Preview 2011: Linebackers

Preview 2011: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on August 30th, 2011 at 10:39 AM

Previously: The story and the secondary.

A note before we start: this preview relies heavily on the defensive UFRs of last year because there’s a convenient numerical system that does a decent job of summing up a defensive player’s contributions. One caveat: the system is generous to defensive linemen and harsh to defensive backs, especially cornerbacks. A +4 for a defensive end is just okay; for a cornerback it’s outstanding.

obi-ezeh-hurdlejonas-mouton-after-illinois

 

Well… they're gone. For better or worse the two linebacking stalwarts of the Rodriguez era are out the door, destined for San Diego or the real world. Though no one's going to memorialize Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton in song, they endured the transition from Ron English to Scot Shafer to Greg Robinson to Dr. Vorax, the stuffed wolverine Robinson insisted was the real coordinator of the insane 3-3-5 Rodriguez demanded. If anyone can feel hard done by the Rodriguez era it's them.

HOWEVA, Dr. Vorax and other assorted coaching indignities cannot explain away much of the horror Michigan suffered at their hands. Mouton was linebacker Janus, singlehandedly crushing fullbacks and even pulling guards en route to TFLs a few plays before losing contain yet a-goddamn-gain against opponents as meek as UMass.

Ezeh, for his part, was first amongst equals as this blog's whipping boy the last couple years until the Penn State game, when Greg Robinson became public enemy #1. His trademark move was sitting completely still until an offensive lineman screwed him into the ground.

Midyear, former Michigan linebackers were dropping the word "inexcusable." A fresh start is called for.

Depth Chart
SLB Yr. MLB Yr. WLB Yr.
Cam Gordon So.* Kenny Demens Jr.* Mike Jones So.*
Jake Ryan Fr.* Marell Evans Sr.* Brandin Hawthorne Jr.
Brennen Beyer Fr. JB Fitzgerald Sr. Desmond Morgan Fr.

Middle Linebacker

Rating: 4

kenny-demens-iowakenny-demens-beaver

Right: Demens hangin' with Doctor Vorax

MICHIGAN PROVIDES THAT with three relatively new starters. The most established new blood is redshirt junior Kenny Demens, the man who inexplicably languished behind not only Ezeh but walk-on and converted fullback Mark Moundros at the start of last year. That seemed like plenty of evidence to write the kid off, so this blog did:

The enigmatic Kenny Demens is third string in the middle; after a seemingly productive spring he dropped off the map and has generated zero fall mentions as Moundros climbs the depth chart. He played sparingly in the fall scrimmage; last year he was passed over for walk-on Kevin Leach when it came time to replace Ezeh temporarily. He's spinning his wheels, seemingly on track to watch this year. Next year both of the guys above him will be gone and he'll get one last chance to step forward; the tea leaves are not encouraging at the moment.

Demens then watched as Ezeh played at his usual level until the Iowa game. Desperate for anything after being gashed by Michigan State, Robinson finally put Demens on the field. We finally saw what was keeping him from playing time:

Only the machinations of the traitorous Vorax. That's not a play Ray Lewis is going to have on his hall of fame reel but it stood out to me after years of watching Ezeh try to clunk his way through traffic. Demens steps to the right as Iowa runs a counter but reads it, steps around traffic, and is there to tackle once Mouton forces it inside. Demens did that on a consistent basis against all opposition (except Purdue, oddly). The sumptuous conversation about him after the Iowa game was excited:

Demens. Wow.

Yeah. Watching the game live I thought that he was an obvious upgrade over Ezeh but expected that when I went over the game in detail I'd find he was at fault for some of the longer Iowa runs or third down conversions, or had messed up in some way that had gone unexploited. I didn't. I found little things that I thought were good plays I hadn't seen live

How many times did Iowa RBs find themselves facing a line with no penetration and no holes in it? Several. How many times did previous Michigan opponents face this? Essentially never. Good DL play with crappy linebacker play yields a lot of penetration and a lot of lanes where the DL aren't. Crappy DL play with good LB play is this, a bunch of bodies on the line with no windows to squeeze through.

At least, he did when he was not subject to further machinations. Vorax saw his nemesis had escaped confinement and immediately upped his insanity level further. Below are Michigan's alignments in the first and second halves of the Penn State game two weeks later:

demens-1_thumb[12]demens-2_thumb[15]

left: first half. right: second half.

After getting annihilated by a terrible run offense in the first half Demens actually had to ask the coaches to move him more than a yard away from the nose tackle's rear. He struggled, but who wouldn't when the only thing between you and two guards is Adam Patterson and far too little space?

Demens recovered from that to register as one of the "heroes" of the Illinois game—he managed a +8, leading to cries of Anyone But Ezeh favoritism from readers—before registering his first clunker against Purdue. Demens got hooked pretty badly on a play that, in retrospect, I should have been harsher to the DL on since Dan Dierking roared through a truck-sized hole. Later he got lost and let Rob Henry rip off a big gain. He was one of few Michigan defenders to come out of the Wisconsin game with something approximating dignity.

KENNY DEMENS
plays in space
quick but under control
make a leaping PBU
killshot shakes the ball loose
tackle on the catch
jars the ball free
picking through trash
goal line gap shoot
slants past the tackle
reads and fills
scraping, waiting, tackling
picture-paged this.
not quite harris
runs to the backside
pulls an Ezeh and sits
wanders backside
smart
removes cutback

When everything was over Demens had racked up 82 tackles despite playing sparingly in the first five games. If he'd gotten the whole season he would have had numbers like that random Northwestern linebacker who ends up with 130 tackles at the end of the season because he's the guy roping down tailbacks after they pick up six yards.

It's clear by the rating above that I'm a Demens believer. I liked what I saw last year and I've seen MLBs who are pretty good to compare him to. David Harris, for one. He's not Harris but I think Demens is closer to him than Ezeh already. He just has a knack for getting to where the play is going. Though his coverage still needs some work he was decently effective in short zones last year. As a bonus, one of the few things practice reports have been consistent in is their Demens praise.

Demens will benefit from the move to back to the 4-3 under more than anyone save Craig Roh. With RVB and Martin shielding him from linemen he won't be in nearly as many hopeless situations where he's one-on-one with a guard He should be the team's leading tackler by a healthy margin and see his TFLs skyrocket from the measly 1.5 he managed a year ago.

Michigan's defense will probably be too bad to warrant much All Big Ten consideration, but honorable mention seems reasonable.

Backups

Marell-Evans(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Purdue's Joey Elliott is sacked by Michigan's Al Backey in the first quarter.         Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Purdue University at Michigan Stadium, November 7, 2009.    (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)

I can't believe we had commemorative spring game jerseys
Also: Evans left, Fitzgerald right

Prodigal son Marell Evans returned from exile at I-AA Hampton to rejoin the team for his fifth and final year of eligibility. He probably wasn't expecting to see too much time after doing so, but there he was in the spring game, starting in Demens's stead. How well he did was in the eye of the beholder; around these parts I was "extremely leery" of the depth but offered up no reason as to why.

If forced into action Evans will be a wildcard. He hardly played at Hampton because of injury and hardly played at Michigan because of youth. He's probably not going to be that good. Over the course of the last month I received a couple of practice reports that slammed him pretty hard. Those aren't gospel, but that and his vagabond career to date are all we have to go on.

Fellow senior JB Fitzgerald is also hanging around this area of the depth chart, though no one knows exactly what linebacker spot he's backing up. It's never good when you've been around for four years and no one knows where you're supposed to play.

At least Fitzgerald is used to it by now. He's been kicked around since he arrived. On occasion he's even been drafted to play DE terribly when Greg Robinson runs out of ideas. When he pops up in UFRs doing something well, as he's done from time to time for years, I get all excited he might be finally breaking through. Then he never does. Fitzgerald's about out of time and there's no reason to think he's suddenly going to get it. He was passed by Evans as soon as he arrived; Jake Ryan emerged to back up Cam Gordon in spring; Michigan has a vicious melee for the WLB spot that Fitzgerald isn't even involved in. Without a plague of injuries he'll spend most of his final year providing leadership on special teams.

Strongside Linebacker

Rating: 2.5

cam-gordon-notre-damecam-gordon-osu

less deep half, more linebacker plz

Cam Gordon has finally found a home. He can buy a new couch and maybe a speaker system that attaches to the walls and everything. That it took this long is another symptom of the madness on defense last year. Gordon is linebacker sized and plays like a linebacker, except he was playing receiver as a freshman and thus tackled people in the same way a coke machine would: by running your bulk into a dude and hoping he falls over.

This was Michigan's last line of defense, and they paid for it many times over, starting against Michigan State:

His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC.

Worse yet were Gordon's angles, which alternated between vastly too aggressive…

…and vastly too conservative…

…depending on which flaw he had just spent the week getting chewed out about in practice. And then there was that rainbow thing. I'm embarrassed to have pumped him up a bit after the Indiana game, though to be fair he did have an interception.

Gordon got shuffled to spur, a position roughly analogous to the strongside linebacker in a 4-3 under, for the Penn State game. Thrown into the fire at yet another position he had only the barest clue how to play, he struggled there as well. He was emblematic of that game's defensive implosion:

It's symbolic that this is the play where it all went to hell.

Demens has that dead to rights if he can just get some gang tackling help. Marvin Robinson whiffs, Cam Gordon vacates the only area Royster can go, and Royster makes a terrific play to spin outside for the first down. Great play, but you can't spin past three guys without something having gone horribly wrong. That's a true freshman and a redshirt freshman who was a wide receiver last year and a safety last week. FFFUUUUUUUU.

CAM GORDON
tackling issues
whiffs but gets lucky
safety ugh
takes a horrible angle on the pass
lost in coverage
too far off
some good stuff
intercepts Chappell
delivers a nice hit

Cam Gordon had a rough freshman year. Worse for our purposes is how useless it is for projecting his future. With half of his season spent at a position he'll never play again and the other half spent in an incoherent defense at a spot he'd learned for literally two weeks, his UFR chart isn't even worth looking at.

If you insist, it's not pretty even after he moved to linebacker. He managed to stay on the positive side against Illinois by blitzing a ton. I did note that "Gordon brings a physical intimidation factor the other two spurs don't." He didn't do much other than scoop up a fumble and run a long way against Purdue. Against Wisconsin he failed to register even a positive half-point and picked up this note: "Not involved much and didn't do well when he was." After that the malaise took over. He did have some TFLs in the final two games.

That doesn't mean much, though. Bounced from position to position and ill-served by the coaching of Greg Robinson and Adam Braithwaite, Gordon was put in a position to fail. He did. 

Now he's at a spot that makes sense being coached by people who make sense. Since he wasted a redshirt year playing offense and his freshman year trying to play safety he'll be farther behind the curve than an average third-year player. He's also pretty light for a strongside linebacker at 224. That will serve him well when he's asked to drop into coverage but will make fending off tight ends a struggle. A reasonable level of development gets him to a bit below average this year.

Backups

jake-ryan-mbrennen-beyer

Ryan, Beyer

There is one. The spring game was a dreary, depressing thing mostly notable for the various ways in which the quarterbacks looked awful, but one of the certifiable bright spots was the rampaging play of redshirt freshman Jake Ryan. Ryan had a pick-six, sacked Devin Gardner at least a couple times—hard to tell exactly what would have happened if they were live—and generally gave second-string OT Kristian Mateus more than he could handle. Mateus is a walk-on and all spring impressions come with free grains of salt, but as of the moment Ryan Rob Lytle-ed his helmet in spring, the hype train has left the station and will build up steam until such time as there's another guy to get hyped about.

In high school, Ryan was an outside linebacker in an actual 3-3-5. As such, he spent a lot of time screaming at the quarterback from angles designed to make life hard for offensive linemen. That's not far off his job in the 4-3 under but it comes with a lot more run responsibility—the SLB has to take on blockers in just the right spot so that he neither lets the play escape contain nor gives him a lane inside too big to shut down. Expect to see him on passing downs but only passing downs this fall.

Third on the depth chart is true freshman Brennen Beyer, one of the most highly touted recruits in this year's class. His recruiting profile has the goods: excellent speed and lateral mobility on a frame that needs and can put on a lot of weight. He was expected to play WDE and flipped to SLB after Frank Clark showed very well in fall. He was 100% lineman in high school and will need some time to adjust to new responsibilities. Hopefully they can get a redshirt on him this year.

Weakside Linebacker

Rating: 2

103109_SPT_UM v Illinois_MRMbrandon-herron-msu

it's tough to find shots of Jones and Herron in the wild

This is the most uncertain thing about the defense. Mouton left no ready heir apparent thanks to an injury that forced Mike Jones out for the entirety of 2009. Top competition Brandon Herron also missed a big chunk of last year. When he returned he mostly sat.

Jones returns atop the depth chart out of little more than momentum. Michigan fans haven't seen much out of him other than a few redshirt-burning tackles on kickoff coverage, so his recruiting profile will have to stand in for actual knowledge.

For what it's worth he does seem well suited to be one of those blitzer guys Greg Mattison promises will exist this year:

Exceptional edge blitzer that has great timing and quickness; speed rushes by the offensive tackle before he can get set. Offensive backs can't or won't block him when blitzing off the edge; really creates havoc in the backfield. Does a great job of using his hands to shed blockers in order to get to the ball carrier.

As a bonus, he's beefed up from 208 to 224, which is reasonable WLB size. Folks were talking him up as a "playmaker" during spring practice last time around. Little's been heard since. That goes for all of his competitors as well.

Backups

Those competitors are serious threats for the job. Michigan spent much of the fall shoving every plausibly-shaped available body to WLB, suggesting they aren't confident in Jones. Either that or they actually think they have depth. Mattison was unusually positive when asked about the WLB spot a couple weeks into camp:

That position and again I hate to ever say anything positive, I love how those guys are playing at times. At times, they are playing with such energy and such speed and such explosiveness. One day one of them, I’ll go wow that’s what we’re looking for and the next day he may have not as good a day and the other guy will step up. I think that one is a battle. That one is a battle right now and it is kind of a good battle to have.

Reality or Johnny Sears airy pump-up? We won't know that for a while. There are three experienced scholarship options. Whoever ends up winning the job might be bad; they probably won't be awful. There are three upperclass options before we dig up a freshman.

The second guy on the depth chart is fifth-year senior Brandon Herron, who's bounced all over the front seven in his time in Ann Arbor without managing to see the field much. He's got thirty-four tackles to his name, many of them in garbage time or on special teams.

Just when it looked like he might have a role in the 3-3-5 he came down with an injury and forced Roh to move back to LB. As a recruit he was middle-of-the-road, reputed to be a raw athlete. He'll probably see some time and not do anything spectacular with it.

Brandin Hawthornedesmond-morgan-25jpg-14ccbad0d4cfe4f1_large

Hawthorne, Morgan

Junior Brandin Hawthorne and true freshman Desmond Morgan also feature on the depth chart. Hawthorne is one of the Pahokee crew. He was a hilariously undersized high school player and has been bouncing between linebacker and safety the past couple years. He's happy to be back in the front seven:

"I was actually recruited as a linebacker so to be back feels really natural to me," said Hawthorne. "This is the position I played my whole life until I got to Michigan so it's nothing new, but I've had to learn the system, my responsibilities, and that takes time." …

"I'm not a real physical player - I'm more finesse - but I'm fast and smart," he said. "You need a brain on defense and I'm smart enough to recognize formations, and help move guys around. And I think I'm pretty good at making plays. I know I'm not going to overpower someone but I'm pretty good at slipping through the cracks."

Now up to 214 pounds, Hawthorne was getting some time with the first team during the select plays the media was allowed to watch. If his self-scouting is accurate he may be more of an option against spread teams. The weakside linebacker does get protected in the 4-3, so if he's got the speed and smarts Michigan might deal with the size.

The Big Ten Network was told to watch out for Morgan when their tour hit Ann Arbor, so they did. Viewers were treated to a shot of Morgan getting plowed over and over again as Gerry DiNardo tried to convince them he was the new hotness on the weakside.

Hoke has been talking him up. When asked about the linebacker situation outside of Demens Hoke went to Morgan first:

I think Desmond Morgan is a guy who we think is going to play some football for us. Mike Jones, we’ve played a little bit of MIKE and a little bit of WILL. Marrell Evans is playing some in there.

That was just a few days ago. Morgan was the MGoBlog Sleeper of the Year based on a wide array of scouting reports that praise his instincts, lateral mobility, and toughnosed hard gritty gritness. I thought he'd have to cool his heels behind Demens for a couple years, but he may get on the field quicker than anyone expected.

Unverified Voracity Eats Potato Pancakes

Unverified Voracity Eats Potato Pancakes

Submitted by Brian on August 5th, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Old, old, old. Old enough, anyway. 1981 Purdue-Michigan:

Sort of like that 2007 Northwestern game where Michigan futzed around for 45 minutes before blowing the doors off, though in the NW game Northwestern kind of blew their own doors off.

Memphis stuff. Gary Parrish tweeted that Michigan's first-round matchup in Maui would be Memphis. The Tigers were probably worse than Michigan last year, going 25-10 in Conference USA. They got a 12 seed and were narrowly bounced by Arizona in the first round of the NCAA tourney en route to finishing #87 on Kenpom.

HOWEVA, they were incredibly young, even younger than Michigan. Their three top usage guys were all freshmen and their lone senior was one of those grunt-and-rebound centers who saw about half of available minutes. Kenpom had them #344 of 345, in front of only Stetson. Michigan, #335, was comparatively methuselan.

Michigan loses Darius Morris, though, and Memphis returns everyone save Will Coleman, that center. That's advantage Memphis. Looks like an even game.

The winner will face the winner of Duke/Tennessee in the second round, also known as "Duke." In the event of a first round loss Michigan will likely get a rematch with Tennessee; hopefully they can win that one and avoid Chaminade in the third game.

Like the rest of the economy. Slate has an interesting bit on the sports ticket bubble that seems to be collapsing in the MLB, NBA, and even NFL. College football remains the highest-scarcity sport of all and will be the last to see these effects but you have to wonder at what point will Michigan have trouble filling the stadium because it's a better deal hit up scalping sites. One example close to home:

If you want to take in next week's Indians-Tigers AL Central showdown in Cleveland, for example, you can snag lower box seats in the infield—normally $44—for as low as $25. As a bonus, reseller fees are typically lower than teams' own ticket fees. Given those options, it would be stupid to pay full price at the ticket window.

I wonder what "Let The Bodies Hit The Floor" does to the value proposition of a football ticket.

In the wild. One of the Willy The Wolverine guys sent along a video of some variety of Michgian's one-game mascot. Thrill as Willy plows over some kid he can't see! Marvel at Steve Fisher on a golf cart shaking hands! Check out an obscure argument! 80s hair!

what could have been

People who have emailed me about the Willy era say he was not well loved by the students, but at least he was organic.

This is love. I'm with everyone else. This is the best bowl name in dozens of years:

potatobowl

It's quaintly named after an agricultural product and has chives. It's too bad it's in Boise during the dead of winter.

Very likely completely false. Tim Rohan envisions an alternate universe just for Obi Ezeh:

Kenny Demens had already won. He wasn’t Obi Ezeh.

That’s all that mattered in the fans’ eyes.

Ezeh, one of the most puzzling players in the storied Michigan football program's recent history, started his career as a Wolverine with promise before he was vilified for his drop-off in play once then-Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez changed defensive schemes. Ezeh would have thrived in the downhill, knock-your-teeth-out approach Greg Mattison will surely expect out of his middle linebacker.

Not to pile yet more derision on Ezeh's career, but… dude… come on. Ezeh was a clunky two-down linebacker who couldn't take on blocks or read plays. The mass coaching incompetence didn't help, but ain't no DC who can do anything about this:

This is the reason UFR exists: to prevent statements like the above from going unchallenged. Kenny Demens was instantly much better than Obi Ezeh, which is what mattered.

What the Schutt? To recap yesterday's very long thread:

  1. Tommy Schutt is a near five star NT to Rivals and Scout.
  2. He wants to commit to Notre Dame in the afternoon.
  3. NT Sheldon Day beats him to the punch, causing ND to pull his offer. The ND fanbase is confused.
  4. Schutt wants to visit Michigan today.
  5. Michigan says "sorry, not interested," reportedly because an NT commitment had already happened.
  6. There is no NT commitment. The Michigan fanbase is confused.

Seriously:

Tommy Schutt said he woke up Thursday with plans to orally commit to Notre Dame later in the day.

The 6-foot-3, 301-pound senior defensive tackle from Glenbard West was a victim of timing, though, as his offers from the Fighting Irish and Michigan were pulled Thursday after the schools told him they secured commitments from players at his position.

In a text message, Schutt said he was a half hour from calling Notre Dame coaches to give his commitment when he received word that the offer had been pulled. He was informed that Michigan pulled its offer earlier in the day.

Does Tommy Schutt have gangrene? Lingering, massively infectious, malignant ebola-gangrene?

Michigan's NT recruiting is deeply bizarre. They've got almost no one after senior Mike Martin, Brady Hoke is a DL coach, Greg Mattison is a DL coach, they have 26 spots, and they think having a fullback is more important than securing a second very-highly-rated NT type for a position that sees serious rotation. I mean, this is the NT depth chart next year:

  1. Richard Ash?
  2. Quinton Washington?

That is it. Ash is dogged with health rumors, Washington is a converted OL, and sucking Washington over to NT leaves Will Campbell with one sort-of backup in Kenny Wilkins, who's like a 250 pound DE.

If they end up with Pipkins and O'Brien it's all cool. Anything short of that and every successful interior run in 2014 is going to be stroke-inducing.

Etc.: Obviously Casey Anthony is an OSU fan, but why did OSU feel compelled to put out a press release about it? Versus is going to put some college hockey on TV. More coverage is always good and the promise of more HD is even better. They are counting down to kickoff.

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Purdue

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Purdue

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2010 at 3:37 PM

Formation notes: Against a bad spread rushing attack Michigan went with the stack most of the game, with occasional changeups to a slanting four-man front and extremely rare eight man fronts as Michigan spent the entire day in a two deep for the first time in a while. They got away with this despite not having Martin or Mouton, but I don't think that will hold up against non-Purdue offenses.

This got pulled out occasionally. It's more of a 3-4 look with the stack linebackers pulled to the strong side and Gordon coming down from his position over the slot:

3-3-5 something

When Michigan moved that DE inside to be a three-tech I called this "4-3 light".

Substitution notes: Mostly Patterson with some Sagesse at NT. Black and Banks got spot duty replacing Roh and RVB at DE. Demens went the whole way at MLB with Ezeh, Moundros, and Fitzgerald rotating through the OLB spots. Cam Gordon got almost all the time at spur with a few plays from Johnson; the secondary was Rogers/Avery/Vinopal/Kovacs the whole way.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 PA scramble Van Bergen 3
Siller at QB with Henry the I-back. Woo Purdue 2010. Not sure what to call the formation as it's a 3-3-5 that slides the linebackers to the strong side and has Fitz on the line as a standup DE next to Roh. I'm just going with stack. Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) reads the rollout and gets upfield of the pulling guard, forcing Siller back inside. He then threatens to sack and Siller has to scramble. It looks like he might get five before Roh and Kovacs converge; he pulls up lame and falls about three yards downfield.
O28 2 7 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Midline keeper Gordon 6
I can't tell if this is midline or if they just set Roh free. Probably midline. Roh attacks the tailback and that seems to be the right play because M has more players to the QB run and does not want this going backside. Patterson successfully fights inside of his blocker, the playside guard, and I think that's right too because this forces Henry outside where Gordon and Vinopal are with just one blocker. Gordon(-1) needs to attack this hard one way or the other but hesitates, throwing a lame shoulder into the blocker two yards downfield and allowing Henry a lane inside. Demens and Vinopal converge to tackle just short of the sticks.
O34 3 1 Shotgun empty 3-3-5 stack Run   Jet sweep reverse Kovacs? 0
Jet sweep to a reverse that catches Michigan because RVB(-1) did not read the play and flowed down the line too close to the LOS. Moundros is also gone to the frontside but I think he has to be. This could get some major yards but as Henry comes back to block RVB he hits the runner, robbing him of his momentum and allowing Kovacs to come up. Kovacs(-0.5, tackling -1) misses the tackle but the cavalry has arrived.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q. Lucky break there.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O36 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Patterson 2
Michigan clearly not afraid of Henry throwing as they run a corner blitz, something I don't think they've done all year. Avery has backside contain so Roh can slide down the line hard, getting inside of the backside blocker, a FB, and erasing cutback lanes. Patterson(+1) gets doubled and manages to hold up okay. He chucks the guy going playside, hurling him off balance. This allows Demens(+0.5) to fill unmolested for an easy tackle. RPS+1.
O38 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass   PA rollout out Rogers Inc
Kovacs rolls up and the LBs are shifted over so this is more of a 3-4 look. Purdue runs a rollout pass that Ezeh(+0.5) cuts off the outside on, forcing a throw. This is a receiver well-covered by Rogers, and while the throw is upfield it kind of has to be because Rogers(+2, cover +2) appears to break this up despite the upfieldness of the throw. Huh.
O38 3 8 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   QB draw Avery 8
Patterson(-0.5) gets shoved way out of the hole, opening up a difficult amount of space. Moundros(+1) actually gets outside a block quickly and forces a bounce outside, where Avery(-1) got too far inside to string the play out appropriately and Kovacs(-0.5) can't arrive at the right angle to tackle Henry straight on, possibly halting him before he picks up the two yards he needs here.
O46 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Inverted power veer Banks 2 + 15 pen
Line blocks down except for the playside DE, who kicks out Fitzgerald, and the backside G, who pulls around to block Banks. Banks(+1) reads the pull and does not shoot down the line as expected, instead changing course to block the lead blocker. Ezeh flows up on the RB fake, Henry keeps, and his hole is constricted because of Banks and Demens(+0.5); Banks comes off to tackle after a short gain but grabs a facemask, drawing a call. Good play otherwise.
M36 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 Light Run   Inside zone Banks 1
Michigan shifts its line down as Ezeh rolls up into a standup DE position; Banks slides in to be a three tech and this is a 4-3 under line with two LBs behind it and Gordon flexed over a slot receiver. This catches Purdue, allowing Banks(+1) to slant under the RG instantly. He's drawing two guys and not even getting blocked. A cutback must happen; Ezeh(+0.5) has flowed down the line to tackle with an assist from Purdue's LT. RPS+1.
M35 2 9 I-form big 4-3 Light Pass N/A PA rollout hitch Demens 7
Blitz up the middle from Moundros; pocket rolls and Michigan rolls with it. Ezeh(+0.5) hits the edge and cuts off the rollout, forcing a pullup and an uncomfortable throw for Robinson. Demens(-0.5) was in good position but actually got ahead of the TE a bit so a throw behind the guy is makeable and made; Demens does tackle immediately.
M27 3 2 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Inverted power veer Roh -5
This must be a missed assignment or a missed read or maybe just a terrible playcall they needed to get out of but didn’t, because Roh(+1) is totally unblocked and can tear upfield at the exchange point, nailing the RB as he gets the ball and forcing a fumble. If Robinson kept he was going to get destroyed by a blitzing Ezeh(+1), who flew past a tackle too quickly to react, and a blitzing Gordon. Ball hits the turf and Gordon(+1) has the presence of mind to scoop and score. RPS+3--very hard for a D to get a +3, but this play was a guaranteed five yard loss in the best case scenario for Purdue with a serious danger of worse.
Drive Notes: Defensive TD, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q. Announcer exclaims "he's got a chance!" as Gordon crosses the 15 with no Purdue guy within 10 yards. Ya think?
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   QB power off tackle Banks 4
Johnson in at spur—I thought he was a deep safety now? Purdue has the TE block down on Banks and pulls the two guys inside around. RB means three lead blockers. Banks(+1) gets outside the downblock, which is good because Demens(-1) sucked way up on an end-around fake and is gone. If this breaks through the line it's a big gain. Fitz(+0.5) gets outside a tackle, forcing Henry to bounce it all the way out; Johnson takes a double and ends up falling, allowing a cutback lane; Rogers and Kovacs converge for a tackle.
O24 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 nickel Run   Down G stretch Demens 14
Or something? I don’t know if a good run offense can do this because you never rep any individual play enough to make it a base but lord Purdue does a lot of stuff on the ground. It's fun to watch even if it never does anything. Here the Purdue line blocks down as Michigan runs the same slant they did to get a one-yard gain on the previous play. Slant usually means linebackers flowing the other way to pickup cutbacks; here Demens(-2) pulls an Ezeh and sits. Purdue pulls a guard around, another tip for Demens to GTFO, but the C can just roll downfield and get a block on him--there's no way this should happen, Demens should be playside of the C easily. He gets crushed and there's a huge gap that's taken for a first down.
O38 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Down G Demens? 4 (Pen -15)
What is Demens doing? Here it's a simple stretch that he's seen a million times before and instead of flowing hard he hops upfield of the guy attempting to block him. He's gone. Black(-0.5) is effectively sealed by the downblock. Moundros(+0.5) comes up to whack the pulling G and forces it inside, catching Kovacs(-0.5) coming too far outside and Demens in nowhereville, except... Demens ran down the line like a mother and actually helps tackle? Gah. I had a minus for him but am forced to erase it. I don't understand what happens here at all. Sagesse is chopped, anyway.
O23 1 25 I-form 4-3 Light Pass 5 Screen Inc
Blitz; Moundros was in the area of the screen but it looks like if the QB just calms down and throws an open pass this is a good chunk. No RPS- because it's first and twenty five.
O23 2 25 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Draw Patterson -1
A draw play to Rob Henry. Sure. Patterson(+1) takes a momentary double, then fights inside his blocker instead of getting way out of the middle of the field. This forces a bounce. Demens(+1) fills the next hole, leaving Henry on the edge with Johnson(+1), who makes a solid tackle(+1) on the edge.
O22 3 26 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 nickel Pass 3 TE out 6
Give up and punt. Two tacklers in the area (cover +1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 6 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O36 1 10 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Down G Roh 3
Man, Purdue seems to chop block again, this time on Patterson. Roh(+1) does a good job of refusing the down block and holding his guy at the LOS. Kovacs cuts off the corner and Moundros(+1) hits the pulling G in the hole. Moundros and Roh close the hole off with their bodies as the RB enters, creating a pile. OL shoving pushes it forward.
O33 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Roh 5
Roh(-1) slants under the tackle like whoah but takes an angle too far upfield and instead of murdering the play he lets it playside; LBs are shifted backside and waiting for a cutback so Purdue has room. Demens takes on a block that he's got no chance of defeating; Vinopal(-0.5) fills w/ help from Ezeh pursuit, but not that well.
O38 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 Light Run   Zone read keeper Van Bergen? 26
This is a bust on someone's part as RVB flows down the line and Ezeh hits it up inside, no scrape. I find this incredibly frustrating since this keeps happening in every game and it is never clear whose error it is. Henry is clean into the secondary for a big gainer. RPS -2, RVB -2 because my default is that the DE is the guy.
M36 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 Light Run   Inside zone Demens 27
Henry again except this time as a tailback. Michigan moves the LBs before the snap, sending Moundros into the line as a blitzer and having Roh tear after the QB to force a handoff. Demens(-2) has help to the outside in the form of Roh and is totally unblocked but wanders to the backside of the play and is in no position to tackle. It looks like they're using Moundros as a blitzer because they don't trust him in space and would like to get all their guys single blocked, allowing Demens to read and tackle. Here Moundros stands his guy up at the line and funnels it back at Demens and he's just not there. Vinopal(-2) whiffs a tackle, turning 15 into 27. (tackling -2)
M9 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 Light Run   Zone stretch Roh 4
Michigan stunting Roh and Sagesse; Roh(-0.5) bumps Sagesse as he slants inside, delaying him and opening up a crease. The stunt does pick off a pulling guard and get Demens a free run at the hole, which he takes, tackling; Moundros(-0.5) got kicked out too far and gave the RB room to build up momentum before the contact.
M5 2 G Shotgun 2-back 4-3 Light Run   QB lead draw Roh -1
Michigan stunts and gets both Fitzgerald(+1) and Roh(+1) in the hole. One blocker, two guys, no screwup, good play. (RPS +1)
M6 3 G Shotgun trips TE bunch 4-3 Light Pass 4 TE cross Johnson 3
Robinson has time but does not let his routes develop, chucking a quick TE cross that Johnson(+1, cover +1) is in position to tackle on immediately.
Drive Notes: FG, 14-3, EO1Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Delay Sagesse 6
Delay sees a backside tackle pull around as Sagesse is doubled. Moundros and Demens get outside of blockers, funneling it back to help that never comes because Ezeh got cut off by a center peeling off Sagesse(-1). Excellent example of why you need your nose to demand a double in this D.
O32 2 4 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Power dive Van Bergen -1
Van Bergen(+1) slants inside the tackle and picks off a pulling guard. Sagesse swam through a double and managed to hold his ground okay, though he's still getting blocked a yard downfield. Demens and Ezeh are in the area and convince the RB to bounce. Gordon(+0.5) has set up in the right spot so there's no hole and Ezeh(+1) is unblocked but read the play quickly to make a tackle at the LOS.
O31 3 5 Shotgun 4-wide tight 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Ezeh Inc
Robinson drops back and throws a quick hitch into an eight man coverage that Ezeh(+1) bats down. This is a super easy breakup as Robinson stares down his WR and Ezeh barely has to move to get the PBU, so no +2 this time. (cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-3, 13 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M45 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Bubble screen? Inc
Michigan sends the house as Dierking motions from the slot into the backfield, and Purdue throws a… something. I think it was supposed to be a bubble screen but the two receivers went downfield and seemed to be blocking. That's fine for the outside guy, but not so much the slot.
M45 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Down G Moundros 15
Just six in the box but M blitzes Avery to provide a seventh. TE blocks down on Roh and two OL pull around. Avery(+0.5) does a good job to come up quickly and get outside of one a yard in the backfield, constricting a hole. Moundros(-2) can fill it by himself if he takes on a block in the right spot but runs way too far outside and actually bashes into the Avery block, giving Dierking a big lane just past the outstretched arm of a spinning Roh. Demens didn't flow down the line because he saw a big cutback lane caused by Patterson(-1) getting cut and hit that. I'm not sure if that's good or bad. Kovacs has to get outside a WR to force it back to Vinopal; Vinopal(+0.5) closes and tackles(+1).
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Roh 0
Roh(+2) can't quite slant under the Purdue tackle trying to block him but does get him pushing really hard to get his helmet across. He responds by chucking the lineman past him, coming under, and pounding Dierking at the LOS. Patterson(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) had cut off the frontside, forcing the cutback.
M30 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Patterson 1
Michigan comes out in a 4-4 cover zero and checks into the stack after Purdue checks. Patterson(+1) takes a double and holds up; Demens(+0.5) hits the hole quickly and meets the peeling C at the LOS; Moundros(+0.5) is unblocked and tackles at the LOS. Multiple Purdue linemen were wandering around wondering who to block after the check. RPS +1
M29 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Improv Avery Inc
Robinson has forever and a day in the pocket but can't find anyone (cover +2) and eventually has to roll out as Roh comes free. Pressure only -1 because RVB got a holding call… eventually. Robinson rolls out and throws a bad idea to the sideline that Avery(+1, cover +1) is all over. He should really intercept but it's a little low and it falls to the turf. Hooray freshman QB.
Drive Notes: FG(46), 14-13, 4 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 I-form 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Screen Inc
Overthrown. Outcome unknown if on target.
O31 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Tunnel screen Van Bergen 4
Van Bergen(+1) reads the screen when the offensive lineman Olé! blocks him and comes from behind to tackle with some help from Demens.
O35 3 6 I-form twins 4-3 Light Run   Delay Avery 0
Late move to a four man line. Roh(+1) gets under his blocker and refuses to be down-blocked as Avery tears off the corner on a blitz. Patterson(+1) gets playside of his blocker, forcing a cutback into Roh; Avery(+1) tackles from behind.
Drive Notes: EOH, 14-13. Hail Mary not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Inside zone Fitzgerald 5
I'm not sure what the Purdue OL are attempting to do but I think it's scoop the two playside DL. They get neither, so +0.5 Patterson and RVB. RB has to bounce; he can because a hesitant Fitzgerald(-1) got hit by a TE a yard downfield instead of at the LOS or in the backfield and the RB has a lane outside. Gordon closes it down and Demens scrapes from the inside to help.
O39 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A Bubble screen Vinopal 2
This is less a bubble than just a slot screen since the WR is standing instead of orbiting outside. Michigan blitzes from the playside so it's Vinopal(+2, tackling +1) one-on-one with the WR. He attacks, gets in the right spot, forms up, forces the WR inside, and sees his tackle attempt almost run through but not quite; WR goes down for two and even if he stayed up Kovacs was going to light him up.
O41 3 3 Shotgun 2-back 4-3 Light Run   QB draw Van Bergen -2
Yakety sax from Purdue as McBurse does not get the play call and goes for a mesh point with Henry. They bump and there's no lead blocker. I don't think it would have mattered because RVB(+2) slanted under the OG in a flash and was either going to destroy McBurse and force Henry into an unblocked Gordon or just destroy Henry. RPS+1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-13, 11 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 I-form 4-3 Light Run   Iso Roh 6 (Pen -8)
I can't tell who this is on. Michigan stunts its DTs, which isn't relevant. The relevant bit: Roh slants hard under the strongside tackle, which leaves a TE and FB with great angles to block Demens and Gordon. If Roh was supposed to do this the linebackers need to flow hard behind him to pick up the slack on the strongside. They don't. There's two of them and one of Roh so I think it's on him(-1). Demens should still get outside the TE and has an opportunity to do so but doesn't, so the RB can zip off tackle quickly. This is dangerous but Vinopal(+1, tackling +1) fills quickly and makes a solid tackle to hold the gain down. He's pretty good when he's taking on guys his size. Problem: he is tiny. Play comes back on a holding call on the guy blocking Demens, so he avoids a minus.
M32 1 18 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Throwback TE screen Moundros 9
Moundros(+1) reads it and shoots out into the play. He can't make the tackle but he does suck up a blocker and force the play inside. With a TE four yards behind the LOS and no blockers that should be a win. He's got some room; Avery forms up to force him into Ezeh(-1, tackling -1), who does tackle but lets the TE inside off him and turns five yards into nine.
M23 2 9 I-form 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Wheel of doom Moundros Inc
There are people vaguely in the area code this week but Moundros(-2, cover -2) is at least five yards away from the tailback and probably can't prevent a TD if ball is accurate. Ball is not, it's short and outside. Ezeh(+1, pressure +1) came up hard and made life difficult. Still RPS -1.
M23 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Rollout throwaway Ezeh Inc
Purdue rolls away from the pocket; no one immediately open (cover +1). Ezeh(+2) avoids a cut block, keeps his feet, gets outside the pulling guard, and shoots up to sack Robinson, except Robinson chucks the ball out of bounds at the last second. (Pressure +2.)
Drive Notes: FG(40), 20-16, 9 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O36 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Zone read keeper Kovacs 12
Kovacs(-2) is rolling up to the LOS and must be the contain guy with the LBs sticking inside; Black is blocked on the backside. He sucks inside, lets Henry outside, and gives up a big gain.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 Light Pass N/A Long handoff Inc
Dropped.
O48 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   TGDCD 8
That Goddamned Counter Draw. Avery(-1) is blitzing to the eventual playside and Purdue's WR lined up over him actually drives down to block him, and does so effectively. Have not seen that before. Moundros(+0.5) finds himself in space and can cut past OL to force a bounce but with Avery both inside and blocked the corner's open; RB takes it until Kovacs comes up to make an okay tackle. RPS -1, but I'm not mad, just impressed with the little adjustment from Purdue.
M44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Fade Avery Inc
Check from 4-3 to stack after a Purdue check. Avery(-1, cover -1) beaten on a fade route that must have had a double move because he gets shook like whoah; ball is way overthrown.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-16, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O46 1 10 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Iso Demens 2
Deception on this play as it looks like Purdue is down-blocking and sending players to the frontside but the path of the RB is straight upfield. Given the blocking if Demens(+1) doesn't fall for it the play is dead; he doesn't and attacks unblocked to tackle at the LOS. Ezeh(+0.5) took on the FB and came off to help, as well. BTW: possible this is a Purdue bust.
O48 2 8 Shotgun 2TE twins 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Sack Johnson -2
First read covered(+1) and then Ezeh(+0.5) is out on the corner, forcing more scrambling outside. Robinson decides to take off; Johnson(+1) fills nicely to bang him out of bounds for a sack(!) short of the sticks. Pressure +1.
O46 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Yakety sax Rogers Int
Rollout to the trips. Van Bergen(+1) is immediately upfield and gets outside the RB's attempted chop. He's also outside the pulling G. Robinson slows up and then heads to the sideline as RVB gets smashed to the ground by the G. Roh(+1) has spun past the other tackle and is now charging from behind. As he's about to sack Robinson runs up; Ezeh(+0.5) fills and Robinson chucks it directly at James Rogers(+1, cover +1), who intercepts. Not so good. Pressure +2.
Drive Notes: Interception, 20-16, 1 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Pin and pull zone Moundros 3
Playside TE blocks down on Roh and the entire left side of the line pulls. Moundros(+1) shoots up into the play and takes a double from the pullers; Kovacs fills and gets help from Patterson(+0.5), who bounced off a cut attempt and flowed down the line to prevent YAC.
O29 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 Hitch Gordon 9
Gordon's actually blitzing here and his issue is getting cut to the ground(-1, pressure -1) as the part of the five man rush that gets a free run at the tailback. He's out, and this opens up a guy on the sidelines between Vinopal and Rogers (cover -1).
O38 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Down G Patterson 2
They block down on Black and get him(-0.5), pulling two guys around and shooting a lineman off Patterson and at Demens immediately. This is tough for M because Moundros has to run out to get the outside shoulder of one lead blocker and Demens is getting shoved past the play by the immediate release of the C. Purdue's banking on getting Patterson out of the play, then. Reasonable, and wrong. Patterson(+1) again bounces off the cut and flows down the line to tackle thanks to the good Moundros(+1) fill and forced inside cutback.
O40 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 TE Hitch Inc
Five yard route zinged five yards wide.
O40 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Screen Moundros 5
Moundros(+1) is on top of it, shooting past one of the releasing blockers and getting tackled. He draws a flag. Avery(+0.5) is also there to attack at the LOS. His tackle(-1) is run through but does delay Dierking quite a bit, allowing three Wolverines to rally and tackle.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-16, 12 min 4th Q. Hagerup's 72-yard bomb precedes the next drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O3 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass N/A Long handoff Avery 39
Avery(-3, tackling -3) completely whiffs on a simple WR screen, turning five or six yards into many many yards.
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Yakety sax -6
Aaaand Purdue fumbles it right back without a single Michigan player breathing on anyone. Thanks, dude.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 20-16, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 stack Run   Triple option pitch Moundros 0
Henry pitches way too fast and does not eliminate Moundros(+1), so Moundros runs out to the edge and forces the pitch guy back inside of him, where five Wolverines gang-tackle. More bad play from Purdue than anything awesome M did.
O20 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Flare Avery 1
Nowhere to go on a three man rush(cover +2) so Henry checks down to a covered Dierking, who is again gang tackled after bouncing off Avery.
O21 3 9 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Scramble Patterson 1
Michigan gets a stunt to work as Roh drives into the middle of the line and Patterson(+1) loops around to pressure(+1) Henry. He starts scrambling around; Patterson peels back and engages behind the LOS; pile falls forward, robbing him of a sack. Que sera.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-16, 6 min 4th Q. Purdue's funny/sad final drive is not charted.

So did that mean anything?

No. Let's just get that out of the way. No, it did not mean anything. Purdue's offense has now scored 19 meaningful points over the last four weeks and while OSU, Illinois, and Wisconsin all have much better defenses than Michigan so many of the stops Michigan got were Purdue shooting itself in the face that it's impossible to tell if anything got better in a real sense.

If you look at the—

Chart.

Chart, you'll see this in numbers:

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 7 3 4 May have been unfairly blamed for the big Henry keeper.
Martin - - - DNP
Banks 3 - 3 Did well in limited time.
Sagesse - 1 -1 Ceded most of his time to Patterson for a reason.
Patterson 7.5 1.5 6 !!! Happy to see him get a start and he did legitimately well with it.
Black - 1 -1 No pass rush necessary so ate bench.
Roh 7 2.5 4.5 Good day.
TOTAL 24.5 9 15.5 Fine day given a limited number of plays and only three guys.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 8.5 1.5 7 Very effective containing rollouts.
Mouton - - - DNP
C. Gordon 1.5 2 -0.5 Has absorbed the tao of spur.
T. Gordon - - - DNP
Johnson 3 - 3 Played spur. Please stop moving these people back and forth it annoys my charts.
Leach - - - DNP
Moundros 8.5 4.5 4 Got lost on a wheel of doom, effective against the run.
Demens 4 5 -1 Lost on a couple of big Purdue runs.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald 1.5 1 0.5 Limited playing time.
TOTAL 27 14 13 Holy OLB play when they never have to defend the pass, Batman.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd - - - DNP
Rogers 3 - 3 One legit breakup, one INT thrown into his chest.
Kovacs - 3.5 -3.5 Removed from the run game and when he showed up had some iffy tackles.
Talbott - - - DNP.
Christian - - - DNP.
Avery 3 6 -3 Gave up the big screen.
Ray Vinopal 3.5 2.5 1 OMG FS +1
TOTAL 12.5 12 0.5 Hardly involved.
Metrics
Pressure 8 2 6 Small numbers.
Coverage 13 4 9 Tiny numbers.
Tackling 4 8 -4 Not so good.
RPS 8 4 4 Amazing what playing a true freshman in a monsoon can do for you.

[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

The pressure and coverage numbers are incredibly low, as are the overall secondary numbers, which points to the thing you already knew: Michigan's weak point had virtually no pressure on it all day. How much is this going to matter when Michigan plays Tolzien and Pryor in (probably) dry conditions on turf? Probably not at all.

I see Demens didn't grade out well.

No, not so much, as two of Purdue's long runs seemed to be directly on him. The first:

This is similar to the Purdue run that was picture paged this afternoon with the line slanting one way but whereas on the Purdue play the MLB tears outside to fill the hole here Demens doesn't and gets clunked by a blocker, opening up a big gain. You can argue that Fitzgerald and Roh didn't do Demens any favors but they are slanting and that means Demens has to get behind them.

The second is just bad:

Moundros blitzes up the middle and when the handoff comes he fights to funnel the guy back to Demens, but Demens has wandered out of the middle when it's clear Roh is tearing at the QB and Kovacs has that space.

And then I'm not sure how I feel about this. Watch Demens hop outside the tackle on a stretch:

He does tear down the line and gets in on the tackle, so maybe that's okay. It gives me the heebie-jeebies, though.

Ezeh did, though, and you are an avowed Ezeh hater who really really hates Ezeh and would like to see him dipped in acid, right?

Er. I just think he hasn't been a very good linebacker.

You are also an avowed GERG hater who wants GERG dipped in acid and he's got a +4 RPS, right?

I would appreciate it if you stopped claiming I have a bias for or against certain players and coaches by using UFR numbers that contradict previous UFR numbers. This makes me want to stab you. Performances vary, and collecting those performances gives you a picture of a player. I try very hard to be systematic about the numbers handed out and as a result sometimes disagree with those numbers in the very UFR they are published in. They exist as a sanity check and a guide.

You're defensive, so it must be true.

ARGH STAB

Anyway, as to GERG. In this game the 3-3-5 seemed to make sense. This is because the linebackers were all at linebacker depth and Michigan did occasionally stem to different fronts that gave Purdue trouble. Here's an RPS +1 that sees Michigan move Banks down to a three tech, slant him under an unprepared guard, and force the play back into unblocked contain:

That's a concrete example of a "multiple" look being an asset. But it's against Purdue and their ramshackle lean-to of an offense. It's too little too late unless the team really surprises in the last three games.

You clipped a punt?

Damn right.

What was the best part of the game, and perhaps any game ever?

Sarcastic Hurray Guy after the Cam Gordon touchdown:

Win.

Heroes?

Obi Ezeh and Adam Patterson for filling in admirably for downed starters.

Goats, or as much of a goat you can be when the opposing offense scores six points?

Demens got lost a few times and opened up most of Purdue's successful runs; Avery made a big mistake that turned into Purdue's best play of the day.

What does it mean for Wisconsin and beyond?

Nothing. Seriously.

If you really want to stretch you can slightly downgrade your Demens enthusiasm, upgrade your Roh enthusiasm, and maybe vaguely hope Patterson is functional when he fills in for a (please God be) healthy Mike Martin. Ezeh may be okay as an OLB the last couple games, and will almost certainly be better than Roh was. But this was a terrible team playing in terrible conditions and Michigan's performance rested largely on their lack of competence. Wisconsin will probably bring Michigan back to earth with a thump.

Senior Day Haiku

Senior Day Haiku

Submitted by Brian on November 16th, 2010 at 4:14 PM

An annual tradition. Special bonus this year: holy pants there are no seniors. Usually I skip a bunch of anonymous walk-ons who never saw the field unless they have a silly name; this year this is it.

Michigan runningback Kevin Grady runs the ball  during the second half of the Wolverine's 2009 season opener 31-7 win, versus Western Michigan University at Michigan Stadium, Saturday, September 5th.
Melanie Maxwell| Ann Arbor.com
  Martell Webb

It goes thump. Sometimes
it catches or drops a pass.
Mostly it goes thump.

Perry Dorrestein

Bad back, outed grades
but through it all a kickin'
Punisher tattoo

Steve Schilling

Been around forever
Witnessed the Horror up close
Football purple heart

John Ferrara

Thrown into the fire
just two weeks after switching
'08: the nutshell

Adam Patterson

One last swing hits sod
A shaft of daylight strikes down
Hello two deep

Renaldo Sagesse

Hurling hockey kids,
the largest man in Quebec came
and he was all right

Greg Banks

Took the Moosman crown
as player most likely to
impress your TA

Obi Ezeh

Why did you tattoo
"Stand around, think about plants"
across your torso?

mark-moundros-nwBONUS NOT MEAN HAIKU

Like Schilling, lived
through every last awful bit
and never complained

Jonas Mouton

The west wind in fall
brings everything, and then
takes everything

Mark Moundros

Walk-on captains are
intimidatingly bald
pretty much always

James Rogers

The last vagabond
a-wander from spot to spot:
Dread Pirate Rogers

COMMENCE THE SYLLABLE COUNTING.

Midseason Re-Eval: Linebackers

Midseason Re-Eval: Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on October 26th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

Taking stock during the bye week. Previously: secondary.

Preseason

obi-ezeh-smoked

Following straight on the heels of the secondary preview, the linebacker preview caused more stomach-twisting agony at projected incompetence. Craig Roh was covered as a defensive lineman, leaving Mouton, Ezeh/Walk-on, and Freshman Spur Rotation the guys covered here.

Mouton and Ezeh were lumped together as close to interchangeable backers and given a two, except it was actually Mouton and Moundros evaluated as starters. Doom was projected at MLB:

…"sparsely deployed walk-on fullback to starting middle linebacker" is as much of a flashing sign that says DOOM as anything I've ever seen.

On the other hand, during the Illinois game last year Ezeh actually ran out of a hole Juice Williams was about to enter with the ball so he could chase after a running back. It looked insane, causing me to dig out the "run away" bit of "Janie's Got A Gun" and the fake Magic card you see at right. By the end of the year whatever hope remained for Ezeh was vestigial indeed; merely having options other than him could maybe possibly hopefully slightly improve matters?

All that was offered in hope was "Ezeh won't get worse and if he's replaced the guy doing the replacing will be better than him." When it came to address the backups, I was expecting "some" improvement from Ezeh thanks to the exit of Jay Hopson and the usual leveling up that comes through experience. The Enigmatic Kenny Demens was indeed dubbed The Enigmatic Kenny Demens; the tea leaves were not encouraging on him because he'd gone from pushing for a job in spring to all but absent in fall.

Mouton was declared a wildly inconsistent guy hopped up on bad angles but theoretically capable of becoming a "ruthless Crable-like playmaker." That was just a theory, though:

Unlike the situation at middle linebacker, it seems within the realm of possibility Mouton's light goes on and the talent he's flashed the past couple years turns into an All Big Ten kind of season. To deploy a cliche, he is the X factor, the guy with the greatest possible variance in his play on the defense. I'd settle for a return to his 2008 level; he is capable of more. There's a 25% chance he's awesome, a 50% chance he's okay, and a 25% chance he gets benched.

Mike Jones came in for the most pub as a backup.

At spur, Carvin Johnson and Thomas Gordon were regarded as near-interchangeable parts based entirely on recruiting profiles of Johnson and Gordon; they were given a two for essentially no reason:

His [Johnson's] recruiting profile picked him out as a true sleeper likely to exceed his relatively modest rankings based on local praise and late SEC offers, and while my usual heuristics lead me to be skeptical about a true freshman beating out a redshirt freshman with nary a fourth star to be seen, I've just got that feeling—what's it called—you know—optimism. Optimism enough to throw this position a 2, anyway. While two less-than-touted freshmen are not likely to be average Big Ten players in year one, I don't think we'll be looking back at 2010 and saying "oh God, what about that mess at spur."

Fast forward to NOW!

obi-ezeh-brandon-herronkenny-demens-iowamouton-notre-dame

Mouton has settled into the broad 50% level where he is okay, in no danger of getting benched or making an All Big Ten team at year's end. He's come in for clucking on two separate Picture Pages wherein tailbacks got outside of him despite having a clear mandate to maintain contain. Despite this, he's been in the black most of the year on the UFR chart and has turned in some huge positive plays:

Mouton leads the team in tackles and is in a big pack of guys with around 5 TFLs. Though he hasn't made the senior leap he was capable of he is appreciably better than last year and is going to get some NFL team to take a swing at him in the draft.

Ezeh managed to hold off the challenge from Moundros largely because when Moundros came in he looked exactly like you'd expect a fullback to look at linebacker. The problem was that Ezeh looked like a fullback, too:

At this point it's almost hopeless. What are the chances Obi Ezeh learns how to be a linebacker in the last ten games of his career if he's still making incredibly basic mistakes like that after starting for three years? This has nothing to do with scheme. This is basic play recognition/ability to remember how to make your legs go.  … The ugly fate foretold by the "Mark Moundros could start" preseason meme appears to be coming true.

That was after Ezeh scored a –8 against a I-AA team. That may have been harsh but if you're arguing that a –8 against UMass for a senior middle linebacker is really a –4 you're really just arguing about how obvious his future benching is. Frustratingly obvious, or eye-bleedingly obvious?

It was apparently the former. Ezeh hung onto his job until the Michigan State game, when a bizarre scheme that saw him fly out of the center of the defense on two long MSU touchdown runs was replaced by the usual thing where he was asked to read and react and did only the first:

The MSU game was finally enough. Michigan turned to The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who'd been enigmatically buried on the depth chart. Placed on the field he hit the right gaps, made a number of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, and could not be fingered for anything particularly negative that went on. Contrast the above clip with this:

I've got plenty more of the first clip to prove the trend. Demens hasn't seen enough time to prove anything but at the very least he's suggested he's already an upgrade as a sophomore. It wouldn't have taken much.

At spur it has been super boring. Johnson got knocked out of the UConn game and missed the next few weeks. He's reclaimed the starting spot after healing but he and Gordon alternate so much that it's hard to tell who is who. It doesn't help that neither of them has done much of anything good or bad. The hope was that maybe Cam Gordon would be able to pull the Brandent Englemon 1-0-1 this year. He hasn't come anywhere close, but the spurs are doing almost exactly that. Between them they have 25 tackles, 3.5 for loss and the one impressive sack of Dayne Crist.

Is that good? On this defense it qualifies. A couple freshmen are not huge issues. The 2 they were handed in the preview seems about right.

Fast forward to LATER!

(CAPTION INFORMATION)
Indiana's Mitchell Evans is chased down by Michigan's Jonas Mouton in the second quarter.       Photos are of the University of Michigan vs. Indiana University at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, September 26, 2009.  (The Detroit News / David Guralnick)demens-tackle

Mouton is what he is at this point. He'll use his combo of size and speed to nail down a fair share of impressive plays; his iffy angles and pursuit will open up the outside and cutbacks. His pass drops have gotten much better. He's probably going to end the year as Michigan's leading tackler and have maybe 10 TFLs. He's not a star. He's not a liability. Except he's both. It all averages out to an average-ish Big Ten linebacker.

Rotating Spur Freshman should improve as the season progresses and the collective's eyes get less wide, but it's hard to see a lot of plays from Johnson and Gordon until 2011 when one of them can get a solid grip on the job and can focus on doing a bit more than not screwing up. But they're not screwing up—or at least not screwing up much compared to other spots. One negative: they must be iffy in pass coverage in practice if the exploitable nickel package has persisted this far into its erratic 2010.

The upside in the unit comes in the form of The Enigmatic Kenny Demens, who turned in a legitimately good—not good-for-being-not-Ezeh—game against Iowa. It is highly likely he is better than Ezeh right now. It is unlikely he is as good as he showed against an Iowa team that IIRC did not run a counter or anything other than straight zone blocking all day. Where he falls in that continuum from Linebackers Obviously Better Than Ezeh to Legitimately Good will have a huge impact on Michigan's rushing defense the rest of the way.

Prediction accuracy to date: Pretty good, though the preview punted on making a call on Mouton and was taken in by whatever it was that caused Demens to plummet down the depth chart.
Level of play relative to prediction: Slightly optimistic, as Ezeh didn't seem to be any better this year than last.
Expected level of play for remainder of season: Somewhere between slightly and considerably better than predicted depending on how sustainable Demens's play is and how much of an upgrade Carvin Johnson is over Thomas Gordon. The guesses here: 70% sustainable and not much of an upgrade.

Rich Rodriguez Monday Presser Notes 10-18-10

Rich Rodriguez Monday Presser Notes 10-18-10

Submitted by Tim on October 18th, 2010 at 2:54 PM

Notes from Rich Rodriguez's Monday meeting with the press.

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News

"This week is probably coming at a good time for some of those guys." Mike Martin and David Molk should be 100% with a week off. Mike Shaw's been limited in practice with a sprained knee, but should be fine.

Denard sprained something in his rotator cuff; it gets aggravated or sore when you fall on it. Worried about the big guys falling on him more than anything. He's not as hurt as Tate was last year, and should be good with a week off. "Hypothetically, we won't talk," but Denard would probably be good to start if there was a game this weekend. He's still the team's starter, despite Tate's solid play on Saturday.

On Fitzgerald Toussaint: "I'm optimistic he can practice this week."

Not sure how long Odoms will be out. "That's a tough blow because he was playing pretty good football." If he can return by the end of the year, he could play a bit.

Defensive personnel moves "Kenny Demens we thought played pretty well... He's played well enough that Obi will have to beat him out in practice over the next week and a half."

"Carvin Johnson we thought did some good things at Spur." With Mike Martin's injury, Adam Patterson got a chance to step up and he did well.

The Bye Week

No practice Monday-Tuesday (players are on fall break), but the team will practice Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday for sure.

Big recruiting week for the staff since they don't have a game. "Used to go out a lot on Fridays," but it's tough to get back from a HS game and be ready for a noon game the next day. Coaches are on the road recruiting today and tomorrow.

Get young guys a little better fundamentally. "We'll do a preliminary thing on Penn State as well, try to get a little bit of the game plan in."

No school today or tomorrow, get a break to refresh with no football either. The 12 or 13 true freshmen who have played maybe have hit a wall. Having a bit of a break might make them refreshed this week.

On the day off Saturday, RR will watch some film, maybe watch some future opponents' games. His son Rhett has a Pop Warner game on Sunday.

Iowa

Tate came in and made some plays, brought a spark. Had some bad habits come back as well. WRs helped him out, but Michigan has three pretty good, young quarterbacks.

Molk - "I think he didn't feel real good in warmups." After a couple plays, he told the coaches he was unable to compete at the level he wanted to. High ankle sprain, but not a severe one.

The coaches have talked to the field goal defense team about recovering blocked FGs, obviously didn't cover that well enough with the kick team. There was too much penetration on the block, but the kick was a little low, too.

Rocko Khoury competed well. He battled hard. "We were worried about his snaps some... and there were 1 or 2 a little bit off..."

Lewan was a little jumpy. Partially nerves going against Clayborn. Part of his troubles may have been unfamiliarity with Khoury's snapping rhythm.

Turnovers. "I think we pressed a little bit at quarterback some." Don't have to throw it 30 yards when you only need 10. The QBs know right after it happens. "Vincent Smith's not a fumbler."

As poorly as the team played, they had a chance to tie up the game, just couldn't make it happen.

Personnel and Schemes

On offense, they need to fix execution issues that lead to turnovers. "On defense, certainly the same thing. The same issues with execution and making sure we do that." On ST, kicking and returns have been bad, other units solid. "We've got a couple guys I think could be pretty good returners, we just haven't given them a chance."

All QBs are unique "As a runner, Denard's probably closer to what Woody was with burst." Speed more like Pat White. Denard is still a young guy, he's going to keep getting better, as will the young pieces around him. Offense has evolved to be more run-heavy over the years. "The designed quarterback runs probably started with Woody Dantzler in the late 90s." Nowadays, so many people have some version of it, so there's more defensive creativity to stop it.

"We're a little more multiple. We're probably simpler formationally than a lot of teams." Oklahoma, Oregon, Cincinnati, other spread coaching staffs get together and bounce ideas off each other.

The defensive staff all knows the issues, "I think they've talked about it at length, I know they have because I've talked with them." The players still believe in it. The team is close to playing good defense outside of a couple plays a game "but those two plays count." Need to work on some basics defensively, tackling, getting off blocks, etc. Will work on understanding scheme, which helps guys play faster. At times, tackling has been OK.

"At the end of the last couple drives it wasn't good." More disappointed in the (in)ability to get off blocks. Guys won't be coming free on every play. "Some of that's strength... some if it is technique and being able to see the play, recognize the play, get off your block and make it."

"Some of the issue we have defensively... the only way to get experience is to get experience." Some first-year players can play like veterans, but freshmen are going to have "freshman moments." The goal as coaches is to limit the impact if guys have those moments.

"If I still aspire to call plays and be involved in offensive planning and special teams planning, there's only so much hours in the day." The defensive coaches have expertise and they can devote their time to it. "Vince Lombardi could come too, and that's not going to fix some of the problems we have on defense."

The defense has gotten its share of criticism, but 4-5 turnovers in the past couple games and special teams are both issues as well. "With all that being said, we still have moments that we're playing pretty well against a couple pretty good teams."

Floyd thrust in as the "experienced guy" when Troy went down. Troy was the leader of the group, and will be again when he comes back. "When you look at those guys... you gotta remember most guys, their colleagues that age are being redshirted."

Hagerup kicking better because he's not as nervous.

"This is a really close team, there's no finger-pointing or anything like that."

Defensive concerns might affect makeup of the recruiting class. "Where are your numbers offense/defense, where do we need more help." Make sure you're looking for a particular position, etc. "We're looking all over the country" for a kicker worthy of spending a scholarship on.

Etc.

"No question" that having a player seriously injured on the field (like Rutgers lineman) is your worst nightmare. "That's certainly is something that's an inherent risk not just in our sport but in all sports, and you always worry about it."

Big Ten shaking out about as expected. "I think the reputation of our league is pretty good nationally this year. It should be." Quality of play throughout the depth of the league is good.

"The first two years were extreme disappointments." Inside the program, you can at least get an idea that the program is being built and the future is bright. "If nothing else I think we're fun to watch." WIshes that weren't the case sometimes.

Playing Alabama in 2012 - "Just looking at the road games... pretty tough road schedule." Denard will be a senior, some of the young guys on this year's team will be juniors, etc. "Our hesitation was giving up a home game to do that." The pros outweighed the cons. Can use the excitement of that future game for recruiting.

Haven't talked too much about other future OOC scheduling, because they don't know when the Big Ten schedules will be finalized.

404 Tackle Not Found

404 Tackle Not Found

Submitted by Brian on October 18th, 2010 at 12:05 PM

10/16/2010 – Michigan 28, Iowa 38 – 5-2, 1-2 Big Ten

adamrobinson-thumb-590x485-57948

When Michigan needed a stop to get the ball back with a chance to tie and plenty of time on the clock they failed to get it, twice. The second time Michigan cut off Iowa's routes past the sticks, forcing a dumpoff to Adam Robinson. Courtney Avery was there.

imageLast year at this time Avery was in high school. He played quarterback, and basically only quarterback. Plans to have him play his college position were thwarted by an injury. In a presser earlier this year, Rich Rodriguez said in any situation short of the Bohemian Crapsody that is this secondary, the entire freshman defensive back class would redshirt. But File Not Found, man. File Not Found.

Avery did that thing you see above. It doesn't appear that he even touched Robinson, something Crapsody-projected starter Richard Nixon probably could have managed. My immediate thought was watching baseball highlights on Sportscenter during the Dan and Keith glory days. Dan Patrick's signature strikeout call: "the whiff."

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And so Michigan football falls into that old incredibly fun debate for the next two weeks before the Penn State game quiets it, one way or the other. Rodriguez proponents point to the shocking lack of talent in the back four and say it's not his fault; Rodriguez opponents point to the same thing and say it's his fault.

They're both sort of right, sort of wrong. Boubacar Cissoko has 99 problems but what to do on a Friday night is no longer one of them. Troy Woolfolk was struck down by Angry Michigan Secondary Hating God. These are cosmically decreed absences from the secondary.

On the other hand, it's hard to look at the addled underclassmen out there with cornerback Nick Sheridan and not wish Rodriguez had sucked a little face to get Donovan Warren or Justin Turner or Vlad Emilien to stick around. Emilien departed the Michigan secondary in an effort to find playing time. Something is not quite right with your roster management when you lose the only non-freshman free safety on the roster.

As he left he said something along the lines of "I'm the best safety on the roster."* He probably isn't, but this is the point at which a desperate Michigan would give it a shot anyway. They did with Kenny Demens and found out that Obi Ezeh is not the best MLB at Michigan; maybe that would have happened with Emilien. Instead there is a walk-on-sized true freshman and air backing up Cam Gordon and Michigan will ride and die with another guy who obviously shouldn't be on the field this year.

This is what Michigan football is these days—trying to figure out which incredibly inexperienced player has the least business being on a Big Ten two deep, let alone field. My vote is for James Rogers, but I get it if you're arguing for any other member of the secondary not named Kovacs. Srsly. Pick one.

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cigar-guyOf course, Avery's mistake was as far from an isolated an incident as possible. The reason it's emblematic of the game is that you could have picked a dozen other players if their incident had happened right at the end. Another field goal was blocked, with a bonus: team walks off field still featuring live ball, Iowa returns it a goodly distance. The Taylor Lewan Drive Killing Penalty and its sequels. Two(!) kickoffs sailing out of bounds. Facemask calls. A –4 turnover margin. It's all very grrraaarrgggh. The people on the internet who say "THAT'S COACHING" are saying "THAT'S COACHING."

Maybe it is, but how would anyone know when freshman quarterbacks are waving at Adam Robinson's feet? In one very limited way it would be nice if this was a Tim Brewster situation where galaxy-spanning incompetence met a total lack of a track record and firing the guy was obvious. That's not this. We have very good reasons to expect what is happening to happen but don't know if it's ever going to stop.

*(to someone in the media, but not to the public at large.)

Non-bullets.

To repeat. We've got five additional opportunities to find out whether or not the mistakes were just one (er… two) of those days or a systemic issue—or, more likely, a systemic issue less severe than it seems this instant—so no job talk. I will say that my position at the start of the year was that 7-5 was the expected result and that would be good enough for me since 2011 sets up as a perfect prove-it year, and that I don't see why that would change. If they can get a half-decent defense they should blow up.

Iowa's defense may have been something of a paper tiger but even so Michigan came up ten yards short of its season average against the #4 total defense in the country; they're now #3 in total offense. They have two seniors who start and three on the two-deep. As long as they don't tank the rest of the season that seems like a good enough reason to give it a shot in 2011.

Crap, I guess that's job talk.

Kenny! After two three-and-outs featuring Kenny Demens at middle linebacker, Obi Ezeh returned to the field to start the third drive. On his first play he was humiliatingly owned  by an Iowa OL, getting pancaked as Robinson whizzed by for his first real gain of the day. I started complaining to everyone in the vicinity about Ezeh's presence as Iowa marched down the field; Demens returned as Iowa neared the redzone. Ezeh's Michigan career is for all intents and purposes over, and Demens is the new king of everything.

How did he do? I don't actually know yet, but if you take out the three Robinson runs (14, 8, 5) when Ezeh was in the game Robinson rushed for 116 yards on 28 carries, 4.2 per. That's not terrible and for the most part it was done without Mike Martin, who missed the entire second half and was not effective when he did play in the first.

Last I said I was rooting for an inexplicable personnel decision here and it looks like that's the case: Demens is considerably better than Ezeh. That's a nice boost for the rest of the season and the next couple years. If Demens was really Ezeh's equivalent or worse we'd be facing down MOTS or freshmen at MLB next year; instead it looks like we'll get the upperclass years of a decent recruit who's already an obvious upgrade.

Ezeh epilogue. I will remember him as that guy from Memento.

Khoury! The most encouraging part of the game was Michigan owning the Iowa DL despite playing most of the day without Molk and a chunk of it without Lewan. Michigan averaged 4.8 YPC on the ground despite not breaking a run longer than 15 yards, gave up just one sack, and saw its quarterbacks go 30/44.

The lack of long runs is a function of the Iowa gameplan, which left six-ish guys in the box most of the day and gave Michigan a numbers advantage, but Michigan took advantage of that against a massively hyped DL. They did it without their starting center. At this point they've established themselves one of the best units in the conference.

Tate! Hell of a relief appearance there, and more indication that keeping Forcier in the program is an important offseason task. Also: pretty sure they ran the midline option for their last touchdown.

Lewan sad face. It's a good thing that late false start was on Schilling; if it was on Lewan blood vessels would have burst all over Michigan Stadium. I don't have to remind you of the three crippling penalties that ended Michigan drives, because you were doing your very best not to unleash a torrent of boos at the kid.

On the upside, I hear that Clayborn did nothing when Lewan was in the game; if that proves true on tape you can ramp your Lewan==Long hype up to maximum.

Turnover damage metric. Tate's last desperate chuck on third and nineteen == 0. Not completing a pass in that situation is almost a turnover anyway.

Robinson's interception == 2. It was third and ten and he didn't have underneath options apparently; in that situation a deep INT is basically a punt. The problem was with how terrible the throw was. When the receiver can't even get over to tackle that's a problem.

Vincent Smith fumble, First Forcier interception == 8. Guh.

Hagerup. At least the punting issues have resolved themselves spectacularly. Hagerup averaged 50.3 yards a kick and yielded no return yards. Net punting is now above average. It's just everything else that's terrible.

Elsewhere

Photo I was looking for found at Mets Maize, which focused in on that same moment as the tale of the game. BWS recap is a little down on RR's playcalling with Denard in the game; I just see third and okay turned into third and long by Lewan penalties. With Denard, Michigan is a team on a schedule, like option teams. Getting off that schedule is very bad. I should dig out my old third down code after the year so we can see the big red bits from third and seven out.

Meanwhile, In Rod We Trust kicks off its post like I wanted to:

Something, something, realistic expectations, something, something, glass half-full, something something, more experience needed, something, something, witch hunt commence, something something, life goes on.  Something, something, not 2009.

While it could have ended there, it continues. Meanwhile in the News, John Niyo says "OMG 2009," something only a Penn State win will fix. The Ann Arbor News launches "moxie" to describe Forcier's day.

Michigan Exposures has a pregame gallery. Also game and postgame. The Ann Arbor Chronicle has an MMB photo gallery:

david-hines-jr

BTN highlights:

Michigan-slanted ones:

Via BitP. Finally, Lloyd Brady is sad:

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Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com

I hate it when he is sad, and not just because I feel the same way.

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2010: Defense vs Michigan State

Submitted by Brian on October 14th, 2010 at 3:04 PM

Substitution notes: Black got some more playing time this week, seeing passing downs. He also got an entire drive in the third quarter. It was MSU's last touchdown drive and he was a big reason it happened, unfortunately. The rest of the line was as normal, with Patterson sometimes spotting Martin and RVB a constant. Roh was more DE than LB this week and played most of the game; Fitzgerald had maybe half a dozen snaps. At linebacker it was Gordon, Ezeh, and Mouton the whole way.

In the secondary, Cullen Christian came in for Rogers when he went out with a cramp. After Christian gave up an easy long touchdown they replaced him with Talbott. Avery saw time in the nickel and dime packages.

Formation notes: A significant shift. After playing almost no four man fronts against Indiana they played mostly 4-4 against MSU. The defense looked a lot like last year's. Michigan went to a nickel package early, replacing Thomas Gordon with Avery, but later they just left Gordon out there.

MSU did this thing:

full-house

I called that "full house," FWIW. I'm pretty sure that's not right but whateva, I nomenclature how I want.

Show:

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-4 Run ? Zone stretch T. Gordon 4
Eight man front with a standard 4-3 even alignment for the LBs and Kovacs hanging out on the backside; MSU runs at Roh and Thomas Gordon. Some three guys sort of block RVB, getting slightly down the line and then popping a guy out on Ezeh. This leaves T. Gordon totally unblocked but he overruns the play(-1), allowing a cutback; Martin(+1) had avoided a cut and comes from behind to tackle as the RB crosses the LOS. They fall forward.
O24 2 6 Ace 3-wide Nickel Pass N/A Bubble screen Rogers 7
Avery in for Gordon as MSU goes three wide; Michigan shows man coverage and one-high with Avery tracking the WR across the field when he goes in motion. Rogers is focused on his man so does not see the play developing and sucks inside on the WR until he blocks Avery, at which point he chases down Martin but not before the first down. (RPS -1, Rogers -0.5)
O33 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-4 Run ? Power off tackle Roh 0
MSU pulls a TE across the formation to overload the short side. Dangerous as T. Gordon is going with the TE to that side in man coverage and he gets a block on Ezeh, effectively getting a 2 for 1. Roh(+2) takes on a block from the motioning TE and comes through it, grabbing the back at the LOS and tackling there; Mouton(+0.5) attacked the play and got his guy back far enough that there's no way for the RB to fall forward.
O33 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Out Floyd 14
Okay, so Kovacs doesn't quite get out in the flat fast enough to prevent this throw from being completed but with Floyd in a cover three behind it this should be five yards and a third and medium. Floyd(-2, cover -2) instead starts chasing inside against a TE he has no shot at and opens this up for an easy first down.
O47 1 10 Ace 3-wide Base 4-4 Run ? Power off tackle Ezeh 3
Er. This is dangerously close to breaking through the line because Ezeh(-1) reads the play wrong and ends up running right into the last lead blocker; Mouton had hopped out to close off a gap further outside. Banks(+0.5) had managed to fight through his double and caused some linemen to fall; Ezeh gets pancaked but the hole's narrow enough that the RB trips over a mess of bodies. Video clipped for Ezeh complaint complainers.
50 2 7 Ace Base 4-4 Penalty ? False start ? -5
Oops
O45 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Run   Power off tackle Mouton -1
Michigan blitzes right into the run play, sending Banks on a slant past the playside T and blitzing Mouton and Kovacs from the backside. Martin(+1) zips past the center and bumps the pulling G, knocking him back into the RB and allowing Mouton(+0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) to converge and tackle, though they do allow the RB to get two almost impossible yards. This is the kind of stuff our tailbacks have not done this year. (RPS +1)
O44 3 13 Shotgun trips bunch 3-2-6 dime Pass 4 Throwaway Martin Inc
Michigan aided by Cousins momentarily fumbling the snap. Michigan uses Roh as a blitzer up the middle on a stunt, which gets Martin(+1, pressure +1, RPS +1) around the C. He then makes the back miss and forces Cousins to scramble and throw the ball away. Black(+0.5) also drew a holding flag, though it was more poor play from the MSU OL than dominance. BWS picture paged this.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 7 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O28 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 PA TE seam C. Gordon 34
Plenty of time with the PA and a three man rush(pressure –2); Mouton(+1, cover +1) gets a really good drop that forces Cousins to toss a lob over his head and should set up a Cam Gordon INT or killshot; instead he takes a looping route too deep, allowing the TE to catch the ball just in front of Floyd. He hits Floyd, but Floyd(+0.5) does bang him to the ground, preventing a TD. Gordon gets -3. The coverage stays +1 since because of the good drop from Mouton this window was really tight and could have been nonexistent.
M38 1 10 Shotgun trips TE Nickel Run ? PA power off tackle Martin 3 (Pen -10)
M shows man. MSU fakes a bubble and runs an off tackle power play from the shotgun. Martin(+1) shoots into the backfield as there's no one blocking him—guard pulls—and he doesn't buy the fake. He shoves the G and forces the RB outside of the intended hole. Roh(+1) sets up outside and would be in position to do something about the bounce but is thrown to the ground, drawing a holding call. This opens up the corner. Ezeh is out there--not sure if this is good play or good fortune that the intended hole is gone because he gets blasted pretty good. He does force the RB inside where Martin cleans up from behind.
M48 1 20 Ace trips TE Nickel Pass 6 Sack Van Bergen -12
MSU goes play action and Cousins sets up deep in the pocket; Van Bergen(+3) beats an offensive tackle and shoots straight up the middle of said pocket, sacking Cousins for a huge loss. (Pressure +2)
O40 2 32 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 6 Out Rogers Inc
PA rollout. Ezeh(+1) is in man coverage on the TE, I believe, and when Kovacs attacks upfield, drawing him inside, Ezeh attacks, forcing a quick throw (pressure +1). Rogers(+2, cover +2) is there to break it up.
O40 3 32 Shotgun 3-wide 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Slant Mouton 11
Dangerous pass from Cousins just in front of Roh but on the money. It's ten yards downfield, though, so BFD. Mouton(+1, tackling +1) delivers a big hit to finish it.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 14 min 2nd Q. What a quarter. I bet the rest of this game goes just as well.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O16 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-3 Run ? Zone stretch Ezeh 8 + 15 pen
Triple guh on a stick. Roh(+0.5) and RVB(+0.5) do a good job of stringing this out; Ezeh is fast enough to prevent the C from sealing him. He takes a hit and stays on his feet, flowing down into the hole Baker is about to hit. If he just runs parallel to the LOS he has the guy or he has him cutting back into Mouton; instead he takes an upfield angle and whiffs a tackle, but not before he yanks the facemask(-2, tackling -1). C. Gordon(-0.5, tackling -1) comes up for a killshot after four yards but doesn't wrap up; Baker bounces off. The delay is enough for Kovacs and Rogers to combine to tackle; Baker drags the pile four yards. Michigan has just failed to convert on a third and one because Vincent Smith couldn't drag one guy one yard, FWIW. The difference here is stark.
O39 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run ? Zone stretch Martin 61
Man, I don't know. Martin(-2) heads upfield, which allows MSU to easily scoop him and get a center out on Mouton unmolested. Mouton takes a shove from him, then another shove from a second OL who has messed up his assignment and is just pushing the nearest player. He gets shoved backwards and out of the play but this is not his fault at all. Banks(-3) is getting way too far upfield; on a stretch like this when you realize you are backside you flow down the LOS, disengaging from the OL and giving up ground if you have to so that on a cutback you are in position to make a tackle a few yards downfield. Banks does not do this, instead getting upfield and falling. Doom. Baker sees the unblocked guys on the frontside and slams it up in the hole Martin and Banks provided, and then he's gone. I guess I blame Gordon(-2) for not getting the cutback angle here but Baker got through a big hole immediately and is gone; he's not the main issue. (RPS –2; I'll explain later.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 3-7, 11 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run ? Power off tackle Van Bergen 3
MSU blocks down on RVB and tries to hit the gap by kicking out Roh and pulling the backside H-back around to pick off Gordon. RVB(+0.5) comes under a block and forces the back a little further outside, where T. Gordon(+0.5) has fended off the TE who was attempting to block down on no one and then peeled off on him, tackling as the back approaches the LOS.
O25 2 7 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Screen Floyd -3
Bell initially split out, then motions into the backfield. MSU runs a screen that JT Floyd(+2, tackling +1) reads and attacks, arriving as the ball does and tacking Bell down in the backfield. Martin(+0.5) was also there as he'd read it and flowed with the interior OL. (RPS +1, MSU was banking on man I think.)
O22 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Penalty ? False start ? -5
The false start on which Michigan sends the house and gets a dumpoff that Kovacs tackles on.
O17 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide 4-1-6 dime Pass 4 Slant Talbott 18
MSU throws a give-up-and-punt slant that MSU's Martin turns into a first down by cutting all the way across the field. I'm not sure who or what to blame. I guess Mouton(-1) gets too far downfield and allows the first cutback and then Talbott(-2) does the same thing but it's even more damaging because he's the outside guy and has to force Martin into his help. Once Martin goes around him upfield Kovacs is easy prey for blockers and Martin has room to pick up the first on the corner. Woo freshmen cornerbacks. (Tackling –2)
O35 1 10 Ace Base 4-4 Pass 7 PA Fly Rogers Inc
Receiver with a step but Rogers(+1, cover +1) is in pretty good position so this ball has to be perfect. It's not. Michigan sent so many because they were in man free and two guys stayed in; T. Gordon(+0.5) took a good run at Cousins and may have caused the long throw. (Pressure +1)
O35 2 10 Shotgun trips TE Base 4-4 Pass N/A Bubble screen C. Gordon 11 + 15 pen
Rogers(+0.5) attacks this quickly and gets walled off by the receiver but his reaction has pulled the blocker upfield and created a lane for Cam Gordon to flow and finish the play. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) whiffs the tackle, turning 3-4 yards into a first down; Rogers then gets a facemask penalty on top of everything.
M39 1 10 I-form Base 4-4 Run ? Yakety sax ? -2
Fumbled snap. MSU recovers.
M41 2 12 Ace 3-wide Nickel Run ? Inside zone Patterson 41
So on this play Fitzgerald is in for Roh at DE and Patterson in for Martin. RVB is between them. Patterson(-3) is completely obliterated, getting sealed and kicked down the line by a scoop block; Mouton is cut off by a guy who had an easy release at him. Ezeh is again shooting into the outside gap. He did that on the 61 yard run, the first snap of this drive, and on this. Alternatives: Ezeh is a total idiot who keeps doing something he's not supposed to do or this is the scheme because of man coverage. I know I called this clever when Martin was in but here you've got Adam Patterson, who is very liable to have this happen, in and it seems obvious that you should play this way more conservatively. RPS –3.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-14, 4 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Run ? Power off tackle Mouton 13
Banks(-1) blown out of the hole and does not require a double so a TE has an angle on Ezeh and blocks him. Kovacs and Mouton are on the edge and Mouton(-1) takes the wrong shoulder of his blocker; with Kovacs outside of him he needs to funnel the play to that guy instead of getting locked out of the play and giving MSU a crease. He's through into the secondary, bowling over guys for some YAC.
M46 1 10 Shotgun H-back Base 4-3 Run ? Counter off tackle Mouton 2
Counter step from the back then they run a power play off the right side of the line. Banks(+1) reads the guy blocking down on someone else and gets into a pulling G, forcing the play outside. This time Mouton+(0.5) and Kovacs(+0.5) come on opposite sides of the lead blocker and give the RB nowhere to go, tackling him at the LOS.
M44 2 8 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Pass 4 TE flat Kovacs Inc
Three step drop pass to the TE in front of Kovacs in the flat; dropped. Probably turned up for five-ish if caught before Kovacs knocks him OOB.
M44 3 8 Shotgun trips Nickel Pass 4 Dumpoff Ezeh 5
First read is covered(+1) and then Black(+0.5) vaguely threatens Cousins, causing him to start moving around, at which point Martin is going to get to him so he has to dump it off to a covered(+1) RB. He's covered by Ezeh(-1, tackling -1) who misses a tackle at the LOS. Secondary converges to tackle short of the sticks, but the five yards given up allows MSU to go for it on fourth down.
M39 4 3 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 3 Hitch Mouton 10
Mouton(-1, cover -1) gets too deep and opens up a quick hitch MSU takes. Kovacs was in the area but had to drop on the outside receiver.
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass 4 Hitch Kovacs 4
Hitch at the sidelines is open and complete. The receiver is taken OOB by the throw with Kovacs coming in to tackle. No +/- on four yard passes.
M25 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 7 Sack Martin -10
Martin(+2) blows through the center's attempted block and comes right up the middle just as Cousins tries a pump fake. Cousins has to roll out, at which point Roh(+2) comes around the tackle to sack. (Pressure +3)
M35 3 16 Shotgun empty 3-2-6 dime Pass 3 Bubble screen Rogers 14
Michigan playing way off to get the stop so plenty of room. This gets dangerously close to the first down because Rogers(-1) let Martin outside of him; could have been a longer field goal if this was played better
Drive Notes: FG(38), 10-17, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Ace Base 4-4 Pass 6? PA TE cross Kovacs 15
Kovacs(+1, pressure +1) is blitzing off the edge to contain the QB and prevent play action from hitting deep. He does contain Cousins, forcing him to throw a looper off his back foot that's way high of the tight end. TE gets a hand on it and deflects it high enough for Keshawn Martin to catch the deflection on a ball that would have one-hopped to him. Rogers literally eight yards off of Martin as he catches it, but that was because of a cramp. Cullen Christian replaces him after the play.
O47 1 10 Full house 3-3-5 stack Run ? Counter off tackle Roh 6
This is an I-formation with another tailback next to the FB; probably not what this is actually called. MSU fakes an outside pitch and pulls a guard around to run a conventional power play. Martin gets a good push but is momentarily sealed away from the ball; guard gets a free release on Ezeh and blocks him, though Ezeh's in pretty decent position. T. Gordon(+0.5) comes up and hits the outside shoulder of the lead blocker, leaving the tailback for Roh, except Roh(-1) got suckered by the fake and went the wrong way around Ezeh. C. Gordon comes up to make another tackle, this one somewhat iffy.
M47 2 4 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run ? Zone stretch Ezeh 6
An aggressive RVB(-1) is cut to the ground on the backside, opening up a large cutback lane when nothing opens up on the frontside. This time Ezeh scrapes down the line gently and tackles the back. No plus since he's stationary and accepts a blow; he could have gotten more aggressive and held this down? I'm happy enough that he just makes a tackle, I guess.
M41 1 10 Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Pass N/A Bubble screen T. Gordon 0
T. Gordon(+2) is the slot LB as Michigan shows zone. He gets out on the WR at the LOS, tackling(+1) for no gain.
M41 2 10 Full house Base 4-4 Pass 6 PA Fly Christian 41
Why the hell is Cullen Christian the guy in man coverage on a receiver running a fly route? Why isn't it Floyd? Christian(-3, cover –3, RPS -2) is smoked crispy as he bites on an out and up gives up the touchdown. Roh was about to hit Cousins but no matter.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,10-24, 12 min 3rd Q. For that matter, why is Christian in the game instead of Avery?
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O7 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-4 Run ? Zone stretch Black 11
Another cutback lane opened up by the backside DE not flowing down the line properly. Black(-2) is playside of his blocker but instead of heading along or slightly off the LOS he heads a yard into the backfield and can only wave an arm at Bell. A yard downfield and he's forcing a cutback all the way behind the backside tackle into an unblocked Kovacs. Floyd keeps contain and forces the tailback into Gordon(+0.5), who makes a good tackle(+1).
O18 1 10 I-form twins Base 4-4 Run   Zone stretch Martin 4
MSU tries to scoop Martin again; this time he does not get sealed by the guard and flows down the line; the C pops out on Ezeh and cuts him. Martin(+0.5) is fast enough to tackle(+1) after a few yards. Black(-0.5) was unable to get off a block to help.
O22 2 6 Ace trips TE Base 4-4 Run   Zone stretch Martin 4
Martin(+2) owns the center and is going to blow this up in the backfield when he's tackled from behind. No call. As a result there's a gap. Mouton(+1) stands up a guard and sheds him to the playside, forcing the back into Floyd, who makes a tackle but gives up a yard or two after contact.
O26 3 2 Ace twins Base 4-4 Run   Zone stretch Black 4
Michigan completely crushes the frontside of this play with RVB(+0.5) and Martin(+0.5) getting playside of guys but Black(-2) is hurled to the ground on the backside, opening up yet another cutback lane. Mouton(+1) does a valiant job to shut it down but the RB has all the momentum and the pile falls forward.
O30 1 10 I-form unbalanced Base 4-4 Pass 4 PA throwaway Kovacs? Inc
First option covered(+1) with M in zone. Kovacs, Ezeh, Roh all +0.5 for good drops. The DL then drives through the OL and gets to Cousins somewhat quickly, causing a throwaway.
O30 2 10 Ace Base 4-4 Run   Zone stretch Kovacs 8
RVB(+1) slants into the play, blowing it up and forcing a cutback. Black(-1) is yet again blocked to the ground, leaving a cutback lane; Kovacs(-1) still has an opportunity to make a tackle(-1) at the LOS but misses it. Bell then runs through another tackle from Floyd(-0.5, tackling -1), turning four into eight.
O38 3 2 Ace Base 4-4 Run   Power off tackle Ezeh 11
Ezeh guh. This is supposed to go the TE side of the line, MSU brings the other TE in motion for use as an H-back but RVB(+1) stands up the OL and comes through as Bell approaches the line, forcing a cutback that's there because Martin(-1) got pushed out of the hole. Still, because Black(+0.5) slanted into the backside and occupied two blockers no one is blocking Ezeh(-2) at all, but instead of running through the window in the line and meeting Bell at the LOS he does the Ezeh sit-and-wonder. He's so slow here that not only does he not prevent a first down, he doesn't even touch Bell as he shoots through a tiny gap on a cutback, leaving C. Gordon to make a desperate tackle in a ton of space against a tailback who wasn't even delayed when he shot upfield.
O49 1 10 Wildcat Base 4-4 Pass N/A Reverse trickery C. Gordon 42
Cam Gordon(-3, cover -3) sucks up despite the fact they're pitching a reverse to THE QUARTERBACK. Floyd(+0.5) does manage to track the guy down.
M9 1 G I-form big 3-3-5 stack Run   Power off tackle Sagesse 2
Sagesse(+1) slants under the tackle and into the path of the play, absorbing a pulling blocker and still popping up in the hole. He causes a delay that Mouton(+0.5) picks through the wash to finish; Ezeh was also there but a step slower.
M7 2 G I-form big 3-3-5 stack Run   Power off tackle Banks 7
Banks(-2) obliterated in one on one blocking by the Spartan RT. Ezeh(-0.5) accepts a block from the TE and doesn't come close to shedding it. C. Gordon(-1, tackling -1) makes contact at the four and his tackle is run through as he tries to drag Caper down.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 10-31, 4 min 3rd Q. This is totally demoralizing and almost entirely the fault of Black and Gordon, two freshmen.
O18 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-4 Run   Zone stretch Martin -1
Hey, they adjust, probably after getting chewed out on the sideline. Martin(+1) slices through blockers and forces a cutback; T. Gordon(+1) also shot past a blocker and into a gap. Mouton(+0.5) and Banks(+0.5) have not been blocked into oblivion this time and converge to tackle.
O17 2 11 Full house 3-3-5 stack Run   Zone stretch Mouton? 2
No holes with Banks(+0.5) holding up to a double and Mouton(+0.5) slamming into the playside TE. No cutback available with RVB(+0.5) avoiding a cut and Roh hitting it up into the B gap; the play is strung all the way out to the sideline where Floyd boots the RB OOB.
O19 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass 6 TE slant Kovacs 6
Replica of the play that Michigan got MSU off the field with except for a false start: M bring six, Cousins has to get rid of it, Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) allows the catch but tackles three yards short of the sticks. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-31, 1 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Ace 3-3-5 stack Pass 5 PA throwaway Van Bergen Inc
Van Bergen(+1) isn't buying the run fake and is instead heading directly upfield at Cousins. When he turns around he's got DE in his face and chucks it away. Could be grounding but there are receivers vaguely in the area. (RPS +1, pressure +1)
O24 2 10 I-form twins 3-3-5 stack Run   Iso Mouton -1
Martin(+1) chucks past the center ridiculously fast and gets playside of a guard, driving into the play. Mouton(+2) defeats a block and shows up in the hole. Martin means no cutback and Mouton tackles with help from Kovacs and his man getting into the RB's legs.
O23 3 11 Shotgun trips 4-1-6 dime Pass   Drag Van Bergen 7
Michigan runs the same stunt they did earlier in the game with Roh attacking in the middle and Martin pulling around; this time Black is also rushing through the same gap and a bunch of feet get tangled and everyone falls. RVB(+1) is coming around the outside, though, and Cousins has to throw short because deep options are covered(+1); a dumpoff to Dell is tackled short by Avery and Talbott.
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-31, 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 I-form Base 4-4 Run   End around Mouton 15
Actually a great job by Kovacs(+1) to see the end-around fake coming and get upfield; he ends up taking both blockers out of the play. Mouton(-2) is running at the tailback and sees that he doesn't have the ball but for some reason steps inside and then comes up too fast, losing leverage and allowing Martin the gap that he hits. Gordon(-1) comes up and misses a tackle(-1); the secondary manages to stop it after another six yards.
O42 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 3-3-5 stack Run   Power off tackle Mouton 0
Michigan slanting away from the play so Banks gets shoved way down the line; Mouton(+2) is blitzing. He manages to slide under the attempted down block of the TE. He's into the backfield quickly enough to take on the inside shoulder of the second lead blocker and push him back into the RB's path. Mouton can't make the difficult tackle but the delay is substantial; Martin and Kovacs get him at the line.
O42 2 10 Full house 3-3-5 stack Run   Counter Ezeh? 8
Same play as earlier with the off tackle fake coupled with a counter coming underneath. T. Gordon(-1) is blitzing and takes off after the QB. I'm not sure what the LB responsibilities are but I think they're in man on their guys and Ezeh(-0.5) does not read the guy coming across the formation fast enough, getting blocked; Roh(-0.5) splits the minus because he's the LB to that side and is no faster despite not getting blocked. (RPS –1)
50 3 2 Ace Base 4-4 Run   Power off tackle Ezeh 3
They double Martin and neither guy gets out; RVB is the playside DT and gets blocked out of a small hole. Mouton, Roh, and Gordon are cutting off the frontside so there's just one hole to take. It is taken. Ezeh is there, meeting him after a yard… RB gets two more. This isn't exactly a bad play by anyone but this is the difference between a really good LB and a guy who's just a yard or two worse on a consistent basis. Michigan had this set up for a stop. They didn't get it.
M47 1 10 Ace twins Base 4-4 Pass 6 PA Corner C. Gordon 45
Motion drops Floyd back into a deep safety spot as C. Gordon comes up to the line. He and T. Gordon end up playing almost in the same spot because of? I don't know. I don't know what the coverage is supposed to be but it leaves a guy on a corner route wide open (cover -2). Could be Cam's fault or Terrance Talbott. Talbott(-1, tackling -1) whiffs a tackle to get this down to the two.
M2 1 G Goal line Goal line Run   Zone stretch Demens 1 (Pen -15)
RVB(+0.5) holds up to a double decently and is flowing down the line in the vicinity of the POA when the RB cuts up. Guy pops out on Ezeh, delaying him; Floyd is taking on the FB, so there's nowhere to go. Momentum and thudding power might get this into the endzone but Demens(+1) has come from his deep LB position in the goal line package, shooting through the gap between RVB and Campbell to tackle. Chop block brings it back anyway.
M17 1 G I-form big 3-3-5 stack Pass 6 Waggle Kovacs Inc
Kovacs(+1) reads the TE leaking out into the flat—similar play to the Webb touchdown—and covers it(+1); Cousins comes off his primary read. Ezeh(+1, cover +1) is all over the other TE; Cousins throws it high and basically away. (Pressure -1)
M17 2 G Ace twins twin TE Base 4-4 Run   Edge pitch Kovacs 2
Kovacs(+1) avoids a cut and gets into Cunningham, which allows Floyd to run up hard to the outside and forces a cutback. A chasing Banks(+0.5) and Ezeh converge.
M15 3 G Shotgun empty 3-2-6 dime Pass N/A Bubble screen Talbott 2
Give up and punt; Nichol actually at QB on this play for whatever reason. Talbott(+1) does a good job of stringing it out, FWIW.
Drive Notes: FG(34), 17-34. Final drive is after game is over and is not charted.

FFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

Just look at the first quarter, man. Time ceased after that.

FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUU.

Let's just get this over with, then? Chart?

FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUU.

Chart?

Chartfffffuuuuuuu.

Chart.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 9.5 1 8.5 One impact sack, some additional pressure, solid against the run. Good player.
Martin 11.5 3 8.5 A good performance, but coming down from his ridiculous nonconference level.
Banks 3 6 -3 Didn't do well, pulled for Black, who did worse.
Sagesse 1 - 1 One good slant.
Patterson - 3 -3 Killed to bits on second long TD for MSU.
Black 1.5 5.5 -4 Pancaked multiple times on drive where he got most of his PT.
Campbell - - - One goal line play.
TOTAL 26.5 18.5 8 This week Roh was mostly DE so his +4.5 factors in here. Story: two good players and not a lot of help.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 2 6.5 -4.5 Sigh.
Mouton 11 5 6 At least he's turned it around.
Roh 6 1.5 4.5 Wasn't a liability in the run game against a pounding team.
Johnson - - - DNP. Has apparently lost out to…
T. Gordon 4 2.5 1.5 Doing fine for a freshman.
Leach - - - DNP
Moundros - - - DNP
Demens 1 - 1 Goal line only, again.
Herron - - - DNP
Fitzgerald - - - Did not get minus for long TD but I'm sure having him in couldn't have helped.
TOTAL 24 14.5 8.5 Actual LBs: Mouton good, Ezeh bad, Gordon neutral.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 2.5 3 -0.5 Not victimized.
Rogers 3.5 1.5 2 Theory about displacement: fail.
Kovacs 6.5 1 5.5 Such a weird player.
C. Gordon - 11.5 -11.5 Of course.
Talbott 1 3 -2 Martin third down conversion largely on him.
Christian - 3 -3 Crispy.
Avery - - - Didn't register. Yay?
Ray Vinopal - - - DNP
TOTAL 13.5 23 -9.5 Less grim than the Chappellbombing. Still grim.
Metrics
Pressure 11 5 6 Lot of max pro PA.
Coverage 10 11 -1 Big hits; underneath okay.
Tackling 6 13 -7 Very, very bad.
RPS 4 7 -3 Bad.

[RPS is "rock, paper, scissors." Michigan gets a + when they call a play that makes it very easy for them to defend the opponent, like getting a free blitzer. They get a – when they call a play that makes it very difficult for them to defend the opponent, like showing a seven-man blitz and having Penn State get easy touchdowns twice.]

So. That's a major falloff from the defensive line. RVB and Martin acquired above-average days and Roh was decent. The other guys combined for –9, which is really really bad. I think this bore out in the substitution pattern, too: Banks wasn't playing well so they tried out Black, who played worse, so they went back to Banks.

At linebacker, the usual. Thomas Gordon continues to impress by not doing anything particularly wrong. If Carvin Johnson was really good enough to beat him out before the season Michigan should be set at spur for a long time.

In the secondary, Kovacs is good, and the starting corners weren't a disaster. Everyone else… ugh.

Aaaargh GERG ffffuuuuuuu?

I don't know. I don't think I'll know at all this year. If you look at how Michigan State gashed Michigan the thing that jumps out is the shocking youth of the offenders. By touchdown drive:

  1. Ezeh takes bad angle on first play, tacks on facemask. On second play Martin and Banks fail; Cam Gordon turns large gain into touchdown.
  2. Talbott lets Martin outside of him on third and fifteen to give up a conversion. Cam misses a tackle on a bubble screen, robbing Michigan of an opportunity at third and medium. Patterson is destroyed on a 41-yard touchdown with a bizarre scheme that sees Ezeh fly out of the middle of the field.
  3. Fluke tipped completion, two six yard runs veterans are responsible for, Cullen Christian burned deep after Rogers goes out.
  4. Jibreel Black is a cutback-conceding machine on the drive he plays every snap of. Ezeh does his sit-and-wonder on a run of moderate length. Cam sucks up on the trick play. MSU finishes the drive by blowing up Banks and shedding another Gordon tackle.

Gordon was also responsible for taking a bad angle on the TE seam on MSU's second drive. That should have been an interception but he overreacted to his error from the Notre Dame game and played the angle too conservatively. We have one usual suspect in Ezeh. The other players largely responsible for the touchdowns are two freshman cornerbacks, a freshman defensive end, and redshirt freshman and position switch starter Cam Gordon. Oh, and Adam Patterson, a fifth year senior who's never played before this year.

I do wonder what the hell this was supposed to accomplish:

I know I called it "clever" in the picture pages when Martin was in but that's the same scheme with Adam Patterson in the game. I thought it was clever because it was relying on your best defensive player not to make a major error—Martin did that one time and Michigan got burned, okay. Doing it with Adam Patterson in the game is asking to get touchdown in your face, and Michigan got touchdown it its face. This was not Ezeh's fault. I watched him do this all day; he did it on the first touchdown, then went to the sideline and did it two more times on the next drive. If he had screwed something up they would have corrected it or benched him, right?

Michigan went away from this later but here's why you just tell Ezeh to do something and hope it works:

Maybe that's a cutback he's not expecting but good lord, find the gap in the line and hit it. Even if you're slow an arm tackle slows the guy down. For him to not even touch the tailback there is dangerous, as Gordon has to come up fast and almost misses a tackle with his dodgy technique. Here, and often in this game, RBs were untouched into the secondary, though, and when that happens your safety is under enormous pressure.

Something in the same vein:

Michigan has that stopped. They have a third and two and have forced the tailback to run through a tiny window filled with an unblocked middle linebacker, but Ezeh is hesitant like always and catches the tailback. He never hits anyone.

Demens any different?

I have no idea. Here's your sum total of Demens hope:

His job in the goal line package is to come from way deep and flow to the hole. This is of interest because look how WVU aligned their linebackers back in the day:

wvu-2007-inside-zone

That's way off the line. Michigan has not done this yet but it might be something to try since Demens has been doing that in the goal line package, and doing it well.

Other scheme complaints?

It was insane to put Cullen Christian on an island against BJ Cunningham in a one-receiver formation. JT Floyd was in overhang mode against a TE; why not put your non-true-freshman on the receiver?

So I'm not entirely happy with GERG. But I'm also not sure what the hell you're supposed to do when Rogers goes out and your five-man secondary reads freshman, freshman, freshman, sophomore, sophomore and your nickel and dime packages add in two more freshmen.

Didn't you just say you liked Cam Gordon?

Uh… yes. And then he was terrible against MSU. His shoulder-block style of tackling was something he got away with before he faced Michigan State but against MSU he was bouncing off ballcarriers because they were big and strong enough to take the blow. Then he would try to drag them to the ground, which only worked sometimes and always gave up YAC. He blew a chance to intercept that TE seam, or at least separate the guy from the ball. He took a very bad angle on the first touchdown and got burned on the trick play.

This is a guy who does not have confidence in his angles:

Too aggressive against Notre Dame, he was too conservative here; later he would get too aggressive again. This is what happens when you flop someone in spring practice and have him start at free safety. He has a long way to go. He was just as bad as Michigan's debacle at the spot last year, unfortunately, and while there are  good reasons for that the fact he's stuck at free safety when he's linebacker size and linebacker fast is just another symptom of the roster explosion.

Is anyone, you know, developing?

Ryan Van Bergen appears to be emerging into a player who makes an impact. He had a slow start but two weeks in a row he's been basically on par with Martin as Michigan's highest-scoring DL. If he can do something similar against Iowa it'll be time to ramp up expectations for him to fringe All Big Ten.

Also, Kovacs may have had his best game at Michigan. He's so reliable; on a day when Michigan couldn't find a tackle it didn't want to miss, Kovacs twice dragged down TEs in space to boot MSU off the field. Only one counted, unfortunately.

Heroes?

Martin, Van Bergen, and Mouton are all guys who would start on nine Big Ten defenses, and they're playing like it. Kovacs is the complete opposite of the rest of the team.

Goats?

Player retention, youth, the defensive end not named Roh (Banks and Black were collectively –7), Ezeh, the cornerback not named Floyd or Rogers (freshmen CBs collectively –5), and Cam Gordon.

What does it mean for Iowa and beyond?

Apparently that Kenny Demens is going to emerge from the boonies and try to tackle people instead of catch them. Keep telling yourself he's just a sophomore, try to ignore the redshirt bit or the Moundros dalliance, and tap your heels together. If Michigan can upgrade there they might have a chance to hold down the Iowa running game. Michigan State has somehow acquired the without-question best stable of tailbacks in the league; Iowa's Adam Robinson isn't bad but he's not the equivalent of Baker/Bell/Caper, and there's only one of him.

I'm not sure how meaningful Iowa's statistics are in this department. They had three games against totally overmatched opponents. A fourth against Penn State saw Iowa bash into the PSU line over and over because they correctly guessed that Robert Bolden was not going to score on the Iowa D. The fifth saw Iowa gaffe their way into a big hole and abandon the run game in the second half. But for the record, Iowa tailbacks had 17 carries for 35 yards against Arizona (which has a kickass run D) and 28 for 95 against Penn State (which has an okay run D). They could be sort of okay in this department.

That will likely mean Ricky Stanzi is called upon to rain fire on the Michigan secondary, which he will do with aplomb. The Rick Six is a thing of yesteryear, apparently. I have some vague hope that the MSU and Iowa passing games are about equivalent but the MSU run game is a lot better and Michigan can hold Iowa to like 24 points or something.

Picture Pages: The Total Lack Of Backside DE Pursuit

Picture Pages: The Total Lack Of Backside DE Pursuit

Submitted by Brian on October 12th, 2010 at 3:44 PM

What happened on the 60-yard touchdown? The opposite of the thing that MSU did to prevent a 60-yard touchdown. This is a zone stretch. Michigan State has just run a stretch that creased the line because of a poor pursuit angle from Obi Ezeh. They tacked on a 15-yard facemask and got the ball out from deep in their own territory.

On the next play they run the same play to the other side of the line. Setup: msu-zone-td-1

Michigan is a 4-4 front with the linebackers playing even. Kovacs is rolled up to the weak side. MSU was in a balanced ace twins formation but pulled the backside TE to be an H-back on an overloaded line. The snap:msu-zone-td-3

It's a zone stretch. By this point something bad and unusual has happened: MSU has successfully scooped Mike Martin. See Mouton right in front of the umpire? He's got the MSU C coming out on him. The backside guard has his helmet across martin and will get a cutback gap for his running back.

Note Kovacs above flowing down the line. He has to check on Cousins first, then flow down after the ballcarrier in case he tries to cut it all the way back. A moment later the handoff has yet to be made but we're at a critical point:msu-zone-td-4

Ezeh is headed to the front side of the play. Many people have criticized him on this play for not being around but this is his assignment. MSU has overloaded one side of the field and he is the outside force defender. This is hypothetically a great adjustment. The guard releasing downfield has no chance to block him and Gordon is hitting it up to absorb the TEs block. If Baker has to bounce Ezeh will be there unblocked.

Note two things: Martin is totally sealed now and this frame is just like a frame we saw on the last Picture Pages where the backside DE is about to disengage from his blocker and flow down the line for cutbacks. Here:backside-flow-3

Back to this play, on the next frame we see… wait, where the hell is Banks?msu-zone-td-5

Banks?

msu-zone-td-7

BANKS!?!?!?

Right now Banks should be directly between the two State linemen blocking no one downfield. Maybe he won't make a tackle. Maybe Martin getting sealed here makes this cutback a dangerous proposition either way. Maybe an excellent back like Baker breaks a tackle. But a the very least, 280 pounds of defensive end in a not-very-big hole slows Baker down significantly.

Instead of a 280 pound defensive end there is air:msu-zone-td-8

Note that poor Mouton has no chance here since he took a shove from the center who  got the scoop on Martin. Then the tackle who had no one to block because Michigan was shooting Ezeh outside decides he may as well block the one guy still in the area. Linebacker double team downfield and back running in to area equals death.

Cam Gordon comes up hard but is too far to the inside…msu-zone-td-9

…(and Banks is still at the LOS)…

msu-zone-td-10

…seeya, let's burn something.

[Video still en route.]

Object lessons:

  • NOT Ezeh's fault. He had an assignment. Would he have executed it? Eh… maybe. But he can't be blamed for following his assignment on a cutback run he had a frontside gap on.
  • Not Mouton's fault much, if at all. Martin made it hard on him by allowing the C something close to a free release and then the clever scheme Michigan ran got Michigan a free hitter to the frontside… and a doubled linebacker to the backside.
  • IME, this is 90% on Banks and Martin. Yes, Gordon came up too shallow and robbed himself of an angle but Baker's hard cutback wasn't impeded in the slightest and when someone shoots into the secondary like that to the backside of a play it's not surprising that the safety was caught off guard. If Gordon is more experienced here maybe he gets an angle and cuts this down to a 40 yard gain or something.

    But giving up that gap is on Martin, and not closing it down, or slowing it down, is on Banks. Banks's error is greater since he's not dealing with a double team and all he has to do is run away from his blocker into the gap. He doesn't have to beat anything. He just has to get in the way. Instead he falls on his butt because he does not get away from the LOS and gets caught up in the wash of Martin getting playside of his blocker.

  • The rest of it is Gordon. He's not that fast and took a poor angle. He was not going to be able to hold this down much but there's a big difference between 40 and 60 yards.
  • This is actually a clever scheme that takes advantage of Michigan's strengths and beats the blocking scheme. The shame of the play here is that its weak point so ruthlessly exploited is Mike Martin's gap. Mike Martin is Michigan's best defensive player and can almost always be relied upon to not do what we saw here. If Martin does what he usually does, Ezeh has a shot at a TFL on Baker as he tries to bounce it outside Roh. If fifth-year-senior Banks does not get caught up in the wash from Martin's attempt to rectify his error, Baker gets a decent run that probably comes up short of first down yardage. Neither of these things happened and Cam Gordon was subjected to tremendous pressure he did not roll double sixes on.
  • Man it would have been nice to be in two-high here. Kovacs coming downhill at this holds it down, too.

Monday Player Presser Notes 10-4-10

Monday Player Presser Notes 10-4-10

Submitted by Tim on October 4th, 2010 at 4:02 PM

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Denard Robinson

"I'm feeling good. Feeling alright. Just got done lifting." He felt pretty good yesterday after the Indiana game. Staying healthy - "I guess every Big Ten game's going to be a big game. I've been working out, I've gotten treatment, doing everything I can to take care of my body."

"I love people, so it's not that bad" getting recognized around campus.

"I've made some bad reads, and I kind of overthrew a couple guys. There's always time for improvement." Doesn't worry about his stats, so he doesn't care what people are saying about him. "Just don't watch it, don't read it, stay away from it."

Teammates can make plays "don't try to make too many plays."

On Roundtree: "Roy, just give him the ball and he's going to make something happen." He just makes plays. "We could do that with all our receivers, but he's standing out right now."

OL has been performing every week. "That's who I've gotta give thanks to all the time. Them and God."

Doesn't get any bigger than M-MSU [Ed: just wait a few weeks, son], it's going to be a hard-fought game. "They're a great team, they're a physical team, and they come to play. It's going to be a hard game." Everybody gets pumped up for this game, especially in-state guys.

"I was playing with him. I felt like I was in the game and just playing with him." During Tate's comeback at MSU last year.

Greg Jones is a fast, physical player who can hit. "As a quarterback, you've gotta read everybody else, not just one player." Nobody's tried to spy Denard with one player yet, we'll see what MSU does.

Roy Roundtree

"Mike Shaw is doing good." He told Roundtree he's ready for Saturday. Just needs to go in, watch film, and get ready.

Denard is always worried about getting better, and that's what he's doing. "Man, Shoelace just too fast... Coach Rod just tells him 'run straight,' and once he runs, he runs." Depth at QB means that the offense doesn't struggle too much when Denard goes out. Denard is humble, and doesn't worry about the Heisman hype he's getting. "This week, he's gotta get better, and get us right." The skill players like to have the quarterback motivate them.

Roy works hard and listens to the coaches to get better. "It's showing Saturdays, but I know I've got a lot to improve."

"When we're out there, we don't really know the stats and whatnot. We just go out there and play Michigan football." Not worried about how many yards they got. Happy for Junior's big game against IU after the fact.

Everybody knows their offensive assignments now, the team is prepared well.

Intense this week? "Come on man, it's Michigan State, it's rivalry week." This will be the biggest game Roy's played at Michigan Stadium outside of Ohio State last year. Need to have a great attitude this week to get the win. "This week is like a different intensity level."

"You just gotta be ready, man. It's all preparation." Can stay undefeated and clinch bowl eligibility this game. "What happened last year was last year. You know, it hurt all of us. But we've gotta do what we've gotta do today to get ready for Michigan State."

"I still get nervous each game, so it don't really bother me." Prepares hard, which makes him confident for each play he's out there.

They've played tough defenses, not worried about putting up stats, just getting ready for the next D they'll face.

Steve Schilling

On Denard- "Any time he breaks through there, we know he's gone, which is a great feeling to have." The more yards Denard gains, the better it is for the offense.

Confident in the offense even if Denard goes out. Tate and Devin getting snaps, and they can spread the ball around. "I'm pretty confident in our offense no matter who's out there. Obviously 16's a special player."

You're getting the job done if you score quickly on offense.

Patrick's been playing really well, Taylor's been showing what the players knew he could do.

The OL is confident in the running game, hopefully they can run for more yards and get the win (as the team who has rushed for more yards has won 30 of the past 33 matchups between these teams).

Was never into the Washington-Washington State rivalry. Michigan-MSU is a much bigger rivalry. "Even if you win the Big Ten, you didn't win the state championship" if you lose to MSU.

Seniors will explain the importance of this game to some of the younger guys. "If you come to Michigan and you don't understand the rivalry between Michigan and Michigan State... it's almost set in stone." They'll also hear from some former players about the rivalry.

Doesn't hear from students about losing to MSU twice in a row. "I know the fanbase obviously wants to get a win." Lots of people want to beat State. Winning as a senior is the most important, because it's the one you remember. "To be able to go out with a win, and to be able to say you beat Michigan State in your senior year is huge."

"Michigan State's always a physical game." Not particularly concerned for Denard, because he's a tough guy. He understands the importance of the rivalry. Maybe a little more banged up than he lets on with his toughness, good leadership.

Schilling hopes Michigan's speed can trump State's size. Endurance will be a big factor as well. "Some of the non-conference teams were smaller" up front. Michigan State has more size. Big Ten teams in general are a bit bigger.

Greg Jones is almost always leading the nation in tackles. He powers through blocks and makes a lot of plays.

"It's a big test for us. Coming in undefeated, there's a lot of angles to kind of approach it." Lots of storylines, looking to come out of the game undefeated.

Mike Martin

Big sack against Indiana - "It was an exciting play, a big play for our defense."

"I've seen still pictures of myself before I snap the ball, and it kind of scares myself" the faces he makes.

Creating turnovers is a big emphasis. Coach Robinson talks about it, because you have the opportunity to get the offense the ball more than the other team.

He was used some at DE against the Hoosiers. "It's a different look. Whenever you can give a different look to an opposing team, I think it confuses them." They'll practice it again this week.

Patterson is a good sub when Martin needs a rest.

It's nice seeing other defenses chasing Denard around, because Martin, Van Bergen, and Banks have to do it in practice all the time. "He's always been a hard worker."

Michigan State is a big game for both teams. Excited to prepare this week. "I always grew up watching Michigan, so I loved Michigan through thick and thin... I never really liked the color green."

Tough to lose the last two years, but it will help be motivated to get the win. "We do remember what happened in the past, and the past two years have been hard." It's made the team better overall and closer as a unit.

Making a bowl is a team goal, along with winning the Big Ten. "If we can just control what we can control" that's all you can ask for. "We always remind ourselves of our goals." Keeping it in sight reminds you of what you can do.

MSU's offense is good, Martin has already watched a bit of film. "We're just gonna prepare as best as we can. Guys are getting in the film room on their own."

"I love the fact that they're undefeated. That just makes this game even bigger. I think that ensures they give their best on Saturday, and I wouldn't want it any other way."

There's a bit more talking between teams in a heated, in-state rivalry game like this one.

MSU's line looks athletic, and they play hard. Both teams play a little harder in this game, because it's a big deal.

Obi Ezeh

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Doesn't worry about what outside people are saying about the defense. He knows the defense has its issues (as does the offense). "They're all correctable. Every team's going to have issues, and every unit's going to have issues. We have five new starters so we're kind of learning as we go here... We're undefeated and we haven't played our best football yet."

"It works in practice, so it should work in games." Some issues are people trying to do a bit too much. Defense is improving this year, taking strides inthe right direction.

It's good to win the games, but you know where to draw the line with letting it get to your head. "As soon as I leave here and go down to the biulding, I put on my business face and go to work."

Not worried about bowl eligibility right now. Try to win the game, and that will happen on its own. "Those rivalry games are always big for us... it doesn't matter if we haven't won a game going into those, it's always going to be a big game."

Want to stop the run against MSU - "that's usually the key to victory in most games." Get after the QB and punish their skill players. "I feel more needed" when the opponent will try to run the ball.

Was always interested in Michigan running backs growing up, so he was on the Michigan side. Was a RB in high school.

"Year-round I hear from all of my ex-classmates who have gone to Michigan State. A lot of the families back home are either Michigan or Michigan State." The in-state rivalry is an all-year thing.

"It's not easy, it's not fun" to lose two in a row and not have bragging rights. "That's part of our motivation is to go out and get those bragging rights back."

Do you root for MSU in other games? "I don't. I would like them to have as much success as possible before they play us." It doesn't rise to the level of rooting, though.

"I hope the crowd's really rocking on Saturday."

Jordan Kovacs

"I think every defensive player takes that personal, and it makes us even hungrier for the win" when people talk down on the M defense.

Improvements are happening week-to-week, particularly the young guys. "I know it something that's surely going to show up in games."

Mike Martin played well against Indiana. "It worked out pretty well, he was definitely getting after the quarterback." Defense hurt themselves with some penalties, and that stuff is correctable.

The players may be fueled by losing the last two to Michigan State, but the past is in the past. "It doesn't matter if it's my first win or my fourth win against them, any time you can play Michigan State, you'd better be motivated."

Keys to the game: "It doesn't matter who your opponent is, any time you can make a team one-dimensional... you've got a chance of winning the game."

Cousins is a great QB, and they have a great offense. This should be the biggest challenge so far for the defense this year.

RBs are big guys that can move. Probably the best Michigan has seen this year.

Denard: "He's something else (laughs)." Other teams can try to contain him, but Kovacs doesn't know how they'll do it. "You've gotta have some speed, that's for sure."