Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2017: Offense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on October 2nd, 2017 at 12:47 PM

2017 logoo_thumbSPONSOR NOTES. You know one thing I appreciate about HomeSure Lending is that Matt is not a song designed to draw the attention of a child, and has never gotten stuck in my head for days on end, relating banal facts about the world around me. This may be happening to my brain right now, and is not a very good advertisement.

If you'd like to think about something other than washing your hands for once in your life you could call Matt and get some quotes for a home loan. The problem with this strategy is that Matt will get you your quotes so quickly that your respite will be brief. But then you can talk to him about football, which helps.

FORMATION NOTES. Nothing particularly unusual except for one tackle over play that was a waggle pass to Poggi. Purdue alternated between a 3-4 and 4-3 front but was also not weird in any significant way.


SUBSTITUTION NOTES. OL was standard save for a healthy number of Runyan snaps at right guard; after the game Harbaugh said those were more about Onwenu's endurance than his performance. Speight got the first three drives and was knocked out before the fourth, whereupon O'Korn came in. Brandon Peters got the final, uncharted drive.

Isaac was limited with a ding sustained late in the Air Force game, so Higdon got a plurality of the work until his fumble. Evans got most of the carries after that. Kareem Walker saw his first live action late. Fullbacks were the usual rotation between the seniors with one snap for Mason.

With Black out it was Nate Schoenle and Grant Perry who got most of the additional snaps. Perry played both inside and out in this game; DPJ got his fair share but didn't get targeted as much as many folks want. Crawford was still the most-heavily deployed WR. TE saw McKeon and Gentry get almost all of the targets and a clear edge in snaps. For Ty Wheatley that means he's playing with a cast on his hand; for Ian Bunting that is bad news. Eubanks got scattered snaps as well.

[After THE JUMP: my kingdom for an offensive line.]

What Is: Mesh

What Is: Mesh

Submitted by Seth on September 28th, 2017 at 4:00 PM

This series is a work-in-progress glossary of football concepts we tend to talk about in these pages. Previously:

Offensive concepts: RPOs, high-low, snag, mesh, covered/ineligible receivers, Duo, zone vs gap blocking, zone stretch, split zone, pin and pull, inverted veer, reach block, kickout block, wham block, Y banana play, TRAIN, the run & shoot

Defensive concepts: The 3-3-5, Contain & lane integrity, force player, hybrid space player, no YOU’RE a 3-4!, scrape exchange, Tampa 2, Saban-style pattern-matching, match quarters, Dantonio’s quarters, Don Brown’s 4-DL packages and 3-DL packages, Bear

Special Teams: Spread punt vs NFL-style


Michigan’s gameplan last week was to build around one of the most consistently effective offensive plays in college football: the Mesh. Now listen, everybody meshes. It’s the favorite play of schools with questionable quarterbacks, and the base play that the air raid offense is built from. Unless you’re really good at fades mesh is probably your go-to goal-line passing offense. I know it probably wasn’t the plan, but a mesh-based game was also perfect for O’Korn.



Also James Light found Mike Leach’s 1999 Oklahoma Sooners playbook:


At its core, Mesh is a short, easy, and rather cheap passing play designed to cross a pair of drag routes in hopes of creating a ton of traffic for the coverage. Imagine the above with the strong safety ($) trying to trail the blue tight end: what hope does the red cornerback have of staying with the red tight end with all of those bodies around?

That of course is if they catch man defense. If it’s zone, well, crossing routes are zone-beaters: just run the receivers into open ground and have them sit down for easy yardage.

[Hit THE JUMP to see how it worked]

Neck Sharpies: The Five-Tight-End Train to Trips Mesh Buttdown

Neck Sharpies: The Five-Tight-End Train to Trips Mesh Buttdown

Submitted by Seth on October 25th, 2016 at 4:00 PM

We were cheering so much when they brought out the train that we missed how cool the play design was that they ran with it. It’s not the most complicated play to break down, but it’s certainly the most fun I’ve had breaking one down.

All aboard:

The Train


Other than looking cool, the train formation does actually accomplish something. The defense is trying to figure out who’s got whom, but can’t actually line up and sort out the offense’s look until this weird huddle has broken. It’s hard to catch numbers with all those other dudes in the way. It might not even dawn on the defenders until the snap that all the skill position players are tight ends (or in the case of Hill, a quasi-TE turned fullback). The train doubles as a huddle—Speight walks up the line giving the playcall—but preserves a no-huddle offense’s confusion factor.

If you’re an opponent, you don’t have a lot of time to dissect the various shades of blocky-catchy. And down near the goal line you’re not going to have the luxury of playing cover 2, since any underneath dumpoff is a touchdown. With a weird formation, the simplest thing to do is call a man defense, and everybody line up in their spots.

Then Speight claps his hands to break the huddle, and everybody rushes to his spot.


[After the Jump: Why five tight ends, why mesh, and how the rule that spread teams proved unfair is also unfair for teams that run out lots of TEs and crossing routes]

Neck Sharpies: Eight Plays Screwing With Brown

Neck Sharpies: Eight Plays Screwing With Brown

Submitted by Seth on December 31st, 2015 at 12:00 PM


So today I complete the series on Don Brown's defense. After two the gist of that defense is plainly gotten: he runs the same defense Michigan does. I was really hoping to find BC doing something schematic to bottle up Clemson's spread offense; instead it seems their successes came from just fundamentally executing things that Michigan didn't against Ohio State from the same Cover 1 that we both ran.

But I did find something pretty cool on the next drive: Clemson trying to mess with that, and how it responded. The first play's a good example:

Play 1: Jet Motion Triple Option vs. Cover 1—After a three-and-out and an interception that led to BC taking a 7-0 lead, Clemson is ready to bring out the fancy stuff. This looks fancy:


That's a lot of lines in the backfield—and a formation trick that Michigan saw against Ohio State several times—so let me unpack it.

[After we hit THE JUMP]

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 20th, 2011 at 2:05 PM

VIDEO OF THE WEEK: Thanks to the internet, I figured out what Michigan's uniforms were modeled after.

Formation notes: Michigan spent most of the day in the 4-3 under. They did not flip the line much—just a couple times. Michigan State had a few plays where they'd move their strength three(!) times that seemed designed to work this tendency, but M didn't bite.

When they went to nickel it was Avery, not Johnson, as M went for more of a pass-cover look. They also brought out the 46 bear D from time to time, mostly as a second-half adjustment.

Substitution notes: Nothing too unusual at this point. Woolfolk got his customary first series and then sat after letting Martin behind him and giving up the edge on an outside run; Countess replaced him.

The line rotation was a bit tighter in this game, probably because there weren't a lot of plays in the second half. Campbell, Black, and Brink rotated in.

Kovacs, Gordon, Ryan, and Demens were constants. I'm not sure but I think RVB was also on the field for every snap.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Ace twins 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- Inc
Winged high. Looked like Woolfolk(+0.5) had this handled to the point where Kovacs could come in and make a tackle after a minimal gain.
O37 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ryan 21
Just a simple inside zone on which there is no edge because Ryan(-2) got cut to the ground massively; RVB(-1) gave too much ground on the outside and Demens(-1) also got cut; into the secondary. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) misses a tackle, giving up another five or so before Kovacs and Woolfolk can get there.
M42 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 6 Fly Woolfolk Inc
Blitz gets Demens(+0.5, pressure +1) in unblocked but not quick enough to prevent a throw; Martin just outruns Woolfolk(-2, cover -2)—live it looked like he was in molasses—to the point where he's multiple yards behind when the ball gets there. Martin drops it.
M42 2 10 Ace trips Nickel press Run N/A Inside zone Van Bergen 3
Again trying the edge... at least I think. The cutback that develops here is pretty dangerous in its own right. Ryan(+1) keeps contain and forces the play away from the overloaded WR side; Martin(+0.5) is flowing down behind the play, forcing it yet further behind, and then there's just Van Bergen(+1), who beat a cut and is also coming down the line... and air. Hawthorne(-0.5) and Demens(-0.5) are getting blocked out of either side of the play here, so without RVB this is a big gainer.
M39 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 5 Out Avery 8
Avery(-1, cover -1) beat on the out after Michigan showed man on the motion. No time for any pressure to get there.
M31 1 10 Diamond screen Nickel press Pass N/A WR screen Avery 6
Michigan still pointing to each other as the ball is snapped; not ready. Avery(-1) is picked up by Cunningham and basically chucked inside the hashes. A similarly slow-reacting Floyd(-1) is kicked inside and this nothing play gets a chunk.
M25 2 4 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Woolfolk 12
I was mad at Roh live but I don't think this is really his fault since they have Kovacs overhanging and the DL going under. He's doubled the whole play and eventually blown off the line, but he took two people. Cunningham cracks down on Kovacs, sealing the edge guy... except Woolfolk(-2, tackling -1) should be watching this develop, which he is. He does a terrible job of recognition, lets Baker outside of him, and gives up the first down. Marlin Jackson makes this a TFL. As soon as that WR motions inside he's giving it away, man, and if he's going on a pass route it's a drag away from you on a waggle. You have to be hard on the corner here. Also Hawthorne(-1) got absorbed and erased. They do not make plays like we see the MSU LBs making.
M13 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 12
Again telegraphed with motion, an offset FB, and Cunningham tight to the line—Michigan does not respond. Roh(-2) instantly sealed by the motioning TE, so there's no delay for the pullers. Hawthorne(-1) runs right into Cunningham; done. Demens(-1) trips over a prone guy who was trying to block Hawthorne; Kovacs(-1) runs out to the edge and gets chopped to the ground. Gordon comes over to tackle at the one.
M1 1 G Goal line Goal line Run N/A Iso -- 1
They get it. Terrible camera angle and no replay so I can't really tell why this is so easy; I usually don't minus unsuccessful goal line plays anyway because the odds are so stacked against you.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 5 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Shotgun trips bunch 4-3 under Pass N/A Flare screen Van Bergen 4
Morgan in for Hawthorne, Countess for Woolfolk. Basically a replay of the diamond screen w/ the receiver arriving after the snap. RVB(+1) is playside; he reads the flare and the attempted cut block by the tackle and shoots out on the edge. Ryan(+1) gets the edge on Martin and drive him back a ways, forcing the cutback into Van Bergen. Martin can spin past the tackle because Demens(-0.5) went into a pass drop and got there late.
O36 2 6 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Morgan 9
Roh gets outside for force it back. Martin(-1) is single blocked effectively, getting shoved downfield by one guy... who is holding him pretty blatantly, but no call. Results based charting. Morgan(-1) runs up and gets cut to the ground by the TE; Martin falls over it. Demens can't get to the play because Martin was single blocked and gave ground. He manages to ankle tackle as Baker leaps Morgan.
O45 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Pass 5 PA Hitch Countess Inc
No pressure(-1) as Cousins can sit and survey; Cunningham open(cover -1) in front of Countess; dropped.
O45 2 10 I-form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Black 6
Cool play with the WR coming in motion, then orbiting back on the snap to take an end around snap after the RB runs a dive fake. Looks a lot like power as the backside G pulls but then he heads outside. This basically works; Black(-2) sucks inside, going after Cousins, and is out of the play. Kovacs(+1) avoids a cut and stays outside. Morgan(+1) reads the play and gets out to take on the pulling G's block; those two combine to force a cutback that should be for nothing but isn't because Black's not there. Morgan comes off to tackle; Black arrives later to help.
M49 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass N/A Drag Floyd 3
Michigan reveals both man and a blitz as Ryan goes in motion with the TE. Really wish they had checks for this—RR never ran motion because teams would screw with your head by having a check to another defense if you went in motion. Michigan just appears to run it. MSU runs mesh at man, and the two mesh WRs pick each other off. This bumps Cunningham off his route; still complete but Floyd(+1, tackling +1) takes advantage, tackling on the catch and only giving ground when an OL impacts him from behind.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 1 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O10 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Martin 4
Again offset, again motioning the TE outside of Roh. This time MSU fans the TE; Roh(-0.5), conscious of the previous play on which he got killed, aggressively tries to get outside. The FB redirects outside to block him. Heininger(-1) is handled by a momentary double and Demens is again given no shot. Martin(+1) fights through his block to flow down the line and tackle, preventing this from breaking bigger. Hawthorne(+0.5) did a good job to hold up to his block and force the play back inside where Martin could tackle.
O14 2 6 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Inside zone Heininger -1
Before MSU sets a TE lines up to one side, then shoots to the other side of the line. He sets; other TE goes in motion. The TE who originally moved now comes off the line and motions back to where he started. In short: MSU went from balanced to two TEs left to two TEs right, with the last motion into an offset FB. Michigan is trying to use that bear front and moves around a ton to get it set up. After all that, a TFL. Heininger(+2) and Roh(+2) get off the ball quickly, driving their blockers into the backfield. Heininger gets so deep Baker trips over his blocker; Roh is there to clean up in the backfield after the bounce necessitated by the penetration.
O13 3 7 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Hawthorne 16
Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) goes for a Cunningham head fake and hops outside, opening up the slant. Pressure was getting there, so if this is not there strong chance of issues in the backfield for State.
O29 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 4
Brink in at SDE; MSU runs at him. He gives ground(-1) badly, ending up pancaked away from the POA. This erases Hawthorne. Martin(+2) runs through the center like he is not there, getting into the hole despite being down-blocked. This is not supposed to happen. If Demens(-0.5) can stand up the guard Baker has nowhere to go; he comes up hard to the outside and ends up getting pushed past the play. G falls forward and Baker goes with him as Martin tackles.
O33 2 6 I-Form 4-3 over Run N/A Power off tackle Hawthorne 3
Over because they shift the strength and Michigan doesn't flip all over the place. They run power again, this time at the weakside. Hawthorne does a better job with this than he has in the past—instead of moving directly at the LOS he appears to read the G pull and shuffles playside. Ryan is blitzing on the snap and pulls the FB block; Demens(+0.5) either reads it quickly or is also blitzing and peels off the pulling G; he maintains leverage. Hawthorne(+0.5) is in the right spot to tackle; he does so. Baker falls forward. RVB(+0.5) took a double without allowing someone to pop out on Hawthorne, thus providing the free hitter.
O36 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel press Pass 6 Dumpoff Kovacs Inc
Michigan sends a couple delayed blitzers, one Kovacs from the S spot, one Demens. Demens is not relevant. Blitz gets Kovacs(+1, pressure/RPS +1) in alone, forcing Cousins to adjust because Floyd(+1, cover +1) is in Cunningham's pocket on the hitch he wants at the sticks. Plan B is a dumpoff to a releasing RB that would go a long way if complete but is high. I don't think it can be complete since Ryan(+1) is in the lane after chucking the guy and almost gets a hand on it despite it being way overthrown. Batted if accurate.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 9 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Penalty N/A False start -- -2
O3 1 12 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Morgan 4
Ryan(+1) does a good job of constricting the hole here; RVB(+0.5) is doubled and gives a little ground but not much. Demens(+0.5) hits the narrow hole, getting kicked outside by the pulling G; free hitter is Morgan(-1), who is late. His tackle is more of a catch, allowing Baker to fall forward when the rest of the line had set this up for no gain.
O7 2 8 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Roh 5
Cunningham motions in to set the edge. Roh(+1) beats the TE outside, forcing Bell to cut up. Morgan(-1) runs down the line and gets cut to the ground. That mess causes Campbell to fall over the bodies; an overhanging Kovacs(+1) banged Cunningham in an attempt to get outside, read the cutback, and disconnects to tackle(+1). He gets run over but hangs on.
O12 3 3 Shotgun empty Nickel press Penalty N/A Delay -- -5
This was about to be nerve-wracking as M again put everyone within five yards of the LOS. Instead it's a friendly yellow flag.
O7 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel even Pass 4 Flare screen Avery 3
Yeah... screen. Avery(+2, cover +1, tackling +1) reads the flare and bugs out for the sideline, beating Cunningham to the spot and shooting past him. He's off balance from a bump but keeps his feet and tackles by himself; Countess comes up to help.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 2nd Q. Next drive starts with 2:23 in half, so keep that in mind.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O5 1 10 I-form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 3
Trying to pop it outside again; Ryan(+1) gets upfield and outside of the block from the TE—who may have set up too far inside—to force it back; with the puller headed way outside this is two for one. Demens(+1) is out on this play at the LOS well before the ball gets there; he takes on the FB block and makes an ankle tackle as Baker moves past the LOS; Gordon(+0.5) filled quickly to help. Hawthorne is back in; he was all backside despite the pulling G.
O8 2 7 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Martin 9
Wow. Martin(-1) caved in by a double team. Heininger(-1) easily controlled by a single block; Hawthorne is the guy in the gap that forms but it's a real big gap and he's got a blocker coming into him; would be tough for him to do much here. Kovacs comes down to fill.
O17 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Out Demens 7
Michigan playing soft as they try to bleed the clock down with a lot of yards to go. Demens lets this completion happen; he does tackle basically on the catch. Basically fine given the situation.
O24 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Drag -- 11
Demens over the center and Avery coming down to blitz. So here's a difference: two minute drill for MSU. Cousins signals for snap. Center head down, head up, Avery comes down... beat... snap. Hawthorne bugs out for the hash as Michigan sends six, MSU runs a little drag, wide open, first down. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
O35 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Countess 9
Countess(-0.5, cover -1) beaten too easily here, giving up nine yards and OOB, only able to shove the guy after the catch.
O44 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 6 Throaway Avery Inc
Bizarre: same exact play by M, same huge hole in the middle of the D. No one there to catch the drag so Cousins, spooked, chucks it OOB. Avery(+0.5) timed it a bit better and is flying across the LOS at the snap. (pressure +1) The stunting DE was getting in as Cousins threw; he didn't have time to let these routes develop. RPS +1.
O44 3 1 Ace trips Nickel even Run N/A Broken play -- 0
RB does not go the right way. Cousins tries to scramble for it and is hacked down.
Drive Notes: Half, 7-7, EOH
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Demens 16
Odd backside double of Heininger gets him off the ball but does not get anyone onto Hawthorne. Assuming this is meant to cut back; it does not because Martin(+1) blows up his block into the backfield; RVB(+0.5) also got his guy well back; Baker forced into a narrow gap between the two. Martin can't quite disconnect to tackle. And then... nothing. Demens(-2) sits and takes a block two yards downfield, failing to get outside and losing leverage. Hawthorne(-1) inexplicably slows up as he scrapes. Despite having a free hitter with no one on him Michigan gives up a gain because of very bad LB play. Countess(+0.5) comes up very well, making a tackle attempt four yards downfield; Baker runs through it. Ryan(-1, tackling -1) now has a shot to end the play but can't; Baker runs through that tackle as he gets shoved by an OL.
M38 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Hawthorne 4
Again offset FB/narrow WR implying an outside run. M gets outside and MSU goes up the middle. Backside DL are going away from the playside; Martin(-1) gets sealed out of the hole and lets a guy out on Demens; Heininger(-1) gets single blocked. Big gap. LBs do well considering; Demens(+1) gets inside of his blocker, convincing Baker to cut to the backside of the Hawthorne(+1) block; Hawthorne disconnects to tackle(+1). Think Baker cost himself yards. RPS -1.
M34 2 6 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Heininger 4
Jet sweep end around threat. Heininger(+1) blasts past a downblock attempt and gets upfield into the pulling G. Forced cutback. Baker makes it smoothly. Martin(-0.5) got shoved by the C and then hit by a G, he is off balance as Baker hits it up and can't tackle. Hawthorne is free now because of the cutback and comes down to fill. He does a mediocre job. RVB(+0.5) is slanting down from the backside and still helps tackle. Actually, he initiates the tackle. RVB's best trait is it's impossible to get him on the ground. He does not fall over, ever.
M30 3 2 Ace 3-wide Nickel press Run N/A End around Gordon 3
This is just tough to defend in man; Floyd is hauling after Martin in motion but has no shot at getting there with all the traffic he has to deal with. So it's Cunningham and Nichol, seniors, blocking Countess(-0.5) and Avery(-0.5), and that works out about how you'd expect. Gordon(+1, tackling +1) fills really well but there's no way to hold this down. RPS -1.
M27 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass 4 PA deep hitch Countess Inc
Ludicrously tight camera angle means we know none of the things. Four man rush gets nowhere near Cousins(pressure -2); I sympathize after all the running. On replay, Countess(+1, cover +1) does get a hand in and seems to help this incompletion. Wind probably gave him the time but he got there.
M27 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Counter pitch Countess 20
Power action with a counter toss gets Baker the edge. Black(-0.5) holds up and runs at it but runs too far upfield and doesn't string this as far as he could. Countess(-2) gets way too far inside and gives up the edge; he actually runs into Hawthorne, who's doing a decent job to set up and maybe be in position for a tackle at the numbers. Instead Countess is chucked into his legs. Gordon(-2, tackling -1) then misses at the sticks. Baker steps out at the 22; this is not called; it is reviewed and still left to stand. WTF? Refs -2.
M7 1 G I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Power off tackle Roh -3
Hawthorne comes down to be the extra lineman in the 46. He takes on a TE block, but the key to the play is Roh(+2) shooting into the backfield, standing up the FB in the backfield, causing Bell to stop, and allowing Ryan(+0.5) to rumble in from behind to tackle. RPS +1.
M10 2 G I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway Roh Inc
Play action on second and goal from the ten, okay. Michigan covers(+2) everyone and Roh(+1, pressure +1) releases as the TE releases him, getting in on Cousins after leaping to dissuade an early throw. Cousins sails one out of the endzone.
M10 3 G Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 Hitch Floyd 10
Michigan sets up a picket fence with just three rushers. Floyd(-2, tackling -2) manages to miss a tackle in this situation; Martin is about six inches inside the line as he turns upfield and barely manages to get the ball across the line as Hawthorne bangs him to the ground. Guh.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 11 min 3rd Q. MSU gets the next drive at their 20 because this is the punt that's dying at the three when Furman takes it into the endzone.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 15
BWS picture paged this; it is all alignment. They run outside; down blocks on Roh and Morgan are hugely advantageous. Morgan(-1) is looking in the backfield instead of his blocker and gets blown up; Kovacs(-1) is cut to the ground too easily. Roh(-1) also sealed. Baker into the secondary, where Gordon(-1, tackling -1) basically whiffs but miraculously punches the football loose as Baker heads for paydirt. Turnover.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-14, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Pitch sweep Roh 2
Same exact play. Roh(+1) strings it to the edge this time, eventually getting the second puller to the ground, two for one. Morgan finally getting out rapidly(+0.5). He ends up taking another two for one as one of the pullers cuts him as Cunningham cracks back on him after shoving Kovacs. This plus the Roh play means Kovacs(+0.5) is alone on the edge. He makes the tackle.
O41 2 8 Diamond screen Okie press? Pass N/A Ref debacle -- Inc
Wow. This is OBVIOUSLY a backwards pass. It's not even close. Martin drops it and instead of calling the "free touchdown" the refs blow it dead. This is inexcusable. It is not close at all. I deleted fourteen swear words in this box.
O41 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Drag Ryan 14
All Ryan. Mattison has a great call on for what MSU is running: a triple blitz up the middle with both DEs falling back to ride the obvious mesh response to this play. Roh stares straight at the TE and rides him on his mesh; Ryan(-2, cover -2) looks in the backfield, lets Cunningham through free, and gives up the conversion because Cousins can hit his WR without the jam. Everyone else is in man; Ryan is in zone. The guy is a missed assignment factory. RPS +2; this was a fantastic call that would have gotten MSU off the field if executed. BWS picture pages.
M46 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass 4 PA Fly Gordon Inc
All day on the PA (pressure -2); Coverage is spectacular (cover +3) and Cousins has no choice but to chuck it vaguely in the direction of a double-covered Cunningham. Gordon(+1) in better position that Cunningham if the ball is accurate; it's not. I assume this is a throwaway.
M46 2 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Iso Martin 5
Martin(-2) destroyed by a double, blown off the ball; he spins outside. Gross. RVB(+1) chucks his blocker to the ground; Morgan(+1) takes the MSU fullback and plants him backwards, forcing Baker back into the attacking RVB. Delayed, Baker is gang-tackled by Floyd and Demens. Wow... Martin not having a good game at all.
M41 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Hitch Floyd 6
Zone blitz sends five w/ Avery getting in clean (+0.5, pressure +1); Floyd(-0.5, cover -1) is too far off to prevent this completion. Maybe that's harsh; this is probably a route you can just complete all the time if you are good enough.
M35 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 5
Same thing as the previous pitch sweep from a formation perspective; this shoots Roh way outside. Morgan(+0.5) reads the path of the RB and halts his outside move, picking off a blocker and constricting the hole; Heininger(+0.5) is blown back by a double but splits it when the other guy pops off on Demens. Demens pops the guy about two yards downfield; Bell falls forward for three more. Sort of got half-RPSed here; tough to blame the players on this.
M30 2 5 Ace 4-3 over Pass 5 TE screen -- 15
Michigan now flipping on MSU strength changes. This ends up with M in an over front with Kovacs coming down. MSU goes TE screen; live this looked like a block in the back on Kovacs but on replay this is legit. No angle shown gives an idea who might be responsible, but this was a big gain without an obvious way to prevent it: RPS -1.
M15 1 10 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Inside zone Black 2
Because of the bear Black(+2) can flare out; he does. He gets outside of the TE, chucking him inside, and absorbs the FB block for a 2-for-1. This means no one is on Kovacs(-0.5); he attacks only to see his tackle(-1) run through; three yards later the cavalry arrives. RPS +1.
M13 2 8 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 4 Flat Floyd 13
Floyd in motion, revealing man; when Martin comes back the other way he reacts late and slows for no reason, making this ridiculously open. -2, cover -2, RPS -2, good lord. Even if he had played this well M was dead because they showed man. Floyd barely getting outside the tackle box by the time the ball was thrown was just the cherry on top.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-21, EO3Q. Awful call, bad play by Ryan, seeya.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O15 1 10 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 6 (Pen -8)
Late move from Morgan to the bear spot. MSU runs power away from it. Heininger(-1) blown up by a double. Roh taken by pulling G; he restricts the hole but Heininger is gone. Since they're running weak and M has an extra guy in the box there is no one to block one LB. Demens(-1) is unblocked and flows but late; he contacts Baker three yards downfield and gives up a lot more as his tackle is run through. MSU G picks up a holding call for stupidly reaching his arms around Martin when he was not relevant to the play.
O8 1 17 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Gordon -1
Michigan blitzes from the slot, getting Gordon(+0.5, RPS +1) in past the attempted block by Nichol; this cuts off the outside thanks to RVB(+1) thumping a double team backwards, pancaking the TE. Ryan runs up and gets cut to the ground again, but RB has to cut back because of the blitz. Heininger(+1) runs down the line and avoids a cut to tackle.
O7 2 18 I-Form 4-3 under Pass 4 PA throwaway -- Inc
An extremely unconvincing fake to the FB leaves an unblocked Roh on the edge; Heininger also starts running up at Cousins. With coverage(+1) good after the weird fake, Cousins chucks it away. Stupid playcall. (RPS +1)
O7 3 18 Ace Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Martin -1
Heavy rush from Martin(+1) pushes a G back and forces Cousins to step up quickly; RVB spins away to pursue and Cousins falls. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 10 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O21 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A End around Floyd 8
Morgan(-1) sucks in on the dive fake; Gordon is blocked out of the play by Cunningham; Floyd(0) does not come up on the edge until Martin is already well downfield. He punches the ball out as he tackles so he gets his minus back.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-21, 9 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run N/A Power off tackle Demens 3
End around fake to the other side of the line. RVB(+1) holds up okay against a double; Ryan(+1) constricts the hole and Demens(+1) hits the lead blocker at the LOS; there is no gap for Baker and Demens can tackle; Morgan(-1) sat and ate a block so if this is a bigger hole Michigan has problems.
O22 2 7 I-Form 46 bear Run N/A Counter pitch Roh 3
Roh(+1) reads the FB coming his way and manages to string the play out all the way to the sideline.
O25 3 4 Shotgun empty Nickel press Pass 4 TE out Van Bergen Inc
Hey! We time the snap! RVB(+2, pressure +2) is moving as the ball goes as MSU's line just busts spectacularly, letting three guys in; RVB is the fastest and hits Cousins, forcing an inaccurate pass to an open TE out.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-21, 4 min 4th Q. Next MSU drive is running the clock out, EOChart.

Well, at least the touchdowns weren't free.

Yeah. Woolfolk almost gave up a free one on the first drive and as BWS explained, the fumble that opened one of MSU's second-half drives was almost a free touchdown until Baker got the ball stripped on a tenuous, crappy tackle attempt by Gordon. But there's no comparison between this year and last. Wind had something to do with it; so did Greg Mattison.

How were they able to run outside so effectively?

For context we should look at the—



Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 9 1 8 Does not fall over. Needs to teach Ryan about cut blocks.
Martin 5.5 6.5 -1 Blown off the ball by doubles multiple times. Sad face.
Roh 8 3.5 4.5 Adjusted well after initial problems getting outside.
Brink - 1 -1 Eh.
Heininger 4.5 4 0.5 Did okay; still single blocked effectively too many times.
Black 2 2.5 -0.5 Didn't play much this week.
Campbell - - - Did not register.
TOTAL 33 18.5 14.5 Just an okay day.
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 4.5 6.5 -2 Michigan's linebackers are not nearly as reactive as MSU/ND, even Northwestern, and it costs them.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 7.5 5 2.5 Actually was not much of a problem after the first argh cut block.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 2 4.5 -2.5 Unable to use his speed effectively, pulled.
Morgan 4 5 -1 Confused but more effective getting to the ball.
TOTAL 18 21 -3 WLB an issue; Demens not doing as well as expected.
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 2 6 -4 Missed tackle on third and goal a killer.
Avery 3 2.5 0.5 Okay.
Woolfolk 0.5 4 -3.5 Two very bad plays on first drive and then bench.
Kovacs 3.5 2.5 1 Tough for him to tackle Baker; not pressed in coverage.
T. Gordon 3 4 -1 No fumble plus this time because he whiffed a tackle and got lucky instead of taking a guy to the ground in such away the ball comes out.
Countess 1.5 3 -1.5 Not Woodson yet.
Johnson - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 22 -8.5 Chunks of running yards due to poor corner support.
Pressure 8 5 3 Not a lot of deep passes this week because of wind.
Coverage 9 12 -3 That's not too bad against a senior QB.
Tackling 5 8 38% Baker Baker Baker (also Martin)
RPS 8 6 2 While MSU took advantage of M weakness I didn't think that was a structural issue.

Our sanity check: MSU had just 333 yards but had a somewhat limited number of snaps (63), averaging 5.2 a shot. MSU averaged 5.5 YPC and their turnovers were only vaguely forced, so… yeah. The above seems about right. Michigan was a little disappointing on the line, a little disappointing at LB, and had major issues with members of the secondary tackling.

One surprise: neither Roh nor Ryan took the brunt. Both had decent days; the problems outside were often on corners, safeties, or linebackers. Roh got sealed a couple times but also did things like this:

I feel bad for taking a couple clips designed to show problems with Ryan when he was the only linebacker to finish positive.

…but you did take a couple clips.

Yeah. So caveats apply here. Problem one is the thing that makes me literally scream "AAARGH RYAN" during games when I see it happen. The guy takes cut blocks like Glass Joe takes a punch:

There are other problems on this play, most prominently Demens getting slashed to the ground just like Ryan does; RVB and Martin then tumble over the fallen OL. Gordon also does not make a swift fill. But if Ryan is on the edge here he can make a tackle attempt or force Baker further outside and give his D a chance to recover—Gordon is probably five yards closer to the LOS and in less space if the edge is held.

That's happened a half-dozen times or so and Michigan has gotten gashed outside because of it. He suffered this fate a couple more times but got away with it.

Problem two is just regular freshman stuff like running zone when everyone else is running man. BWS picture-paged this play for a fuller explanation*; here's the video:

That is a great playcall. Michigan blitzes up the middle, gets a free runner, and has two guys dropping off into mesh-annihilating inside man coverage; MSU runs mesh. This play perfectly beats MSU's; it's the definition of RPS+2. This should be an incompletion or a sack and a punt but Ryan runs zone coverage and Cunningham gets open.

I have a dream that someday Michigan will not have freshmen on the field. That day is 2013 at the earliest.

All that said, Ryan came out positive for constricting a bunch of power plays and not being exploitable on the edge after the first drive. That spot has come a long way from early in the season when Ryan and Beyer were taking turns being in the wrong place on power.

*[I strongly disagree with the conclusion there. The play is more about the dangers of freshmen than zone blitzing—it is clear that Roh and Ryan are supposed to get inside of presumed drag routes by the TE and Cunningham. Roh does this beautifully and if Ryan had done the same not-very-difficult thing Cousins has nowhere to go before Morgan annihilates him. The play is specifically designed to get Cousins looking at mesh—blitz up the middle—without opening it up.]

The outside running, then?

I don't think the guys on the line played egregiously.

Michigan got formation'd quite a bit. This was the setup on that Baker run that was a long gainer until he fumbled:


This screams outside run to the right: offset FB, TE lined up a couple yards outside the tackle, WR tight to the LOS. This makes it easy for the offense to seal Roh and Morgan by blocking down. It's up to the linebackers to recognize this and haul ass or slip blocks and then it's up to the secondary to come down hard on that; they didn't. On this play Morgan is looking at the backfield and gets blindsided by a WR; by the time Baker bursts up the line most of the DL is closer to the sideline than he is. This is a pitch, too, so Gordon needs to be reading this faster.

It's a combination of things but the primary thing is the linebackers are hesitant and that makes them late when plays go outside.

What's wrong with Martin?

I don't know. I saw him blown off the ball in this game several times, something that does not happen. That could be your toughness issue.

Why can't we jump snaps like MSU did?

There were a couple instances on which Michigan did but I think that's part of football. The frequency with which MSU got M is unusual. One difference I did notice is that Michigan's standard count was much quicker than MSU's. Here's a shotgun play on MSU's ultimately unsuccessful first-half two minute drill:

Head down, head up, pause, see LB lined up over your face, snap. Michigan tips the blitz and MSU hits them with an easy drag.

What is the deal with the linebackers?

They seem uncertain of themselves. While I keep moaning about over-aggressive opponent LBs that are exploitable if we hit them with play action—big if—that may be a perception magnified by Michigan's slow-ass LBs. I mean, what is this?

Demens lets the guy outside and an unblocked Hawthorne slows up as if a cutback is coming when a cutback is definitely not coming. We saw them similarly unable to read outside plays against Northwestern. WLB was always going to be a sore spot but I thought Demens would be more of a playmaker than he is. Maybe that's yet more hesitancy born of constantly changing systems.

Was that a lateral?

Holy hell, yes. It was a full yard backwards and there's a ref right there who blows it dead. That is a free touchdown on a drive that would end up in Michigan's endzone. That is the biggest, easiest, most awful call that's gone against Michigan in a long time.



It's hard to find anyone who played really well but Van Bergen was the best player on the day, consistently making good reads and staying on his feet.


No one was awful, either, but Hawthorne played badly enough to get yanked for a similarly mediocre Morgan; Martin had his worst day that can't be blamed on an injury in a long, long time.

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

I don't think we learned a whole lot on a day when the wind and Michigan's offense made the opponent even more conservative than they usually are. There are obvious edge issues, but we knew that. Ryan is an erratic freshman slowly improving. Knew that. WLB weak spot, secondary vastly improved but still just okay, etc.

Two things on the line: Roh appears to have solidly reclaimed his starting spot from Black and Martin's play was a little disturbing considering the Iowa/Nebraska/OSU B1G MANBALL lineup coming later in the season.

Picture Pages: (More) Freshman DB Doom

Picture Pages: (More) Freshman DB Doom

Submitted by Brian on October 21st, 2010 at 11:33 AM

This one's not going to be a revelation. It's just more of the same from nickelback Courtney Avery, who you may remember from "aargh crippling third down conversion" and "I play man coverage always." But I'm grabbing it to show just how damaging it is to have these guys who should be redshirting running around on the field.

It's third and ten from the Michigan 14 on Iowa's third drive; Michigan has an excellent chance to boot Iowa off the field here. They come out in a three-wide set. Michigan responds with its 4-2-5 nickel package:


Courtney Avery is the nickelback and the key guy. Michigan's going to rush four and play three deep, leaving four guys in underneath zones. Avery is on the hashmarks to the top of the picture on the slot receiver:


Iowa's underneath receivers run crossing routes past each other—a mesh route. the two receivers to the top of the screen are going vertical, with Rogers on the outside guy and Avery on the inside one:


Avery is dropping deep to cut off space but turns his back to the QB. Has anyone else turned his back to the QB? No:


Here you can see two things: 1) Avery actually did a good job of rerouting the slot. Iowa's receivers are running paired posts and they are a yard away from each other. Cam Gordon should be in position to make a play on a throw here; it's unlikely Stanzi will force it if the drag isn't breathtakingly open. 2) Avery is completely out of his zone moving inside with his back turned to the QB:


Stanzi sees it and throws just as Roh lights him up:


Avery is nowhere. He can't change direction fast enough to get back out to his zone. No one could:




UPDATE: Video.

Object lessons:

  • Courtney Avery should be redshirting. He looks like a quarterback who played a little man coverage in high school, because that's what he is.
  • Courtney Avery is not redshirting. Never Forget.
  • Rerouting receivers is an important part of zone coverage. Avery changes the WR's route here and forces it deeper, into an area in which Cam Gordon is a threat.
  • …but you have to pass the guy off way faster than this. I can't imagine you're ever supposed to chase the guy this far inside, or totally turn your body away from the QB.
  • Demens is fine here, I think. Mesh is tough on LBs in zone. Here he lets the receiver outside of him but he has to expect Avery will be there. He also knocks down the other guy running a drag, which is a bonus.
  • This is four free points from a freshman DB after the rest of the team got a stop. Maybe if Avery pulls off the slot receiver Stanzi has a shot at him on the post but that's a tougher throw than the little drag route here and with the reroute and the pressure chances are Stanzi either throws the drag anyway and picks up five or eats a sack.
  • I would abandon the nickel. Thomas Gordon is almost exactly Avery—a high school quarterback switching to nickel-type DB in college—except he's got a redshirt year behind him. I can understand the desire to get another DB on the field in passing situations but Avery's been a huge liability so far; Gordon has not made similar mistakes.

So there's this and there's 404 Tackle Not Found—two huge swing plays that went against Michigan's freshman nickelback. Missing Troy Woolfolk is an enormous deal.