Michigan Museday in Rock, Paper, Scissors

Michigan Museday in Rock, Paper, Scissors

Submitted by Seth on February 28th, 2012 at 8:19 AM

rock-bull-dwayne-the-rock-johnson-775398_1178_1319Toilet-Paperedward aux mains d'argent

This is a follow up to to Doctor Rocklove a few weeks ago, where I identified the influence of offensive sets on philosophies. If you're not familiar with offensive theory you should go back and read that. If you're a football coach you are welcome to pinch the bridge of your nose and shake your head, for this is only going to cover about 20 percent of what you know to be the basics of offensive football.

The point today is to look at some of the base plays of various offenses, and a few of the constraint plays that they use to counter, and what defenses do to counter that. In doing so I hope to find stumble upon a better explanation of Borgesian offensive theory than the "grab bag" this space has previously suggested.

That Thing You Do

You've probably read enough college football boilerplate by now to have heard a coach talk about "what we'd like to do." This does not have to mean one play, but it often means one concept—very much like a play—which the team will be able to execute to perfection against the defense they want to see. That play is usually going to be low-risk, and if executed flawlessly against the vanilla defense it's built to beat, it will gain a consistent 5 to 7 yards. the-art-of-manlinessIt can be run out of many formations, and you will practice it a thousand million times until you are sure it will work every time unless the opposition "cheats" to beat it.

For Vince Lombardi it was the sweep. For Wisconsin (and virtually every high school in our division in the late-'90s) it was the ISO. It could be the Triple-Option (Bo), or the Zone Read (Rodriguez), or Hitch-n-Out (Walsh) or Levels (Peyton Manning's favorite), or 62 mesh (Captain Leachbeard). With passing offenses, which is Borges's thing, it's important to note that the core concept itself can often be a package of plays which work off of each other, none particularly favored; for running the same concept will vary where on the line it will attack.

You can go crazy for your core concept. You can practice it incessantly. You can recruit players whose skills best fit what they're supposed to do on that play. You can even focus physical training on developing muscles that are used on that play. The better you are at that play—and this is a sliding scale—the more the defense has to move someone or do something to "adjust" to you. But this is a zero-sum game, so if you're moving a defender to stop the base play, he's no longer doing the thing he was doing before. He is making something else way easier than it should be. He'll do this anyway, until you make him pay.

Constraint Theory of Offense and RPS

What you choose as your core play or concept will determine much about the other things your offense does, because now you add plays to punish defenses for adjusting to your base play. That's what coaches mean by "constraint"—you are constraining the level to which the defense can react to your bread and  butter. What you are essentially doing is creating an environment in which you get to run your core play, which you've practiced more than any other play, exactly how you drew it up as much as you can.

Mike Martin forces a pitchCertain concepts are almost always constraints because they won't work against vanilla defenses. Delayed handoffs work because the defensive line is closing on the quarterback as if it's a pass play. Halfback screens work well against blitzes but if a linebacker is in man on the running back, a vanilla defensive concept, you're screwed.

Defensive wins in rock, paper, scissors are rare and lucky guesses; usually a D's successes come from outstanding execution of a vanilla defense, for example if the nose tackle shoots past a playside block and forces a pitch on a speed option (as if that could happen).

Defenses have constraints too but theirs are limited by the offense's greatest advantage: whoever has the ball chooses the play (the D's advantage is so much more can go wrong with offensive execution). Defensive constraints translated to boilerplate sound like "we took away the run and made Denard beat us through the air." What they mean is the defense was cheating against the offense's base play all game but leaving themselves more open to the constraint plays, betting on poorer execution by the offense.

Dantonio last year sent two blitzing linebackers up the middle on many occasions, taking away Michigan's bread 'n butter play "Denard-'n-stuff." This forced Michigan into our constraint, which was targeting open receivers in short zones, but then Dantonio took this away by having safeties replace the blitzing LBs. This opened up another constraint by making deep coverage completely up to the cornerbacks, but then a trash tornado covered that constraint for them.

What the constraint theory does for playcalling is create a kind of matrix of offensive adjustments to defensive adjustments and adjustments to those adjustments. For a typical varsity high school team that matrix is probably 20 plays, and for college football it's more complex, and in the NFL the adjustments are so myriad and subtle I'd have an easier time teaching EMI/RMI shielding (it sounds hard).

Because the shades of gray in such a big decision matrix make for convoluted understanding, I've tried to (over-)condense the basic constraints of four basic offenses. There is way, way more but these are a few of the constraint packages that Michigan used last year.



Offensive Concept: I'm bigger, faster and stronger than you are, so I'm gonna hit you so hard your momma cries, then evoke masculine metaphors.

Defensive Concept: Control the point of contact, win 1st down, never let the train leave the station.

  Offense Defense
Rock Man-on-man blocking, backs hit 2nd level at full speed running vertically. Repeated success quickly tires defenders, especially if the backs are regularly hitting defensive backs, and sets up soul-crushing play-action. Read and react. Have LBs who can react quickly to the right hole (5-2, 4-3 under, 3-4), or b) have superior DL beat their blocks while the LBs maintain their gaps (4-3). Zone behind that so CBs can pincer.
Paper Prey on the reacting linebackers by running play action, then rolling the pocket away from the point of attack and passing deep. Blitz their favorite gaps. The point is to control where the point of contact occurs, so the sooner that happens, the sooner one of them will take out the lead blocker, and the sooner the ballcarrier is tackled.
Scissors Screens, draws, and quick, short passes to curl and out routes to take advantage of corners' fears of something deep. Back off into safe coverage--these days it's cover 2 man, meaning the cornerbacks are in man on WRs with safety help over the top. This takes the CBs out of run support but any pass deep is into double-coverage.

Timed Passing (West Coast)


Offensive Concept: A symphony of route design and timing that puts defenses into a progression of impossible choices.

Defensive Concept: Throw off your timing, suffocate your routes, kill your conductor.

  Offense Defense
Rock Quick routes by receivers and RBs that make a zone defender commit to one guy, then hit the other guy before another defender can come up. Cover-2, and faster, smarter zone defenders who pass off receivers seamlessly, so that the O has to check down to nothing, throw into a super-tight window, or just runs out of time before the pass rush gets home.
Paper Run the ball with power, delayed handoffs and screens. Once the defense is thoughtlessly stepping backwards when the QB is, they're no longer able to react to something as basic as a RB and his convoy pointed downhill. Zone blitz, i.e. drop DL into coverage while random LBs and safeties blitz or squat in short zones. Reads and blocking are much more difficult, and small windows become no windows.
Scissors Throw "hot" into the pressure, with pre-arranged hot (post-snap) reads that both the QB and his receivers make. Levels/Robber. Drop back in a 3-deep zone while rushing 5 (often the SLB/nickel). Robber reacts to runs/screens or replaces guy who blitzed for instant pick/scared QB.

Read Passing (Air Raid, Pro)


Offensive Concept: Spread, mesh, read, and gun, so on any given play, at any spot on the field, we can put it where you ain't.

Defensive Concept: Anywhere you can get, I can get faster

  Offense Defense
Rock Spread to pass. The O-line is spread to basically neutralize line play (DL will break through eventually but seldom right away). Receivers run "mesh" routes against each other, then cut off their routes when they've recognized the D in order to find soft spots in the zone. Cover-3 zone, trusting your LBs to intelligently route receivers and react and trusting the QB and WRs can't connect on all of their 7-yard passes and that soft spots are small.
Dynamite with a cut-able wick Curls, and/or bubble screen whenever the defense is obviously backing off. Dana Holgorsen has altered this to delayed handoffs and screens by using two RBs and putting one in motion to simulate the spread. 3-5-3. The Air Raid threatens the whole field to open up the easy passes off of two crossing routes, so forget pass rushing and clog up the middle.
Scissors (This is just mean) Four Verts: suddenly the deep receiver is no longer just a quick glance to keep you honest but a high-low with the seam. Press man coverage/blitz up the middle.

Option (Triple-Option, Zone Read)


Offensive Concept: Reverse the traditional 7-on-6 "numbers" advantage of the defense in the running game (i.e. their front 7 versus 5 OL and a running back) by having the quarterback participate, and "blocking" an edge defender by optioning off of him instead of wasting a body.

Defensive Concept: The cat has more patience than the mouse.

  Offense Defense
Rock Isolate an unblocked front-7 defender against the QB and another accessible option he can go to once the defender commits. Change up the edge attack so the QB is reading the wrong guy or walking into a trap. Scrape exchange, slant the DL, etc.
Paper Fake the option and then send a quick seam over the heads of the oncoming defenders. Cheat extra defenders (8 or 9 in the box) into the area where the option will occur so nobody gets isolated and/or blitz into one of the options (e.g. CB blitz or MLB blitz into RB's hole) so unblocked guy can focus on one option.
Scissors Option 3. This is the FB dive in a triple-option and the bubble screen in the spread 'n shred, and is a constraint called by alignment. Line up "clean" with safeties still in coverage, and if they option do what you can to delay the decision and await the cavalry.

Next time in this series: vanilla defenses, and the best offense for Michigan this year and beyond.

Picture Pages: Throwing Rock Against A Slant

Picture Pages: Throwing Rock Against A Slant

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2010 at 1:33 PM

UFRing the Purdue game was a blast from the past, and in a frustrating way. After the first drive Purdue spent much of the day with eight guys in the box, and Michigan ran at them anyway. Since Michigan's always based out of a three-wide formation this is the equivalent of having nine guys against a tradition I-form; Purdue spent the day showing really soft man zero that may have morphed into cover three after the snap but still should have provided Michigan ample opportunity to exploit the big chunks of space Purdue was leaving open.

Look at Roundtree here:


That was his whole day: sitting by himself and never getting a bubble. There were a lot of reasons for this—primarily the weather and Michigan's reluctance to do anything risky against a Purdue offense that's much worse than Michigan's defense—that were in retrospect correct. At the time it was very frustrating.

Anyway, this Picture Pages is about what this eighth guy in the box allowed Purdue to do. Going into the UFR I was hoping I'd see something that would explain why the offensive line seemed to get whipped so badly, and I think this is it. So that's the setup above. It's Michigan's third drive of the second half. They start on the twenty, it's first and ten, and Purdue has eight in the box. Michigan runs a basic stretch at them.

A moment after the snap you can see that the Purdue linemen are slanting away from the stretch instead of flowing with it. This is not something you see often:


At the mesh point Robinson sees the slot guy containing and Kerrigan moving upfield past Huyge, who's releasing, so he hands off.


A moment after the handoff we see that Molk has completely sealed the playside DT. Normally on a stretch play this means the opponent is dead meat. That's because the playside DE has to maintain contain and sets up outside the OT, which means running a good distance outside, which means there's a huge lane for the tailback and whichever guard is playside gets a free release at one linebacker in a lot of space.

Here the DE has not maintained contain. He's slanted inside Lewan and threatens to get upfield for a TFL. Also the MLB is driving hard to the outside. Schilling either aborts his release to rub the DE or just gets caught up on the Lewan block in an effort to get out on the charging LB:


A moment later we see that Molk has erased both DTs with the seal but the playside DE is sitting in that hole. Lewan knows he's lost the battle and starts shoving him past the tailback. Smith has to go outside, where he's got a lead blocker in Hopkins against two Purdue linebackers. Schilling has no chance on the MLB since he shot for this exact hole at the snap:


A moment later Hopkins kicks one guy, Lewan shoves the DE, and Schilling is following the other linebacker into the hole. Smith's cutting up because he doesn't have much of a choice.


Linebacker is now the blur between Schilling and Smith. Schilling's managed to get him to run past the play a bit and he's got to make a diving ankle tackle…


…but he does:


Michigan receives zero yards.


Object lesson type objects:

  • Purdue can only do this because they have eight guys in the box against six blockers. One goes with Denard, so that's seven on six. Normally you see playside DEs set up outside on the stretch because if they don't that lead blocker to the outside threatens to pound a single linebacker and send the tailback into the secondary. Here Purdue outnumbers Michigan, which allows them to slant that DE inside and still get two guys on the perimeter when Lewan pushes the DE past the back. Purdue consistently answered the "one safety or zero" question with zero, and these were the results. Here they get the play to go exactly where they want to and kill it.
  • I don't think anyone blocking did anything wrong. The only block in question is the one on the playside DE where the guy gets under Lewan because he's slanting inside. If that DE gets past Lewan into the backfield that's a major issue but a main principle of zone blocking is you take the guy where he wants to go faster than he wants to go. Guy wanted to go inside, Lewan shoves him inside and opens up a crease at the LOS. Extra linebacker makes the play. The only thing I think Michigan could have done here is a weird anti-scoop where Schilling shoves the DE outside of Lewan instead of shoving the DT inside of Molk. I don't know if anyone's ever tried that so it's hard to blame the players.
  • This is actually close to breaking for some yardage maybe? Despite all this Schilling's good-faith effort to do something with that filling linebacker and Lewan's ability to create a decent hole sees Smith almost cut past the charging LB, whereupon he'd get somewhere between five and many yards. He can't.

    That's not a serious knock on Smith on his most effective day as a Wolverine. A back with the ability to make the cut he does on this sloppy field and the speed/power to run through that ankle tackle attempt would be a special guy indeed; hopefully Demetrius Hart can be that guy.

So, yes, I think I did find an explanation in what Purdue was doing that partially exonerated the offensive line. Michigan saw this front all day and kept running into it, which resulted in a crappy day on the ground. In this case the "crappy day on the ground" is 4.3 YPC excluding sacks, which is basically what good DeBord teams averaged on the ground. Since DeBord absolutely loved to run "away" from the extra guy and out-execute in the face of herculean odds, this makes sense.

Michigan's offense is going to net a huge RPS minus in UFR because of this rock, rock, rock playcalling, but don't take that too seriously. I get why they did it when Denard threw two horrible interceptions and a lot of his simple hitch routes to the sidelines were fluttering ducks. The conditions affected his throwing significantly, and allowed Purdue to spend 80% of the game running cover zero. When they stopped this on Michigan's late third-quarter drive from their own four, Michigan went right down the field until a clipping penalty on Lewan put them in second and forever.

More tomorrow when the offense UFR drops.

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana 2010

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana 2010

Submitted by Brian on October 6th, 2010 at 2:44 PM

Substitution notes: Nothing unusual little. It appears the top three outside receivers are all getting approximately equal snaps. Smith played the whole game, I think, with Hopkins the other guy in the lineup on the rare occasions Michigan used a two back set. He never carried the ball. The second slot receiver is being de-emphasized in favor of more lineups featuring tight ends.

Formation notes: nothing new.

Gratuitous video:


Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 3
Playside DT slants and does not get sealed but also runs himself out of the play so there's a hole-ish; Schilling trips over the legs of that guy and falls, removing a blocker. Whether it's because of this or Dorrestein(-1) not being able to do anything with the backside guy, Smith decides on the full cutback, which is open because the backside DE maintained contain. DE runs him down, etc. This play is a good example of what Smith gives you: he's okay. He doesn't break tackles and isn't fast enough right now to juke opponents. (ZR +1)
RUN+: RUN-: Dorrestein
M27 2 7 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 73
Omameh(+1) blocks down on the playside DT and blasts him out of the hole. Molk(+1) gets out on and seals one MLB; Webb(+1) plugs the other in the hole and Robinson has a lane right up the middle. FS comes up to fill, Robinson goes WOOP, and then he's gone. Stonum(+1) picked up a good downfield block to remove the last guy who might have had an angle. Replay.
RUN+: Omameh, Webb, Molk, Stonum, Robinson(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M15 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 4
Schilling(-1) is beaten and falls to the ground, forcing Smith behind him. There's a lane because of an excellent block from Webb(+1) on the backside but it's not open for much as Lewan(-1) was blasted backwards by the LB and falls over. That guy should put this on his NFL highlight tape. Smith has nowhere to go because of the minuses here and gets what he can. Molk(+1) did get a good downfield block on the MLB, which helped create a pocket for these yards. (ZR+1, btw)
RUN+: Webb, Molk RUN-: Lewan, Schilling
M19 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
This is not the right read with the backside DE setting up outside and another linebacker coming up, plus Stonum getting attacked like whoah by the corner. Anyway, Robinson's on the edge with two Hoosiers but manages to dance past them and pick up some yards; Omameh(+1) had gotten an excellent driving block on the backside DT and his push opened this up for a few more yards that you might expect. (ZR –1, Robinson gets off without a minus because his agility made up for the poor decision.)
RUN+: Omameh RUN-:
M24 3 1 Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Run QB lead draw Robinson 27
Smith motions out before the snap; he'll do this before most snaps out of this formation in this game. Molk(+1) and Schilling(+1) momentarily double the playside DT, who hops inside as Denard hits it upfield immediately; Schilling pops out to seal a linebacker. Lewan(+1) has obliterated the playside DE and ends up pancaking him; Webb(+1) runs over a defensive back and Robinson gets into wide open spaces. It looks like he might be en route to a touchdown but a safety just manages to grab him from behind and take him down. I'm not sure if this was ruled a fumble or not but on replay it's clear he was down before the ball is out.
RUN+: Molk, Schilling, Lewan(2), Webb, Robinson RUN-:
O49 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA rollout hitch Hemingway 17
Webb acts as the lead blocker here and Indiana bites hard, leaving Robinson a ton of space to operate in. He hits an open Hemingway in time for Hemingway to turn upfield and get some YAC. Pass was a little high but not too bad. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 32
Indiana is running the same response to this bubble that they did last year: crash the safety at it. Michigan is responding to the response by having the outside WR block the safety—they did this against UW and OSU late last year. Hemingway(+1) picks the safety off and Roundtree(+1) shakes the hesitant, evidently not good corner for a touchdown. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
RUN+: Hemingway, Roundtree RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-7, 5 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Flanker screen Odoms 5
Grady(-1) whiffs on a safety, which forces Odoms outside if he's going to get anything and robs Roundtree of his blocking angle. Still a decent gain thanks to a quick reaction and stiffarm from Odoms(+1). (CA, 3, screen)
RUN+: Odoms RUN-: Grady
M24 2 5 Shotgn trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass PA doom seam Roundtree 74
QB lead draw fake sucks the linebackers and the single deep safety up, providing Denard an easy throw to a wide open Roundtree that he hits. Roundtree starts rambling downfield, getting some vague help from Grady but mostly doing it himself, cutting back and then cutting out to get down to the three. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS+3)
O2 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Dive Smith 1 (pen +1)
Come to the play late so not really sure what happens, but Indiana has twelve guys anyway.
O1 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line Run Yakety Sax Robinson 0
Fumbled snap.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-7, 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M22 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 2
Schilling(-1) beaten to the playside by a guy he has position on, which forces Smith to ineffectually block that guy too and sends Robinson to the backside of the play, where multiple unblocked IU players meet him.
RUN+: RUN-: Schilling
M24 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass PA circle Grady Inc
Poor read by Robinson with the safety tearing after this and Gallon breaking open over the middle on the same route Forcier tossed to Roundtree last week; the deep hitch may also have been available. As it is he throws the circle and Grady drops it, though he was going to get blown up for three yards anyway. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M24 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 0 4 Nickel 4-3 Pass Tunnel screen Smith Inc
Robinson throws it high; this was getting blown up anyway with at DT running right into Smith as the ball passed overhead. (IN, 0, screen, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-14, 10 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 4
Contain; good handoff (ZR+1). Michigan does block the backside end but the DTs slant past Omameh(-1) and Schilling(-1) to blow up the play and the downfield blocking. Smith(+1) does a good job to cut it back behind Schilling, who just got enough of the DT to give the backside crease; he gets his point back. He hits it upfield until the contain guy comes down on him. This play was blown up and still got some yards.
RUN+: Smith RUN-: Omameh
M23 2 6 ? ? ? ? ? Pass PA rollout hitch Odoms 14
Watching highlights because you suck ESPNU; as we come back Odoms is sitting down in a hole in the zone and Robinson is nailing him for a first down. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
M37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB power off tackle Robinson 13
Schilling and Molk pull around as Koger and Lewan block down. Koger(+1) locks down the DE; Schilling(+2) pulls up to absorb a blow from a charging linebacker; very nice play. Robinson heads outside of that block, then cuts up inside of the corner that Roundtree got a piece of. Molk(+1) gets a downfield block on the last remaining LB; Smith(-1) is surprised by the direction of the guy he's attempting to block and lets him through; his diving arm tackle is just enough.
RUN+: Koger, Schilling(2), Molk, Robinson RUN-: Smith
50 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 7
This one barely gets out there, forcing Roundtree to dig it out. He does and manages to dodge the charging safety (who is now chagrined after terrible things happened to him), picking up decent yardage thanks to a good block from Odoms(+1). (MA, 2, screen)
RUN+: Odoms RUN-:
O43 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 6
Correct read (ZR +1); we come to this late because of cool graphics but as we do Omameh(+1) has control of Larry Black and is driving him down the line; Webb(+1) pops out on the linebacker that shows up in the B gap and Molk(+1) has both the agility and intelligence to decide he's going to pull around Omameh since this scoop isn't happening, allowing him to plow a safety. Smith runs up his back for a decent gain.
RUN+: Omameh, Webb, Molk RUN-:
O37 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB down G Robinson 28
Just Schilling pulling this time as Molk shoots downfield for a block without coming around. Lewan(+1) and Koger(+1) blast their dudes inside; Schilling(+1) gets that same linebacker, and Smith gets a slight shove on a charging safety that Robinson(+2) just runs outside of. He then picks up an awesome block from Roundtree(+2) that allows him to cut inside and set sail for the endzone, whereupon the guy Schilling blocked(!) runs his ass off to make a shoestring tackle at the ten.
RUN+: Roundtree(2), Robinson(2), Lewan, Koger, Schilling RUN-:
O9 1 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
So this is kind of interesting here since because of the 2TE set and Indiana's response to this, this looks like midline. Koger kicks out the OLB on the line, leaving the backside DE unblocked; he chases after Smith and Robinson pulls (ZR+1). Lewan(+1) gets a clubbing downfield block but it's for Smith and he guy is able to spin off of it. He's there to tackle once Robinson dances inside the safety who comes up to deal with him.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan RUN-:
O4 2 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 1
Backside DT times the snap and beats Schilling(RPS-1) thanks to it; there is a big crease to the right side of Omameh since the playside DE is actually running away from Dorrestein into Webb; Koger heads into it but Robinson can't follow since Omameh(-1) loses his guy; cutback and tackle.
RUN+: RUN-: Omameh
O3 3 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 5-2 Pass PA TE flat Koger 3
Zone stretch fake gets Denard on the edge; three Hoosiers attack him, opening up Koger for six; he flicks it in calmly. (CA+, 3, protection N/A, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-14, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-4 Run Inside Zone Smith 2
IU playing man with cover zero behind it so Robinson can't keep it (ZR +1) but the safeties in the box let everyone scream towards the playside and forces a Smith cutback into nothing. (RPS -1)
M30 2 8 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Hemingway 70
This is what happens when you play cover zero, Larry. Michigan fakes the same play, runs the bubble route, has Robinson pump, then throws a deep slant to a wide open Hemingway, who breaks the tackle of Indiana's terrible corner—same guy who got smoked by Roundtree on the bubble TD—and sets off for the endzone. +1 for employing the Tecmo Bowl zig-zag along the way. (DO, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +4)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-21, 14 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson 8
Two MLBs blitz so they're out of the play since M is running to a gap they're not attacking. Smith kind of holds one of them to prevent at TFL but does not get called because it's all subtle-like. I guess he gets a plus? Omameh(+1) gets his guy a yard back and when he tries to reach out for Denard Omameh shoves him so he falls; DE comes off a block to tackle from behind but not before major yards.
RUN+: Smith, Omameh, Robinson RUN-:
M21 2 2 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 1
Tate comes in as Robinson has dinged himself, and IU sells out to stop what the believe is coming, which comes. No chance for anyone to get out on the second level, guys slanting, no holes for Smith, and since Smith is totally average he can't do anything but get tackled. (RPS -1.)
M22 3 1 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Roundtree 0
Safety comes up on this and kills it when a simple slant would have been wide open; IU again sells out against this package of plays. Two straight. (RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-21, 9 min 3rd Q. This is Forcier's pooch punt. Michigan seems hesitant to let Forcier throw downfield when he comes in like this.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant and go Hemingway Inc
Gaaaah. Denard pumps the bubble and sucks up the safeties, then Hemingway burns the corner. Denard throws a 69-yard touchdown on a platter well long. (IN, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +3)
M31 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Roundtree 13
Safety runs up late and Michigan just goes drop-back pass against man, with Roundtree running an excellent slant and Robinson fitting it in a tight window for the first down. Roundtree makes a good catch. (CA+, 2, protection 2/2)
M44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 56
Another textbook scoop by Omameh(+1) and Molk(+2) seals the playside guy and gets Omameh(+1 again) out on the second level. Schilling(+1) cuts the hell out of the MLB and Stonum seals off the safety, sending Smith into the open field; he runs through a shoestring tackle attempt at the ten and scores.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk(2), Schilling, Stonum, Smith RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-28, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone stretch Smith 1
ZR+1 as there is contain. Schilling(-1) and Molk(-1) cannot scoop the playside DT here and the linebackers are flowing downhill super fast, leaving Smith nowhere to go on any part of the play. Still, this is a play someone else might have been able to run through an arm tackle on and get three or four, not one. (RPS -1)
RUN+: RUN-: Schilling, Molk
M29 2 9 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant and go Stonum Inc
Blockers left in and three deep routes. Denard overthrows Stonum, who is doubled but has a step on both guys; probably should have come off him and looked to Roundtree on the deep post. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 8
Five sent and live I thought Robinson spooked but on replay it's obvious the receivers are blocking. Blitz forces Robinson to take a circuitous route out of the backfield and Roundtree(-1) whiffs his block, leaving two guys able to contain Robinson; he shoots up between them but comes up a yard short.
RUN+: RUN-: Roundtree
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 3 min 3rd Q. This is where you go for it, no?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 11
Another midline-ish look with the H-back lined up to the same side the tailback is and Michigan blocking an edge player with him; unblocked backside DE crashes down on the tailback and Robinson pulls (ZR+1, RPS +1), finding open space.
RUN+: Webb, Robinson RUN-:
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Inside Zone Smith 1
M blocks the backside end so the read here is the backside LB, who is crashing down on the play. Robinson should pull, but does not (ZR -1), and that LB is right in the play, tackling at the LOS since the slanting DL took away the gap he's not in.
RUN+: RUN-: Robinson
M42 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB power off tackle Robinson 4
Omameh(+1) pulls around to lead block; he picks off the MLB but Indiana is reacting to this better and he's able to force Robinson inside where Webb(-1) has lost control off the DE after starting to drive him downfield; that guy tackles.
RUN+: Omameh RUN-: Webb
M46 3 5 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Stonum Inc
Indiana goes M2M, it appears, with a robber in the middle of the field; Robinson pumps the RB in the flat but wisely does not throw, then comes off on Stonum. He is well covered but breaking just open about ten yards downfield. The throw is one-hopped. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 10 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 3
I think this is Robinson screwing it up. He again pulls it on the midline read (ZR +1) as the DE crashes down on Smith, and should blast it upfield in the gap where there isn't a linebacker for days. Instead he takes an angle way too far upfield and then cuts outside Koger's block, only to cut back up, allowing the DE to recover and tackle. This is a big error, as Michigan had IU dead to rights. (RPS +2)
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Robinson(2)
M42 2 7 Shotgun H-back 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson -1
Reverse fake to Roundtree, FWIW. Playside DE does a good job not to get sealed by Dorrestein(-1) and then Omameh(-1) gets blasted back and actually pancaked by the IU MLB; Robinson has to cut way outside, where Koger(-1) loses his guy. That guy tackles Robinson in the backfield.
RUN+: RUN-: Dorrestein, Omameh, Koger
M41 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Pass Fly T. Robinson Inc
IU sends six guys but has a couple of them in definite don't-let-DR-escape mode. Dorrestein(-2) gets confused and lets a guy in free; Denard lets it go long to a single-covered Grady but the pass is well long. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 35-28, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson 8
Not quite a scoop on the playside DT but Molk(+1) does well enough, giving Denard a crease since Lewan(+1) blew out the DE. Schilling(+1) buries a linebacker; Omameh(+1) got downfield to bash someone, too.
RUN+: Molk, Lewan, Schilling, Omameh RUN-:
M35 2 2 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 17
Is this a planned counter? I don't know. Robinson takes a couple steps to the TE side of the line, then cuts back. Schilling's guy gets playside of him but then gets shoved past the play; Lewan(+1) buries the DE and then gets a little tug as Robinson passes. He evades the holding call and Robinson is into the secondary, picking up good blocks from Stonum(+1) and Roundtree(+1)
RUN+: Lewan, Schilling, Robinson, Stonum, Roundtree RUN-:
O48 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB stretch Robinson 2
Decent job on the playside by the left side of the line but IU is slanting harrrrd and Dorrestein has no chance to do anything to the backside DT so he's down the line and a cutback is out of the question. Robinson runs OOB after a few; Lewan did a good job to get the corner for him. This probably should have been PA. (RPS –1)
RUN+: Lewan RUN-:
O46 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway 42
Five men rush with two more in short Denard Zones; Omameh(-2) stumbles out of his stance as Michigan slides the protection and allows Black under him. Not really his fault but he did stumble. Black comes right up the middle to nail Robinson. He throws just before the impact and the ball is a lofted ball in man coverage that's to the receiver's back shoulder; Hemingway adjusts and leaps to catch the ball, stumbling to the ground at the four. THEY TRIED TO MAN UP CRAB. Seriously: if Texas Tech did this you'd be all like "they drill the back shoulder of the WR all the time." Do I think Robinson meant to place this perfectly as he was getting lit up by a DT? No. Can I say for sure? No. Was it the best possible pass in this situation? Yes. (DO+, 2, protection 0/2, Omameh -2)
O4 1 G Shotgun 2H 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB off tackle Robinson 4
Dude shoots right into the play; Smith(+1) submarines him and takes him out but that's erased Koger, too, so Robinson has to run away from the other guy shooting up the middle. Webb(+1) walls off the contain, Lewan(+1) rides the DE down the line and again doesn't get that holding call, and Robinson slams it up for the points that win the game.
RUN+: Smith, Lewan, Webb, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-35, EOG, basically. Woo!

Oh my gaaawd we scored so faaaaast.

Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's mostly Indiana's doing. Their defensive philosophy was totally different from Michigan's, especially in the second half. IU came out and shut down a run for nothing by sending both safeties on a kamikaze mission, so on the next play Magee calls this:

One clunky-lookin' white dude who's already given up a touchdown on a bubble screen versus Hemingway on a deep slant with no one else within ten yards == RPS +4. That's the main takeaway from this game, IME.

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS: 14 – 7 = +7

Plus seven is a big number. Michigan had a lot of plays on which gaining 70 yards was as easy as slipping a tackle, and since IU decided they couldn't sit back they opened themselves up to a lot of big plays when they guessed wrong. They could have bled Michigan down the field if they wanted to.

So all your complaining about Michigan's passivity in the defensive UFR should keep this in mind. I mean, the numbers for Denard were ridiculous and his—


—chart was actually a tiny bit lame this game:


2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? - 44%
UConn 2 15(6) - - 3 2 - - 2 - 68%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - - 71%
UMass 4 10(3) - 1 1 - 1 1 - - 73%
BGSU 1 4(1) - - - - - - - 1/1 N/A
Indiana 2 8(2) 1(1) 5(1) - - - - - 9/11 66%

(Tate threw one screen that I didn't bother charting since we already know he can throw screens.)

Two of his misses were out-and-out bombs UFR is generally forgiving about, but on one Stonum was magnificently wide open and Robinson could have put it in a five-yard radius for a completion but overthrew it badly. His strike rate on those is still pretty good: with the two from BG and the one completed one to Hemingway, he's at 60% on the year.

His reads on the zone were strong and his failures are a small portion of his overall resume at this point; I'm not worried he's going to go backwards. I think we all knew his miraculous lack of inaccurate passes from the UConn game was not sustainable long-term.

A note: I could have handed out a BR on another circle where he got his slot receiver lit up (see: you're killing Roy Roundtree) but gave him a CA since it should have been a short completion.


  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Stonum 2 - - - 3 - 3/4 11/11
Odoms - - - 2/2 - - 3/4 11/11
Hemingway 1 - 1/1 2/2 2 - 2/2 4/5
Jackson - - - - - - - -
Roundtree - - 2/2 1/1 5 2/3 3/4 20/20
Grady 1 - - 0/1 3 - 1/1 6/7
T. Robinson - - - - - 0/1 - 2/3
Gallon - - - - 1 - - 1/1
Koger - - - 1/1 - - 1/2 3/3
Webb - - - - - - - -
Smith 1 - - - 1 - 0/1 4/4
Shaw - - - - 1 0/1 0/1 3/3
McColgan - - - - - - - 1/1
Hopkins - - - - - - - -
Toussaint - - - - - - - -

Not much action because everyone scored so quickly; highlights were Hemingway plucking that 42-yarder out of the air just like his recruiting profile said he would and Roundtree grabbing a slant nicely. The one drop was the aforementioned three-yarder so no big deal.

Protection actually has a ding for a tackle. PROTECTION METRIC: 10/14, Omameh –2, Dorrestein –2.

10/14 isn't a great number but the sample size is so low it's not a big deal.

And, finally, a run chart:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Huyge - - - DNP
Lewan 8 1 7 Not getting called for holding, so those are on the plus side.
Schilling 7 3 4 More slant trouble.
Molk 8 1 7 Had a clever play to impromptu pull on a zone.
Omameh 8 3 5 This qualifies as an off day.
Barnum - - - DNP
Dorrestein - 2 -2 Big difference in impact between him and Lewan
Webb 6 1 5 H-back club is clubby.
Koger 3 1 2 They're playing more than the slots lately and for good reason.
TOTAL 40 12 28 On a per-play basis, ridiculous.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 12 3 9 Still Denard.
Gardner - - - DNP
Forcier - - - Wasn't involved in his two plays.
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith 4 1 3 Long run was pretty easy.
Cox - - - DNP
Toussaint - - - DNP
Hopkins - - - Did a little blocking.
McColgan - - - Didn't get to see the one play he was relevant on.
Jones - - - DNP
TOTAL 16 4 12 Maybe I should plus Denard more, but I don't know.
Player + - T Notes
Stonum 3 - 3 Great block on Denard's long touchdown.
Odoms 2 - 2 --
TRobinson - - - --
Roundtree 4 1 3 Showed zip on his TD.
Grady - 1 -1 --
Gallon - - - --
Hemingway 1 - 1 --
TOTAL 10 2 8 Consistent quality.

The charting did not keep up with the long runs. A 70-yarder is going to be +10 or something but 7 ten yard runs are going to rack up a lot more than that. Maybe I should had out a FLAWLESS VICTORY award for everyone when the play is successfully executed by everyone and Denard bursts downfield for six.

Anyway, the chart above seems to be the developing story of the season: Michigan has four very good offensive linemen and a serviceable right tackle. The tight ends are effective and versatile. Denard is a ninja. Vincent Smith is a reliable blocker and receiver without much wow to him even when he hits a 50-yard touchdown. And the receivers will block your ass. Together they result in Denard having more rushing yards than most D-I teams and some leftovers.

Oh no Denard's effectiveness waned after the usual injury?

Well, yes it did but I don't think that had anything to do with reduced physical ability. Michigan's first three plays of their game-winning drive were Denard runs on which he looked spry as ever. Drives after he came back:

  1. Misses Hemingway for sure TD, nails Roundtree on slant, watches Vincent Smith score a long TD.
  2. Indiana sells out to stuff first down run. Denard overthrows doubled Stonum when he should have come off on Roundtree. Denard's QB sneak comes up a yard short when Roundtree whiffs block.
  3. Keeper for 11, blown up handoff because Robinson did not pull when he should have, four yard Robinson run, Indiana goes man to man and Robinson misses Stonum.
  4. Robinson keeper should go for many yards but Robinson does not have faith in his read; stretch blown up; free rusher forces inaccurate bomb to Grady.
  5. Gamewinning TD drive on which he carries four times and bombs it to Hemingway.

Robinson was still running a ton, but he made some mental mistakes and poor throws. If he was damaged it didn't change Michigan's playcalling; more likely we're just talking about a true sophomore who is going to have some moments when he doesn't do the right thing.

Any hints of new stuff we might see against Michigan State?

I mentioned this after the Bowling Green game but Michigan has gone away from its all-zone-almost-all-the-time run game and has started putting in a number of power plays. Here's something straight out of the Michigan State playbook:

State features a jumpy, slanty defensive line and mixing plays up will either keep them from swarming the zone stuff or burn them badly when they get something other than what they expected. For all the Greg Jones talk, Michigan State gave up 5.5 YPC to Armando Allen and 6.6 to Wisconsin's Clay/White combo, and it was clear that Clay was laboring for much of that game. I'm not sure how much better their run defense is than, say, Notre Dame, and Notre Dame got gashed.

Also, Steve Sharik brought up the midline option in a diary and that's something I've been crying for for ages. By now defensive ends are pretty good about containing; tackles are not and tend to tear after the tailback. ND got us on the midline a few times, and no one is going to confuse their quarterbacks with Denard Robinson. Michigan showed something like it a couple times:

Okay, this is still the DE Michigan is optioning off of but Magee noticed that IU was using the WLB as a contain guy, so you block the contain guy and option of a guy who is not expecting to contain. That's similar in principle: do not allow the defense to know which guy is going to have to contain the QB before the snap. With Worthy a guy who absolutely loves to penetrate, running the midline at him seems like it could bust big.


Denard, most of the OL including the TEs, and Junior Hemingway's ability to high-point the ball.


Again, when you put up 42 points and almost 600 yards there really aren't any but I am still hoping someone pushes Smith to third string. Dorrestein is clearly a step behind the other guys on the OL.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

It's further confirmation that this offense is for real, though not a lot. Indiana's defense was as preposterously bad as expected. We didn't learn much we didn't already know except that maybe Junior Hemingway is a downfield weapon on jump balls, Marquise Walker-style. We always suspected it but he could never stay on the field long enough for anyone to confirm.

Everything else is par for the course.