard has room for the first and can grab some extra yards before Koger's guy makes an ankle tackle.
RUN+: Schofield, Molk, Huyge, Robinson RUN-: Koger(0,5)
M35 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-4 tight Run Zone read keeper Robinson -3
Major error by Robinson(-3), who was definitely covered and should have given. Toussaint looked like he had a lane for either some yards or a very large number of yards. He manages to pop outside and looks like he will be able to run to the corner but then compounds his error by stopping and trying to cut back against the grain. No sale. Just run to the corner, man, it's not like this SDSU DE is going to catch you. RUN-: Robinson(3)
M32 2 13 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 3-4 base Pass Rollout curl Jackson Int
Rolling the pocket. I don't know why. This is "smash," which is similar to a curl-flat concept with the outside receiver running a circle route and the inside guy running a corner, but it's against man and Denard stares it down, allowing the underneath guy to sink into the route. It's picked off. It didn't help that the rolling pocket cuts off his reads, makes it harder to find spaces to run, and exposes both backs to cut blocks they miss, pressuring Denard. Stop rolling the pocket, fergodsakes. (BR, 0, protection 1/3, Toussaint, Smith, RPS -2... this route got no receivers open and got Denard pressured.)
Drive Notes: Interception, 21-0, 12 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 over Run QB power Robinson 4
Lewan(+2) obliterates the playside DE. He is not slanting and he ends up on his chest yards away from where he started. His block is so good it's a problem for Schofield, who gets clipped by the donkey Lewan is hating and can't get out on the MLB. File under one of those things. Omameh(-2) should be there to pick up the slack but even though it looks like he looks right at him he moves on to someone else. Instead of hitting a crease up the middle Denard has to bounce away from the MLB, robbing Hopkins of his angle on the other LB. Koger(+1) got a good driving kickout that put a guy on his butt, too.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Koger(2) RUN-: Omameh(2)
M28 2 6 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 under Pass PA FB flat Koger Inc
Playside LB gets straight upfield, pressuring Denard. This opens up the FB flat for probably first down yardage; Denard misses entirely. (IN, 0, protection N/A)
M28 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 even Pass TE Hitch Koger Int
Roundtree starts in the backfield before motioning out. SDSU sends three; they get picked up and provide a lane upfield. RUN! You don't run. Y U NO RUN. He throws it to a covered Koger and I believe the DB does bat this skyward; he had Dileo coming open on a not covered hitch and he's DENARD ROBINSON RUN. (BR, 0, protection 3/3)
Drive Notes: Interception, 21-0, 10 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M7 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 5
Hopkins at FB. Koger(+1) blasts the playside LB/DE well inside. Watson(+1) kicks out the safety type guy outside. Molk(+1) seals one DT; Schofield momentarily does the same to the other but lets him spin off. Hopkins bashes into a LB a couple yards downfield as Lewan(+1) blows out a LB. Omameh(-1) is pulling around into this cavernous space and runs directly into Hopkins. If he pulls inside of Hopkins he gets a block and Toussaint can hit it up for seven or eight. As it is he bumps Hopkins and Toussaint bumps him. Toussaint has to bounce outside, which Omameh also does; this is where Lewan has kicked his linebacker . Buncha dudes converge.
RUN+: Koger, Molk, Lewan, Watson RUN-: Omameh, Schofield
M12 2 5 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 3-3-5 under Run QB power Robinson 6
Same check that led to the post-fourth-and-two touchdown earlier, with Smith flipping sides and Michigan running at the heavy side. Lewan(+1) and Schofield double the playside DT, eventually depositing him three yards downfield in a heap. Watson(+1) scoops the playside DE-ish person with Koger, getting him sealed. Koger eventually passes him off; Omameh(+0.5) does whack him on his pull. Still not getting out into the second level there but he blocked someone. Molk(+1) has sealed away the backside DT so Robinson can just run up the backs of his OL until he nears the first down and jump over them to get it.
RUN+: Lewan, Schofield, Watson, Omameh(0.5), Molk RUN-:
M18 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-4 base Run Zone read keeper Robinson 0
This is probably a good keep since Toussaint gets annihilated but Koger(-2) just fans out, blocking no one. This leaves a DE unblocked and a twist stunt gets another guy free to contain from the inside and Denard has little choice but to go down near the LOS. RPS -2... defense had this beaten up even without the Koger fan. RUN-: Koger(2), Huyge
M18 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 under Run QB iso Robinson 3
Another twist stunt is handled better, with Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) blowing one twistee down the line and Omameh(+1) picking off the other one. It looks like Robinson is about to burst through the small crease provided when he's hacked down from behind by a guy who got upfield of Lewan(-3), beat him, got up, and tackled. That should never happen.
RUN+: Omameh, Molk, Schofield RUN-: Lewan(3)
M21 3 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-3-5 stack Pass Screen Smith 32
SDSU sends five and they all suck upfield. Grady's in the slot and has press man over him; he takes that guy away from the play and blocks the spying MLB. That's seven defenders gone. Denard dumps it off to Smith and he's got a convoy with nothing to do. I guess I would like Smith to maybe set up his blocks a little better here but you never know when you're going to get cut down from behind. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +3)
O47 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Smith 0
SDSU plays to spill, shooting the playside LB down the line and blowing up McColgan(-2), who topples backwards. Koger(-1) ran past the first threat, and those guys tackle. RUN-: McColgan(2), Koger
O47 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass PA quick seam Dileo 18
Zone fake to the quick seam, ain't no linebackers, nails Dileo, catch, first down. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +2)
O29 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 3-3-5 under Run Dive fake to pitch Smith 1
We never run the dive, LB gets out on it, Smith doesn't do anything but run OOB, grumble grumble this play.
O28 2 9 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 under Run Zone read dive Smith 2
Twist stunt dominates Schofield(-2), who gets shoved back into Smith after a correct handoff  Smith(+1) manages to get past the LOS after keeping his balance on the bump and accelerating into the gap left by the stunt.
RUN+: Smith RUN-: Schofield(2)
O26 3 7 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 even Run Speed option Robinson 3
This is not a great check to the short side of the field on third and seven, but it's also a missed cut from Robinson as Schofield(+1) and Lewan(+1) had comboed the backside DT and Denard had a huge cutback lane he does not see. Instead he goes playside, where Watson(-1) couldn't do much with his man; he gets out on the edge and allows one of the LBs to flow up on Robinson without opening the pitch. Denard does cut up, but late, and guys come off now-bad blocking angles when he has to go behind because of the safety charging on him.
RUN+: Schofield, Lewan RUN-: Robinson, Watson
Drive Notes: Missed FG(40), 3 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Hopkins 8
No twist stunt and M still runs the same thing; with Watson's motion and little reaction from SDSU they are misaligned and have little chance to stop this. (RPS +1) Watson kicks out the EMLOS as Lewan and Schofield double on the pinched-in DT. Easy all around. Koger(-0.5) gets a free release and does a crappy job blocking the playside LB but that's okay because McColgan(+1) and Omameh are there to help on this one dude. Hopkins runs up dudes' backs before taking a stiff shot from a filling safety and fumbling.
RUN+: McColgan RUN-: Koger, Hopkins(3)
Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-0, 2 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-4 tight Run Zone read dive Smith -2
Twist stunt screws Michigan. Schofield(-1) gets knocked back by his guy and Molk can't do anything about the guy disengaging over the top; no cutback with a guy slanting behind and a player for Denard. Smith is nailed by the twister. RPS -2. RUN-: Schofield
M18 2 12 Ace twins 1 2 2 3-3-5 even Pass PA Deep post Roundtree Inc
Play action. Both safeties are bailing at the snap because it's second and twelve but somehow they manage to let Roundtree behind them. Robinson lets it go over the top but is just long. (IN, 0, protection ½, Toussaint)
M18 3 12 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass Dumpoff Smith 5
Plenty of time; Robinson can find no one open. Robinson thinks about running but he's about to get tackled so he slings a dumpoff to Smith. He's immediately tackled. (TA, 3, protection 3/3)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 14 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M8 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 11
So the hidden reason this play works: Watson holds a dude who beat him badly. Refs +2. Anyway, same thing as earlier Hopkins power that worked: motion Watson to the strong side, watch SDSU fail to react, run power at it. Koger(-1) gets slanted under and his guy bangs Omameh, who goes backwards and bangs Toussaint. Watson(-2) is beaten by his LB and flings him to the ground without a call, otherwise this ends two yards in the backfield. The hold gives Toussaint a bounce, which he takes. It should be noted that if this play managed to go where it was supposed to, Lewan(+1), McColgan(+1), and Schofield(+1) had all gotten great blocks.
RUN+: Lewan, Schofield, McColgan RUN-: Watson(2), Koger
M19 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-3-5 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -1
This time they just line up with Watson over Koger, no motion, and the same LB who just got held shoots into the backfield past McColgan(-1) as a twist stunt gets a lineman past Huyge(-1) and the pulling Omameh(-1) and the MLB runs past Lewan(-1). Three unblocked guys meet Toussaint in the backfield. RPS -2. RUN-: McColgan, Lewan, Huyge,
M18 2 11 I-Form 2 1 2 3-3-5 stack Run Power off tackle Smith 0
Playside DE slides outside when he sees the downblock, avoiding Huyge(-1) entirely. Koger(-1) has to take him and doesn't do well with it; since two OL are now blocking no one there are two LBs for the single pulling Schofield since McColgan had to kick a dude out. RUN-: Koger, Huyge
M18 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass Dig Roundtree Inc
Denard has a very tight, NFL-style window he can fit it in over a level in a zone here and wings it high. Chad Henne could make this throw... some of the time. It would be a DO if complete, and he did find the one small window in which he could hope to pick up the first here. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-7, 10 min 4th Q. Boy do I hate this drive. So, so hard. On the next SDSU drive the announcers will complain about not running any time off the clock. But... but... they used power?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-4 base Run QB iso Robinson 30
Twist stunt. Schofield(+1) initially has trouble with it, giving ground, but does lock out the DT and eventually pancake him Molk(+1) tracks and kicks the guy coming around. That combo means cutback. This is possible because Koger(+1) kicked out the backside EMLOS. Huyge(+2) dominates his DE, and Omameh(+2) pops out on a MLB. By the time Robinson cuts back behind the twist stunt Huyge and Omameh are essentially carrying their guys downfield. He has an absolute cavern. By the time these guys stop moving backwards they're almost at the first down line! Robinson into the secondary where I give him a token +1 for being fast as hell.
RUN+: Schofield, Molk, Koger, Huyge(2), Omameh(2), Robinson RUN-:
O27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 even Run Zone read counter Toussaint 11
RR-era play with the H-back peeling backside to pick off EMLOS and the RB hitting the hole that leaves hard. Schofield(+1) blocks the playside DE inside. Koger(+1) kicks out EMLOS; Lewan(+1) donkeys a linebacker, Toussaint(+1) makes one hard cut and is free.
O16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read counter Toussaint 9
Different D means blocking doesn't work nearly as well. Huyge(-1) has a guy right over him and releases downfield; this means that guy is creeping down the LOS. Koger(-1) probably should block him but goes for the kickout on the contain guy on Robinson. There is nowhere to go for Toussaint(+2) until he takes a lovely jab step into the unblocked DE. DE slows a bit to form for a tackle. More importantly, the NT—who Omameh(+1) is blocking well but blocking to the wrong side now that everything is all futzed—sees it and fights outside. Toussaint then starts running back towards the nominal playside, where Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) took on a blitzing LB, stalled his momentum, and start driving him downfield. Toussaint runs up their backs until the pile stops.
O7 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read counter Smith 7
This is what a 3-3-5 is supposed to be: three man front, late arriving fourth from unpredictable direction. This time MLB is 3 tech, and he zooms upfield of Omameh(+1); Omameh kicks him out admirably. Blitzer is shooting the gap behind a slanting NT, expecting Smith will end up there. He thinks about it, then sees Omameh's block on the MLB, bouncing past a diving tackle attempt impressively. Another guy is coming at him, bro, and he stops on a dime, running through his arm tackle, stumbling. The last guy has gone to his knees to take him down; Smith powers through him for the final two yards. Bad. Ass.
RUN+: Smith(3), Omameh(2) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-7, 6 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 over Run Zone read counter Toussaint 6
Opens right up; Molk(+2) takes on a DT and plows him back. Huyge(+1) gets a reach on the other DT, though he was slanting to him. Omameh(+1) shoots out on a linebacker; Toussaint(-1) misses the cut behind and runs into an unblocked LB.
RUN+: Molk(2), Omameh, Huyge RUN-: Toussaint
M39 2 4 I-Form Big 2 2 1 3-4 base Run Power off tackle Toussaint -4
LB shoots into McColgan(-2) who again buckles backwards, causing a pile that sucks in the puller. Toussaint bounces but is tackled. I mean, really, if power loses yards in this situation... RUN-: McColgan(2)
M35 3 8 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 3-3-5 under Run QB power Robinson 2
Okay, I'm not going to nail people for a meaningless run here. I will mention that Miles Burris was very impressive and I bet he gets drafted in the mid rounds at least. Huyge whiffs on him here, robbing Denard of a possible cutback.
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-7, 2 min 4th Q

That was okay.

Yeah.

Weekly run game breakdown. Hit me.

I cut out two goal-line carries from the one as distorting and didn't count one broken play out of the I (it lost a yard), leaving the following:

  • Eight power plays from the I: 3.5 YPC
  • One dive-fake-to-pitch: 1 yard
  • 1 QB draw: 19 yards
  • 1 QB inside zone: 7 yards
  • 4 QB iso: 10 YPC
  • 7 QB power: 8.8 YPC
  • 4 speed option: 17 YPC
  • 4 zone read counter: 8.3 YPC
  • 11 inside zone read plays: 5.5 YPC

Under center YPC: 3.2.
Shotgun YPC: 8.8

None of the power plays were in short yardage situations. Five were on first and ten, one was on second and eleven, one was on second and four. Five of the seven were "big" formations with two TEs and one WR.

Running power under center sucks, full stop. It sucks against a terrible run defense on first and ten. It sucks even more when Michigan puts two tight ends on the field. There is no reason to do it—any theories about wearing the defense down have to account for the fact that when you run for 3.2 YPC you do not wear the defense down because it is not on the field. This is not just because you can run Denard a lot better from the shotgun: RBs averaged 6.9 YPC on carries from it.

And the under center numbers would have looked even worse if Watson was flagged for a blatant hold on Toussaint's bounce-off-the-OL 11-yarder.

power-works-2power-works-3

people don't go that way by themselves

I cringe every time a fullback hits the field.

That's depressingly consistent.

Speaking of depressingly consistent, let's talk about inconsistency.

Don't do this to me.

CHART

[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation.]

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

Four games and we have a trend: a 15% reduction in Denard's DSR despite laying a lower caliber of competition than the common opponents we winnowed last year down to. Michigan called 42 passes in last year's ND game, a number that is completely incomprehensible this year. The regression: it's real, it's depressing, it's got to get fixed in the next two weeks if we're going to capitalize on the Big Ten sucking more than a sucky bunch of sucks have ever sucked before.

Receivers

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway - - 1/1 - 2 - 4/5 1/2
Roundtree 2 0/1 - 2/2 1 1/3 1/2 4/4
Odoms 1 - - - 1 - - -
Grady - - - - 2 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -

-

- 1/1 1 - - 8/8
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - 1/1 - 0/1 1/1 2/2
Jackson - - - 1/1 - - - -
                 
Koger - - - 0/1 2 1/1 1/2 3/4
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
                 
Toussaint - - - - - - - 0/1
Shaw - - - - - - - -
Smith 1 - - 2/2 1 - - 4/5
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

Just the one drop, but it was a drag: the Koger quick seam that was going for 20 if caught.

For the OL, keep in mind that Michigan had 44 carries that averaged 7.3 yards an attempt. Numbers ho.

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 15 4 11 MOST EXTREME DONKEY ELIMINATION
Barnum 6 3 3 Only played about half the game.
Molk 16.5 2 14.5 I guess that stuff about no big plus days from him does not apply to tiny teams who are tiny.
Omameh 14.5 5 9.5 Ditto him: his lack of POWER was irrelevant because the guys over him were like 250, tops.
Huyge 9.5 3.5 6 Surprising amount of power run over him.
Schofield 10.5 5 5.5 Erratic but not a huge dropoff.
Mealer - - - DNP
Watson 7 2 5 Did surprisingly well; will it hold up outside of the Lollipop Guild?
Koger 10 8 2 Too many misses.
TOTAL 79 32.5 46.5 +41 last week against EMU, FWIW. Expect something similar this weekend.
Backs
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 8 6 2 I should probably just give him +10 to start for being ridiculously fast.
Gardner - - - DNP
Toussaint 6 1 5 Darting runs for nice yardage. Same YPC as Smith w/ long of 11 instead of 32.
Shaw - - - DNP(!)
Smith 8.5 5 3.5 Big chunk of the minus his fumble.
Hopkins - 3 -3 Fullback
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan 3 5 -2 Got rocked on two separate power plays.
TOTAL 31 9 22 Contributions from non-Denards: can they last?
Receivers
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway - - -  
Odoms - - -  
Gallon - - - --
Roundtree - - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL - - - Nothin'
Metrics
Player + - T Notes
Protection 16 8 66% Team 2, Smith 2, Toussaint 2, Schofield 1, Molk 1
RPS 13 15 -2 Twist stunts were a problem.

So: epic thumping delivered by that offensive line, as you would expect given the size of the opposition. Michigan's problems came on a lot of twist stunts. Denard had 200 yards on 21 carries and I give him a +2, which is laughable even to me. I gave him a –3 for one bad keep read that he compounded by not getting to the corner with his speed; instead he held up and got tackled for a three yard loss. He also missed a couple of gaping cuts and some of the holes he had to run in were ridiculous. Like this one:

donkey-3donkey-4

donkey-5

He did get a +1 for the cut but by the end of this play Huyge and Omameh will deposit their guys on the first down line. So… yeah. Give it up for the OL.

I thought they were totally overrated?

They suck out loud at running power from the I, if that's what you're asking, and might suck out loud running it from the shotgun against bigger teams, but you don't rush for 320 yards with a bad offensive line. When permitted to do what they do they do it well. When asked to do what they don't do they don't do it well. SCIENCE!

Meanwhile: how often have you thought about Taylor Lewan this year? Not often, right? Mostly when he takes some donkey and punches it so hard in the nose shards of cartilage come out the back of its donkeyhelmet, right? (In a non-personal-foul acquiring way, of course.) That is the mark of a great left tackle. There hasn't been a whisper of pressure from the left side all year.

Power! We use power.

You know the drill: we can sort of do it from the shotgun with the extra blocker/more spread out environment, but going big, as we do frequently and inexplicably, is a recipe for second and long. Even when it works it's not exactly because we're dominating guys. This was the setup on the last carry Hopkins is going to get for a while, an eight-yard power:

power-works

They ran off the right side of the line. Notice that Steve Watson has motioned to the strong side, where there are three SDSU players to the five on the weak side. SDSU does not slant. With the fullback that gives Michigan five blockers on three guys. Even our wack power running game can make that work.

If they are going to give up the free yards we can take the free yards. If they aren't… eh… not so much, and I'm talking like one yard not so much, not the four yard not so much that is the version of Denard not so much.

tunnels-screen-liberation-society

JOIN THE TUNNEL SCREEN AND POWER FROM THE I-FORM LIBERATION SOCIETY
STILL WORKING ON THE COLOR SCHEME
NOW ALSO WORKING ON THE NAME
tTSAPFTILS DOES NOT ROLL OFF THE TONGUE

What happened to the zone read?

As was expected/feared, the momentary light of day Denard saw does seem to be an effect of facing spread derp defensive coordinators. If Denard got a pull read on Saturday it happened maybe once; the two times he did pull he got zero and negative three yards. Tweaks are required to keep it going.

Weekly inquisitiveness about what's wrong with Denard.

There are infinite theories, all of which have some validity. Here's one from that BWS picture pages referenced earlier:

In Rodriguez's option offense, the focus was always to pick up yards and stay ahead of the down and distance. Any time they did take a shot downfield, it was the QB Oh Noes that were wide open. In this pro style offense, the coaching staff expects Michigan's players to simply out perform the defense, rather than keeping them guessing with simple routes and reads that would produce 5-6 yard gains and possible yards after catch*.

There's nothing wrong with this style of offense if you have the players to do it (the Chad Hennes and Braylon Edwards of the world). Michigan. however, is loaded with players that aren't necessarily able to out perform their counterparts, rather, they're able to make something out of nothing. Denard needs to recognize the cushion that the weakside defenders are giving Dileo and Hemingway and pass on the single coverage against Roundtree, who isn't much of a leaper.

I sort of agree but don't think the fault is on Robinson. The coverage matchup is exactly what Michigan expects and Robinson can't know how Roundtree will do with it by the time he throws the ball. You don't check away from a fade against one-on-one press coverage. You check to it. Denard threw a decent ball and the corner played it well. That's life when you are taking low-percentage shots down the sideline at Roy Roundtree.

Why you'd throw this at Roundtree is something of a mystery, but Borges is used to having pro-style receivers, not Purdue++ guys, on the outside. I don't like the playcall, don't like having Roundtree on the outside—it's killing his production—and don't like using Henne+Edwards plays when your assets are elsewhere. To me this kind of thing is on Borges. To his credit, Borges seems to acknowledge this:

Can you talk about Denard’s progress as a passer? “Well, it’s a work in progress with our offense. That’s the thing … because it’s different. Now part of that, too -- and I’m going to take the rap for that a little bit. I’ve got to get him some better throws. I’ve got to put him in position to complete some more balls so he can gain some confidence and gain some rhythm. Get in a little bit of a zone. He’s a capable passer, you know, but as a playcaller you have to consider everything we’re calling in terms of the passing game. This kid really threw the ball well in two-a-days and threw the ball well in spring. He did. All his numbers were better numbers than now. I think game situations are different. As he learns about how to do this, you’ll see progress. Because he does have a good arm, and he has an accurate arm when he’s comfortable. But part of that has to be my responsibility to get him in better situations to complete some throws.”

He's still getting his head around an offense where you don't need to seek out big deep chunks as aggressively because just you can stay on the field with your 6+ YPC running game.

Heroes?

Pick an offensive lineman, special commendation to Lewan and Molk. Also the collective tailback.

Goats?

Air Denard again, I-form power.

What does it mean for Minnesota and the future?

Michigan's going to plow the Gophers like they did the last two opponents. That's not that interesting.

Down the road, the Denard conundrum continues. Is he injured? Incapable of throwing these new routes? Uncomfortable? Was last year just a mirage? The answer to that series of fragments is the difference between contending for the division and contending for a middling bowl game. We just don't know, dude. I'm still clinging to the hope that there's something wrong with him physically.

Against Minnesota I'm hoping to see some dinkier routes Denard can hit in rhythm and no new wrinkles in the run game—none should be necessary. Can Michigan break 4 YPC running from under center against a tire fire of a team? Let's hope not!

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Boot On The Other Throat

Boot On The Other Throat Comment Count

Brian September 26th, 2011 at 11:11 AM

9/24/2011 – Michigan 28, San Diego State 7 – 4-0

imagebracelets-doylebrunson2005hokesmug

A long, long time ago now a Lloyd-Carr coached Michigan team was struggling through the 2005 season when they met Northwestern. A lot of throws to Tacopants (Jason Avant's 11-foot-tall imaginary friend) on both sides later, Michigan emerged with a 33-17 win and I embarked on one of the first of an endless procession of stat-nerd diatribes about the evils of punting.

You've probably heard it already: punting decisions have not kept pace with the increasingly offensive nature of the game, leaving coaches in a perpetual state of risk- and win-avoidance. Romer paper, Pulaski High, Mathlete chart. Etc.

In this particular Northwestern game, though, Carr went for it on fourth and five from the Northwestern 23, a decision I thought was too aggressive(!). When paired with a number of similarly aggressive calls from earlier that season, it seemed like a sea change for the old man:

In multiple cases he's made tough, correct decisions: going on fourth and goal from the one against Wisconsin, pounding it into the line twice against Michigan State, etc. Even when the strategy has backfired, he accepts the downside and persists in a more aggressive posture.

In context, the Penn State gaffe seems more like one last hit of that sweet Bombay Popsicle* snuck in-between rehab sessions than evidence of 1970s thinking taking hold. Lloyd Carr has checked himself in to the Betty Ford Center for Coaches Addicted to Low Variance. I wouldn't expect a flying-colors discharge any time soon, but he's made the first, biggest step.

*[I don't know either.]

That change lasted into the fourth quarter of that year's Ohio State game. Having acquired a two-score lead by converting a fourth and inches around the Michigan 40, Carr reverted to his primitive instincts at the crucial moment. With three minutes left from the Ohio State 40, he called for a wide receiver screen on third and ten. It gained six yards. With a two point lead, three minutes on the clock, no Ohio State timeouts left, and a fourth and four on the Ohio State 34, Carr punted. Ohio State drove for a touchdown; Carr would never again have the opportunity to kill a game against the Buckeyes.

In the moment, Carr choked. Six years on that single decision seems like the best way to explain why a lot Michigan fans found his tenure frustrating despite its high rate of success: the program was perpetually making poor decisions because a combination of fear and arrogance. Something could go wrong if you made a high variance decision, and Michigan could spit on expected value because This Is Michigan. See any game in which Michigan acquired an 18-point lead or the first half of the Orange Bowl for confirmation.

Carr coached like he had a kickass running game and killer defense no matter the facts, which was the difference between being a legend and a being a B+ coach who lost the battle with Tressel authoritatively. Hell, even Tressel blew games when he failed to adjust to the reality that sometimes his defense and special teams were not enough, and he ran roughshod over the Big Ten for nine years.

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

Part of the reason a segment of the Michigan fanbase (including the author) blew up at Hoke's hire is because it seemed to represent a return to that expectation-spurning 1970s decision-making.

Brady Hoke put a lot of those fears to rest by going for—and getting—the win against Notre Dame with eight seconds left. That decision was a no-brainer. If the field goal team had run out onto the field, I would have been livid. That was a test he passed, but it was one with a low bar.

On Saturday, Hoke sent out the punting team with about two and a half minutes left in the first half. It was fourth and two around midfield, and I was mildly peeved. It was not the percentage play, but I've watched a lot of football and it seemed too much to hope that even the rootin'est, tootin'est, eyepatch-wearingest pirate of a head coach would go for it. Needing more than a sneak and up fourteen in the first half, the world punts. My peevishness was directed at football coaches in general, not Hoke in particular.

And then.

And then an angel came down from the sky, and signaled timeout. Great trumpets erupted from the flagpoles, playing a fanfare as a golden staircase descended. Each of the steps was engraved with the names of World Series of Poker winners. Down from the clouds strode Doyle Brunson, clad in a jacket of hundred-dollar bills. And lo, Texas Dolly spaketh unto the people: "check-raise." Brady Hoke sent the offensive line onto the field.

This was a really, really good decision. Even if you don't believe the exact outlines of the Mathlete's calculations, it is not close: average offense versus average defense means the break-even line is around eight yards. This was not an average situation. Michigan had Denard Robinson against a pretty horrible run defense. And that number does not take into account the game situation. If Michigan gets the first down they are almost certainly robbing San Diego State of a possession. Punting gets you thirty, forty yards of field position. Getting the first down puts you in good position to score and is essentially another +1 in turnover margin. You need two yards and you have Denard Robinson.

(caption) Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson breaks away from the San Diego State defense for a big gain in the second quarter. Robinson rushed for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries, a 9.5-yards-per-carry average. He struggled in the passing game, however, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 93 yards with two interceptions.  *** After jumping out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, courtesy of three rushing touchdowns by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, the Wolverines turned the ball over three times in the second half, but held on to beat coach Brady Hoke's former team, the San Diego State Aztecs 28-7 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor. Photos taken on Saturday, September 24, 2011. ( John T. Greilick / The Detroit News )

stealing a joke from the internet: the guy on the right looks like he just looked into the Ark of the Covenant. via the News.

One speed option later Michigan was en route to the endzone and had essentially ended the game. Without that massively +EV decision they go into halftime up maybe 14, maybe 11, maybe 7 points. That ugly third quarter becomes the gut-check time most were predicting before the game. Maybe Michigan comes out on top (24-21, say). Maybe not. That didn't happen because when Michigan had its boot on San Diego State's neck, Hoke called Z 22 stomp right.

The Lloyd Carr example above shows we don't know that Hoke's going to do this consistently, that he'll stick to the non-pejorative MANBALL when the pressure is at its greatest, but so far so good. Even my doubts about Hoke's ability to math up in the waning moments of an Ohio State game are faint. When things go wrong he does not scowl or pout or throw headsets like Rich Rodriguez or Brian Kelly or Bo Pelini. He does not go on tilt. He calmly talks to guys about what in the hell they were thinking.

Hoke continues to leave best-case scenarios in the dust. Saturday night I watched Dennis Erickson punt on fourth and five from the USC 37 and thought "my coach would never do that." Then I watched Erickson chew out the punter who put the ball in the endzone because that's what happens when you punt from the 37 and thought "my coach would never do that."

That felt good. It felt invent-a-time-machine-to-assure-yourself-its-all-going-to-be-okay good. It feels like Michigan has finally learned how to gamble.

+EV Non-Bullets

Boy do I want to play poker with certain people on the internet. Evaluating the decision has popped up on every Michigan message board. It's mostly been met with praise, but man, there are a lot of people who can't estimate and multiply out there. Maybe it's Carr Stockholm syndrome.

Photoset. The SDSU photoset comes via Eric Upchurch and the Ann Arbor Observer:

A reminder: anything on the MGoBlog photostream is creative-commons licensed, free to use for non-commercial applications. Attribution to Eric Upchurch, the Observer, and MGoBlog is appreciated.

Mark Huyge is delighted to be here. From the above SDSU photoset.

huyge-1huyge-2huyge-3

It's not quite the Molk death glare. It's more like Shifty-Eyed Dog.

Try to look at Mark Huyge ever again without having that play in your head.

Eric also managed to get a picture of Denard looking sad after a win, which I thought was not possible, and this shot of a fully-padded Van Bergen about to opine on Kant:

ryan-van-bergen-kant

That's a great question. Just as our rationality leads us to a belief in an objective reality, Kant believed there is an objective morality we can locate from the same process. The Categorical Imperative is an absolute, fundamental moral law on par with Minnesota losing to teams from the Dakotas. Things are either right or wrong—there are no gray areas, and context does not apply. You could call him the BJ Daniels of philosophy*.

*[Ten-cent summary of Kantian philosophy cribbed from Three Minute Philosophy, which is terrific. Philosophers wishing to quibble with my paraphrase of a comedic summary are invited to consider the moral consequences of their actions and also jump in a lake. USF fans wishing to WOO BJ DANIELS can skip to the latter.]

And the internet eeeed Countess. When Troy Woolfolk headed to the sidelines, all Michigan fans everywhere winced. When Blake Countess replaced JT Floyd in the third quarter, all Michigan fans everywhere prepared for the deluge.

It never came, and as a result everyone from my uncle to the internet to the newspapers are having little freakouts about Michigan's #4 corner. I am with all of you. The only thing stopping Countess from having a few PBUs or interceptions was Ryan Lindley's inability to throw the ball anywhere near the guys Countess had blanketed but Lindley targeted anyway.

For most of the third quarter I stopped watching the offensive backfield and started watching downfield coverage and while I won't be able to confirm this on the tape I think Countess was doing really well even when people weren't going after him. I'm with the rest of the internet when I suggest that Troy Woolfolk should take the Minnesota game off to recover from his multiple nagging injuries so we can see some more of the freshman.

I thought Avery did well, too. He had a third-down slant completed on him and was the DB victimized on the touchdown but in both cases he was right there tackling/raking at the ball. Is he doing something wrong I'm not perceiving yet? Because I think he's playing better than Woolfolk, who gave up some groan-worthy easy completions. (I don't blame him for allowing Hillman to bounce on one third down conversion because he was clearly held.)

Release the Martin. This week in the I-told-you-so files: Mike Martin is just fine. His good day last week was obscured by EMU never throwing and having quite a bit of success attacking away from him. Against SDSU he was nigh unblockable, bowling a veteran offensive line over backwards multiple times and drawing holding calls left and right. Craig Roh had two big plays and will show up doing little things when I do the UFR; Will Campbell had a couple of line-pushing plays. Hillman's YPC was still over five, so there are issues but I think a big chunk of them are localizable to…

Problems. So… everyone's talking up Jake Ryan, too. I'm with everyone in a general, long-term sense but a little less enthused about his performance on Saturday. One of the results of the first few weeks of UFRing/picture paging is that whenever the opponent tries to get outside I immediately focus on Ryan. Result from last week: three "aaargh Ryan" screams that no one in my section comprehended. He's still giving up the corner way too easy.

Also, there are two caveats to an otherwise encouraging performance from the secondary. One: Lindley and his receivers were flat bad as a group. Drops, bad routes, and bad throws artificially boosted Michigan's efficiency against him. Some of that was caused by pressure. Some of it was just a crappy opponent. Two: I wonder if Michigan's familiarity with the SDSU offense allowed them to beat the Aztecs' favorite routes into Michigan DBs heads.

Still, 5.3 YPA and actual depth at corner. +1 Mallory.

Offensive construction bits. Another week, another confirmation that running Denard is the offense. While I still groan whenever they line up under center, snaps from there were limited. I would really prefer it if they never ran I-form power on first and ten again, though. They've mixed in some inexplicably effective short play action so far; if they can't run that will probably dry up.

Things I liked: That screen to Smith. The essence of an RPS+3 is when three offensive linemen have no one to block for 30 yards. And then the much-discussed speed option debuted. I'd gotten a couple insider emails telling me it was part of the offense but thought it would be extremely bad form to publish that, so I'd been waiting. It was quite a debut.

I'm hoping we see Borges add wrinkles at the same rate Rodriguez did. He'll have to to keep the run offense ahead of the wolves. He's off to a good start.

vincent-smith-sdsu

via the Detroit News.

Tailbacks. I'm suddenly happy with Michigan's tailback situation after Vincent Smith made a lot of yards on his own, including the above touchdown where he kept his balance at about the five and managed to drag a safety into the endzone. There was also the zone play where he squeezed through a crack in the line it's possible literally no other D-I back would have fit through.

Toussaint, meanwhile, didn't have the yards Smith did but ran hard on the inside; I still like him best but understand if they're going to split duties between the top two. I feel bad for Shaw—maybe it's time to put him on kickoffs? He's got speed Smith does not.

The Denard question. So they did run a curl-flat. Denard went to the curl way late and threw his first interception. Not sure if that was schemed or just bad execution by the offense. If it's the latter that might be attributable to not running it over the offseason as Borges attempted to install his route packages, route packages that now seem like things Denard just can't do.

A three-point plan in an attempt to get Denard back on track:

  1. Stop throwing on the run.
  2. Provide some easy throws early—all hitch, snag—in an effort to get him calmed down.
  3. Develop some sort of counter-punch to the opponent getting all up in Denard's face on the rollout PA. A shovel pass?

Bending but not breaking. Michigan's giving up a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Frankly, some of this is luck. They are acquiring turnovers at an unsustainable rate. Not unsustainable for a mediocre defense, unsustainable for Michigan 1997. When the well dries up they'll do some more breaking.

The other thing is the secondary. Michigan's newfound ability to make plays on deep balls and Jordan Kovacs being stone-cold reliable (so far /crosses self) have erased cheap touchdowns for the opposition. WMU's touchdown came on a 15-play drive. ND touchdown drives went 7, 10, 7, and 4 plays. San Diego State's took six plays but started from the Michigan 38. The only quick drive Michigan's given up all year was ND's desperation drive, on which Michigan gave up chunks on purpose because of the time situation and then tried an NFL-style defense they weren't ready for and blew it. The longest touchdown other than that was the 16-yard pass Lindley hit in the third quarter.

Opponents have ripped off chunks on occasion, but they have not been handed free touchdowns. Michigan's at least making them earn it. That's a necessary first step on the road away from completely awful.

The next opponent. When Minnesota managed to hang with USC on the first weekend of the season they seemed like they might be more intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Then they lost to Not Even The Good New Mexico and North Dakota State and seemed even less intimidating than your average Minnesota team. Compounding matters: Jerry Kill is again out of commission with his seizure issue.

Drumline? Drumline:

Here

I did not VOAV this week for reasons of being spooked. Boyz In The Pahokee provided the usual bounty if you are jonesing.

ST3 goes Inside the Box Score:

Matt Wile. Wait, let me try that again. MATT WILE!!! Yeah, I think he was properly pumped up to play his Dad's team. Net yards per kickoff were 50 for SDSU and 49.2 for UofM. To be even on kickoffs is a win for us. Net yards per punt were 34.7 for SDSU and 43.5 for Michigan. To gain almost a full first down per punt is huge. Two punts were inside the 20, and two were 50+ yards. #82, Terrance Robinson had 2 ST tackles and did a great job as the gunner on punts.

Wile's just lost his punting job; if that allows him to improve his kickoffs and compete for the field goal job, Michigan's kicking could be one of those strength things by midseason. 

Lordfoul's weekly Hoke for Tomorrow:

Michigan needs Hagerup back.  Maybe Hagerup isn't the only answer.  Wile's kicks are improving it would seem, both on KOs and punts, possibly because his nerves are settling down.  Kickoffs regularly made it to the goal line and only 1 of 4 punts was returned for much while they averaged 49 yards per with a long of only 51(!).

Player participation notes from jtmc33.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files: Brady Hoke pointing at something. Hugs and Ryan Van Bergen's ripped jersey. AnnArbor.com's photo gallery.

MVictors got a few sideline shots, including SDSU's mascot:

1montazuma_thumb[1]

You see that conch shell he's got in his hand? At some point in the first half he was talking into it like it was a cell phone. That is all.

Media, as in blog rabble. BWS hops aboard the Countess bandwagon and points out Denard can't throw.

MGoBlog : The Big Lebowski :: The Hoover Street Rag : The Hunt For Red October:

After the Notre Dame game, I tweeted very simply: "And the singing, Captain?" "Let them sing."  The moment was too good to start worrying about the future.  But at some point, the future arrives and you need to deal with it.  How well prepared you are for that future plays a large role in how well you're able to handle it when the moment arrives.  The non-conference schedule, particularly one played as four games at the start of the season should, theoretically, be a nice combination of challenges and the working out of kinks.  Before the mission starts, you must know the capacity and capabilities of your crew.

Touch the Banner provides the usual breakdown, says we should see "no one" less on the defense. Whoah. MGoFootball highlights the tailbacks, says D is a live.

Media, as in local newspaper. John Niyo on the defense, which is extant. Chengelis on the fact the team is not vintage. San Diego State had big pictures of their former coaches as signals. The Daily on RVB's Hillman chase:

Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Ryan Van Bergen caught Hillman from behind inside the 10-yard line and knocked the ball loose for the second fumble.

Try reading it this way: a 288-pound defensive tackle caught the nation’s second-leading rusher from behind in the open field — 30 yards away from the line of scrimmage.

Van Bergen got a block from fifth-year senior defensive tackle Mike Martin, but most of his help came from practice.

“But when it comes down to it, we have the most explosive player in the country in our backfield,” Van Bergen said. “We get to play against (junior quarterback) Denard (Robinson), so we’ve learned how to take angles at guys who have speed.

“I took off on my horse just thinking, ‘I’ve almost caught Denard before, maybe I can catch this guy.’ ”

AnnArbor.com writes similarly. The San Diego perspective:

“They were very emotional after the game, depressed, disappointed, upset, however you want to say,” said Long, whose team dropped to 3-1 after Saturday’s 28-7 defeat. “It was a very emotional locker room after the game and not in a good sense.”

They probably would have done a “poor job” of answering questions, Long said, so he kept them behind closed doors. “It’s my job to protect them,” Long said Sunday. “This is not pro football.” …

"The defense got shocked by the speed of especially one guy (Robinson),” Long said. “They got shocked by the strength they had up front and the speed of quarterback early in the game.”

Nesbitt on Denard's twitter adventure. Meinke points out Michigan's massive uptick in red zone efficiency:

• Offensively, Michigan is 13-for-13 on red-zone opportunities. It is one of 13 teams in the country to have scored on every trip inside the 20-yard line this year.

• Even better? The Wolverines have scored touchdowns on 12 of those 13 trips. That 92-percent touchdown rate trails only Texas Tech nationally.

One of the main arguments made in favor of Shotgun Forever is that red zone efficiency is not a stat that shows much repeatable skill year to year and that the huge chunks of yards Michigan picked up without, you know, scoring in 2010 would turn into points if you just left the damn thing alone (and got a kicker). The early returns are excellent.

National takes. Smart Football:

- Michigan 28, San Diego State 7. Brady Hoke’s new team faced his old team, and I’m still not sure, despite their 4-0 record, that we know anything about this Michigan football team. The defense seems to be improving under DC Greg Mattison, but they’ve been using so much movement and motion to cover up their talent weaknesses it’s unclear how the defense will fare against a polished opponent. And while the offense has found a better rhythm running a Rich Rodriguez-lite Denard Robinson attack — including Denard’s long TD run on the speed option — his passing line was abysmal: 8 of 17 for 93 yards, no TDs and two interceptions. He’s obviously uncomfortable in the new offense. He looked like a more polished and comfortable passer last year. I chalk some of this up to the fact that the very techniques he’s using are new, but he’s going to have to improve for UM to have success. That said, given Michigan’s favorable schedule — no Wisconsin and the easy part of the Big 10 schedule up next — we may not learn anything about Michigan until the last three weeks of the season, when they play Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State.

No one else bothered. A couple weeks after puntosauring himself into a loss against Iowa State, BHGP documents Kirk Ferentz opening Iowa's game against ULM in a shotgun spread, demonstrating the Carr thing above perfectly.

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