Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics

Mailbag: Snap Jumping Again, Clock Management Win, Jake Ryan Of Christmas Past, Legends Logistics Comment Count

Brian October 16th, 2012 at 11:29 AM


Past Jake Ryan, hopefully not future MSU

Snap jumping. Not again?

Dear MGoBlog,

Please address Sparty jumping the snap. What can be done to prevent it or even use it to the Wolverines' advantage?

Please, please, please use all your influence to prevent Sparty snap jumping from successfully occurring this Saturday.  This is an important key to Michigan's offensive success.

Thank you,
Philip McEachern

I AM USING ALL MY INFLUENCE MAN YOU JUST DON'T KNOW. Unfortunately, that influence consists of squinting really hard and making "wahwahwahwah" noises to project psychic sound waves about me. I have no influence.

I do think that we will see that snap jumping significantly reduced in frequency, possibly almost eliminated. One of the hidden transition costs last year was a coaching staff that had not endured Jerel Worthy's sometimes-offside-but-usually-just-eating-your-heart dance party and did not spend big chunks off the offseason fuming about it and scheming themselves a plan to defeat it. This year everyone is well aware that snap timing blew up the Michigan offense in all different ways and that changes must be made. We have seen Michigan vary their snap counts—they did it last week—and with a home game Michigan should be able to use audible signals if they want. Meanwhile, Worthy is gone and I haven't seen the Spartan replacements be able to replicate that maddening skill of his.

Unfortunately, this prediction about the snap jumping has reached the status of turnovers under Rich Rodriguez: logic says it can't happen again, and then it happens again. At this point I'll have to see a Michigan coaching staff enter a Michigan State game as prepared to play as the Spartans are before I believe it.

If not this year, though, when? Michigan State's coming off three straight nail-biters that required them to dump everything they had on the field in an effort to win the game. Michigan's coming off a bye and two laughers. MSU is shuffling guys on their OL, has benched a senior captain LB, and is trying to find two tight ends to rub together.

They don't have the depth to do much other than what they've done already. They don't have a changeup like Baker they can go to; they don't have the tight end depth that threw Michigan off; they are trying to find anyone who can catch a ball. Please, Angry Iowa Running Back Hating God, yea the most powerful of all fictional supernatural football deities, hear our plea.

Bellomy on the goal line.


I am a little confused by the play calling after Denard went out with his "boo-boo".

1) Why is Toussaint in the "jumbo" (unsure if package name is correct)? Rawls just seems to have the short yardage figured out a little bit better i.e. size and running style: see 6:35 Q2. (I know my example comes after and did not have 6/7 on the line and all 11 within 5 of the LOS and inside the tackles but still).  Was Rawls insertion later a sign that he may now have the short yardage job?

You've got me on this one. I have two theories, neither of which seems that convincing.

Theory one: Fitz is in a funk and rusty and getting flack from people and some cheap touchdowns will help his morale, maybe get him driving harder at the goal line.

Theory two: Rawls is fumbling a lot in practice or going BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE.

Pick one or make one up yourself; I think either explanation is going to quickly fall by the wayside as Rawls becomes a preferred option inside the five. He probably would have scored on one of the two attempts. I do think the BOUNCE BOUNCE BOUNCE theory has some credibility behind it since I just watched Rawls look at this…


…and decide to bounce that outside the TE instead of slam it up at the gaping cutback lane like he was born to do. Amazingly, the guy seems to have some Michael Shaw to him. Go north-south, young moose.

2) Why the vanilla play calls? It was clear later that they trust Bellomy with some measure of the offense that is clearly larger than watching the RB run into some ineffective down-blocks. With the alignment of weak-side DE, LB, and FS, why not run a PA boot with the TE rubbing off and going all Funchey in the back of the end zone? Is this just a manball fundamental that we must live with this year while the donkey punchers are being groomed?


There's a big difference between trusting Bellomy to run around and fling stuff once you're up a billion points and having him take his first meaningful snaps in a rainstorm in a game that could still go either way.

Personally, I wanted him to hand off come hell or high water—when you're the silverback you want to lower variance, and having Bellomy think about all the stuff he's going to do after the snap could lead to bad news. Bellomy fumbled a snap later, after all, and Michigan doesn't want to open the door for anything cheap for the Illini because that's the only way they lose.

In general I don't think there's much to criticize either way about  goal line playcalling. The defense is selling out one way, you pick one or the other and succeed or don't.

[After THE JUMP: clock management, Afghanistan face-off, Legends logistics, Jake Ryan of the past.]


Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Michigan State Comment Count

Brian October 21st, 2011 at 2:37 PM

Formation notes: Nothing new save the Denard Jet formation moving back to shotgun.

Substitution notes: Almost all Smith at RB, with cameos from Toussaint and Hopkins playing FB when one was needed, whether that was out of the I or in a two-back shotgun set. No Barnum; Mealer came in for Lewan after Gholston judo chopped him off the field for a couple plays.

You know about the QB rotation; WRs were the usual.

Argh? Argh.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Hemingway 5 (Pen +5)
They are running curl/flat here but Robinson doesn't have time to let the corner truly pick one as the LBs are flying up hard into gaps into the line. This would be wide open for nice yardage if it was a slant. As it is the zoning corner doesn't drop back far enough to give up the edge and can come up to tackle. Pickleman offsides anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
M25 1 5 I-form 2 1 2 4-3 over Pass Throwback screen Gallon 1
MSU shows man as Gallon motions across the formation. Michigan runs an iso fake that sucks in the backside LB, who's blitzing, and Denard runs the throwback. Lewan(-2) whiffs on the corner and Schofield was late getting out because of traffic; two guys converge for no gain. (CA, 3, screen) RUN-: Lewan(2)
M26 2 4 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet QB power Gardner 5
Jet fake pulls a safety down and forces the other guy to go one-high. Michigan pulls to the backside; Koger(+0.5) kicks out Gholston as Lewan(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) club Worthy to the ground. Smith leads into the WLB as Omameh pulls around into... also the WLB(-2). MLB is sitting unblocked in a big hole; Gardner(+1) hops outside and gets the edge thanks to Hemingway(+1) sustaining a block downfield. RPS+1; if Omameh makes a block on the MLB this could be a big chunk.
RUN+: Koger(0.5), Huyge(0.5), Lewan, Hemingway, Gardner RUN-: Omameh(2)
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 9
Just the basic zone read. Worthy fights outside and upfield of Huyge(+0.5), which is not what you're supposed to do. Because of that there's a big cutback Smith(+1) hits; it also looks like Michigan might have creased the frontside but why risk it. Smith cuts back; Omameh(+1) gets a pop on the MLB and Smith gets to the safeties.
RUN+: Smith(0.5), Huyge(0.5), Omameh RUN-:
M40 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 26
Double A gap blitz on which they time the snap based on Molk's head motion. Molk(-1) goes down, comes back up, and immediately snaps so he has no concept of the blitz and moves out on a DT, which lets a LB right through. Denard is looking at a containing DE so hands off. Smith(+1) breaks the tackle from the over-aggressive WLB; Lewan(+2) gets a great seal on Worthy, and Schofield(+1) kicks the MLB. Once Smith is past the line there isn't anyone on the second level and he grabs a big gain. Koger(+1) adjusted to kick a DB once he noticed there isn't anyone on the second level. RPS -1. Picture paged.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Smith(2), Schofield, Koger RUN-: Molk(2)
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA TE seam Koger Inc (Pen +5)
Not so aggressive is the WLB this time; he drops into coverage as Koger tries to release. Robinson has the slot guy wide open and isn't pressured as he releases the ball but he still goes to the covered guy; I guess he might have to get this out fast because linemen are getting downfield on their blocks. Still, pass to covered guy instead of open guy. (BR, 0, protection N/A) LB interferes and is flagged. This is the Lewan-Gholston judo chop play, which is not flagged.
O29 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 0
Mealer in at RT as Huyge flips. They run at him. Weird. He loses his down block(-2) to a spin move and that guy gets in the hole; Schofield comes up to hit him but there's nowhere to go. Robinson tries to cut back, at which point Koger also gets his block spun through; wasn't going anywhere anyway. RUN-: Mealer(2), Koger
O29 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Hemingway 9
Same play as the first one; this time Michigan gets a man coverage look so when Hemingway breaks for the flat there is no one to hit him on the catch. He turns it up for some YAC. This was wobbly and upfield because the DE got a fingertip on it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
O20 3 1 Maryland I 2 3 0 Base 4-3 Penalty Delay -- -5
This play never happened but they got most of the way through it before they whistled it dead, so you could see that it was a power counter to the iso look NW blew up that would have worked, possibly for a touchdown, thanks in large part to Koger annihilating Gholston on the edge; dude got pancaked. The linebackers were gone and Toussaint would have been one on one with a safety for six. Oh well. RPS +1? Sure.
O25 3 6 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Speed option Smith 3
WLB overhanging on the weak side. Michigan goes option and gets the playside sealed except Omameh(-1) getting out late from his block, allowing the MLB to flow unimpeded. Robinson cuts upfield of the overhang guy, has to pitch when the MLB comes up, and Smith is not fast enough to get the edge.
RUN+: Molk, Huyge RUN-: Omameh, Schofield(0.5)
O22 4 3 Field goal - - - Field goal Run Fake FG Dileo 3
This is actually a pass. It's not wide open so Dileo quickly decides to hit it up, just picking up the first. I'm not going to grade this for obvious reasons.
O19 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over Run Pitch sweep Toussaint 4
Koger standing up a little outside the tackle. MSU brings the corner down; Roundtree points him out but I don't think Denard sees him. Michigan motions in Hemingway; the FB is offset to the strongside, this screams outside run, they run outside. Lewan(+1) seals Worthy. Koger(-0.5) does a mediocre job on the DE, eventually getting a crease but giving ground and heading outside, delaying the point at which Toussaint can hit it up. Hemingway(+1) takes out the playside LB; Hopkins gets a push on the edge guy; MLB scrapes from the interior to tackle. No one on him; Schofield(-0.5) was leading through and ran through to the safety instead of peeling.
RUN+: Lewan, Hemingway RUN-: Koger(0.5), Schofield(0.5)
O15 2 6 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Pass Scramble Robinson 15
Surprise, except no not surprise. Two man route, one of them Hopkins, both covered. Molk(-2) thinks he has help behind him, which he does not because of an MSU corner blitz, and lets a DT through to pressure Robinson. Molk manages to recover to shove the guy past after he reaches out to tackle, and then Robinson's scrambling around and doing his Robinson thing. (SCR, N/A, protection 0/2, Molk)
RUN+: Robinson(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 8 min 1st Q. Goodbye offense.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M37 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Sprint counter Smith -2
Man... WTF. Lewan(-2) lets DE inside of him on the playside and Molk(-2) lets the WLB upfield of him without getting a hat on him. That's inexplicably bad play from our best two OL. Schofield is pulling around and shoves Rush, allowing Smith the cutback that isn't there because of Molk's screwup. Line opened up big time on this and Michigan just didn't block it. RUN-: Molk(2), Lewan(2)
M35 2 12 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Rollout out Gardner Inc
Gardner, in, play fake, rollout, pulling Schofield gets a block and the pocket is decent but everyone deep is covered in man; Gardner throws to Odoms anyway and it's broken up. Insert usual rant about rolling away half the field here. The checkdown to Hopkins was there for at least a few and possibly a rumble up the sideline. Everyone's Rex Grossman. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
M34 3 12 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Another half roll doesn't get anyone open quickly and finds pressure from the backside; Robinson has to step up and chucks a bomb to Roundtree. Roundtree has a step but the pass isn't anywhere near him. (IN, 0, protection ½, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M6 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Hemingway 29
With an interior blitz two of the three guys to this side of the field are open. This does not include Hemingway. LB jumps the route and is headed for a pick six; Denard throws it high and it's over his hand and caught. Hemingway picks up a big chunk of YAC. I cannot condone this throw even though the result is good—the other two guys are open. (BR, 2, protection 1/1)
M35 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 0
Double A gap blitz again. Michigan never checks. This play cannot work with two LBs roaring up the field at the snap. Molk(-1) goes to double a DT because Michigan does not realize this is coming; Omameh can't get over to block the LB, and Smith gets eaten. (RPS -2) This is not getting out-toughed, it's out-stupiding MSU. RUN-: Molk
M35 2 10 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Reverse scramble Gallon 8 + 15 pen
Intended to be a pass but never develops since Worthy got way upfield. That wasn't a good play by Worthy, he's just overrunning everything like whoah, but it means Gallon has to start making evasive maneuvers before he can even consider passing. Because it's a pass no one got downfield to block guys and MSU folk are charging from the inside. Gallon heads out to a couple of guys hanging out near the numbers, points at them to block, and picks up some yardage. We get stupid MSU personal foul #2 (first one was a horsecollar on special teams) afterwards.
O42 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Flat Koger 4
Not the jet package with a WR lined up behind Robinson; still jet motion as Robinson heads for the 2WR side. Michigan runs a play action rollout off this; two guys in Gardner's face with no support so he has to dump it off. Four yards. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
O38 2 6 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Penalty Offsides -- 5
Michigan goes under center for a hard count and Worthy jumps it.
O33 2 1 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith -3
Pickleman slants under Molk(-2) and destroys the play. RUN-: Molk(2)
O36 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Gallon Inc
DB runs Gallon's route for him and breaks it up. Excellent play. Not sure if Denard should get blamed here or not. (MA, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA FB Flat Hopkins Inc
Corner blitz catches Michigan running a play that has the QB facing backwards. This is a terrible omen. Everybody in the world is open here but it doesn't matter because it's all Denard can do to get the pass off without getting sacked. It is wide of Hopkins in the flat. (PR, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M32 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Screen Smith Inc (Pen +15)
Toussaint runs a flare to one side that Robinson fakes to before coming back to Smith on the other side. I think Smith got caught up trying to get out of the backfield because the MSU DL is slanting hard. He has to wait on Worthy and by the time he gets out he finds himself too far inside. He is well inside the OL pulling out, which means the WLB can hit him without worrying about those guys. The throw is hard and inside; Smith drops it. (MA, 2, screen) Worthy gets a derp penalty.
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 5
Denard takes a counter step that gets the MLB and SLB. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) blow out Pickelman big time, but Omameh(-1) is too freaking slow to get to the vast hole; Denard is running past him as he nears the LOS. MLB unblocked but because of the counter step Denard can burst outside for a good gain thanks to Koger(+1) kicking out Rush well.
RUN+: Robinson, Lewan, Koger, Schofield RUN-: Omameh
O48 2 5 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Robinson 3
Another double A gap blitz timed on Molk putting his head down. No check. Michigan's running power. Omameh pulls into the WLB and has no chance to get playside; Schofield(+1) does a good job to kick the MLB. Lewan(-1) loses Worthy to the outside; there is a cutback but WLB is bearing down and the safety attacking no longer has a blocker with an angle on him. RPS -1.
O45 3 2 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run Speed option Robinson 2
Late move with two guys on the backside of the line; State slants under and sends linebackers playside. Koger just manages to push Gholston past the play; Robinson has to circle around, giving some time. Omameh(-1) failed to read the situation and releases downfield into no players as Huyge has no chance of dealing with backside DT. Lewan(+1) gets a driving block on the WLB that gives Robinson just enough room for the first down.
RUN+: Lewan, Robinson RUN-: Omameh
O43 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Robinson overthrows Hemingway by ten yards, in part because he got tangled up with the DB, who fell and knocked Hemingway off stride. Still way long even without that. Koger was open by yards shorter. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
O43 2 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Gardner. He throws deep to a somewhat open Hemingway, missing; he did not see Hopkins blitheringly wide open for an easy touchdown. A better throw here and this is still good; wind problematic. (BR, 0, protection 2/2, RPS +2) This was the play to punish these linebackers and safeties and for the love of God, why isn't Gardner looking for Hopkins first?
O43 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Random heave -- Inc
Corner blitz is not recognized by Smith(-2), forcing Robinson to scramble out of the pocket. At this point he should just run, maybe set Michigan up with a makeable fourth down. Instead he makes a crazy heave that three MSU players have a better shot at than anyone on Michigan. One of them drops an easy INT. (BRX, 0, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 6 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M46 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA out Grady Inc
You know, if you're going to run three wide you have to make them respect the slot—here three wide is just one fewer blocker since MSU doesn't care. And as I type this Michigan does make them respect the slot, running the pop pass out they've run a few times already. Denard throws it wide. Probably 6-8 if accurate (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
M46 2 10 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet sweep Robinson 15
Linebackers blitz up the middle, but this time they tip it early—just a screwup as Molk didn't put his head down yet. As a result Michigan can actually block these guys. Omameh(+1) cuts Allen; Molk(+1) moves over to wall of Bullough. DT playside falls in all the wreckage; Smith(+2) annihilates Rush with a cut block, sending Denard into acres of space. Lewan is running downfield to try to get a block; safety fills and Robinson tries to cut back right into Lewan's path. Safety manages to get a diving arm tackle on Robinson. Left a bunch of yards on the field here.
RUN+: Molk, Omameh, Robinson, Smith(2) RUN-:
O39 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 1 2 4-3 over Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Corner blitz is picked up. Lewan shoves the guy out into the flare Toussaint is running, which dissuades Denard from throwing that, his first read. Found the open spot and it was not open. Robinson has a good pocket and starts stepping up into it in case there is pressure from behind; as DTs converge on him he throws a short post to Roundtree that's just outside and is dropped. I may have complained about this not being a run but I was wrong, Robinson was right to throw here. The throw was too far inside, though. (IN, 1, protection 3/3)
O39 2 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run? QB iso/seam Robinson 2
You know that short pass to run thing from Smart Football? This is it. M has a run play on and is optioning Bullough. He stays inside, so throw, but Denard has lost the plot. He panics a bit because Worthy is slanting but that's not relevant, just get the ball out. He doesn't, running outside, stopping, and coming back under to the gap that was already there; blocking angles killed he picks up two. Either hit it up in the big seam or throw it. Don't do this. (BR, N/A, protection N/A)
O37 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Hitch Gallon Inc
Four man rush; Michigan picks it up, though Schofield gets bulled back a bit. Robinson pumps, then airmails a hitch into the sidelines. Not a first down if accurate but definitely in go-for-it territory. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-7, 2 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M27 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 2
Worthy slants under Schofield(-2), which makes Smith think he's got an alley but Worthy comes around from behind to tackle, forcing him upfield into Bullough for a minimal gain. RUN-: Schofield(2)
M29 2 8 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass Dig Roundtree Inc
Play action and max protect; two man route with Smith leaking out late. Robinson has forever and finds Roundtree breaking open for a big gain; airmailed. AAAAAAAARGH (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Scramble Robinson 5 + 15 pen
Huyge(-2) smoked by the blitzing Allen, Robinson has to roll out and scramble as a result. Omameh(-1) got bowled over backwards and Schofield(-1) let a stunt through; this was a comprehensive crapfest. (PR, 0, protection 0/4) Gholston does the helmet rip after.
M49 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -9
Double blitz off the backside and a late developing play; Robinson has no chance. (PR, 0, protection N/A, RPS -2)
M40 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 11
MSU stunting; Schofield(+1) comes off Worthy and shoves Gholston past the play. This does force Robinson away from lead blocking but with the SLB dropping into coverage there is no one to make him pay and he runs back to said blocking. Koger and Molk both got good, extended downfield blocks.
RUN+: Robinson, Schofield, Molk, Koger RUN-:
O49 3 8 Shotgun trips bunch 1 0 4 Okie off Pass Improv Roundtree 15
Nice pocket momentarily despite a blitz but Smith(-1) gets shoved back and doesn't cut Allen and a stunt starts coming through so Robinson has to roll. He does so and heaves one that Roundtree manages to get up and grab as he continued his route across the field. (MA, 2, protection ½, Smith -1)
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read dive Smith 2
Koger as an H-back. He pulls backside. Huyge(-1) fails to get around and seal the backside DT despite that guy moving backside as the play starts and Omameh helping. Smith(-1) still has a lane up the middle he might be able to hit; instead he bounces to the frontside of the play, where SLB is sitting unblocked because he's loitering around the LOS without having to care about the slot. Bubble grumble.
O36 2 8 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Hitch Gallon Inc
Double A gap blitz. Molk whiffs so both guys get up the middle of the field; Denard has to start backing up and chucks a duck well short of an open Gallon. (IN, 0, protection 0/3, Molk -1, team -2, RPS -2)
O36 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie off Pass In Grady 10 (Pen -10)
Huyge(-2) destroyed by Allen, who times the snap (RPS -1) and gets in. Huyge holds. Robinson rolls out and manages to throw back across his body to Grady on an in route that would be a first down, though he only got the opportunity because of the hold. (CA+, 3, protection 0/3, Huyge -1, team -2)
O46 3 18 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Okie press Pass Post Grady Inc
Press man, which is odd, and Denard throws it to an open-ish Grady on a post that would pick up the first. CB gets playside and breaks the pass up—great play. I don't mind the decision or the throw here since it's third and 18. It could work, you have nothing to lose, go for it. (CA, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Angle Hopkins Inc
Gardner in; Koger covered. Michigan runs a power fake to play action that MSU has covered because of their playcall; Gholston upfield of Lewan and into Gardner; same thing with SLB getting underneath Toussaint. Gardner has to chuck it to Hopkins, it's yards off. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Lewan -1, Toussaint -1, RPS -1)
O41 2 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Okie off Run Speed option Robinson 2
MSU jumping around in a three man line. Michigan does get them to show the blitz and then they motion Toussaint behind Robinson before the snap—kind of a giveaway. Still, Huyge(-2) is playside of Bullough and just has to release downfield and seal him to make this play; he does not. Smith(+1) slashes Gholston to the ground; Robinson(-1) should pitch as the edge man is too close to him but fakes it and Huyge's guy manages to make the tackle as Robinson can't cut back far enough inside to burst upfield.
RUN+: Smith RUN-: Robinson, Huyge(2)
O39 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Sack -- -7
Huyge(-3) destroyed by Allen on four man rush. Woo third and long; amazing how this got covered up last year. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Huyge -3)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Pass PA out Hemingway Inc
Major shift late sends two guys in on the backside of the play. Robinson throws it to the out; deep slant wide open as well; blitzer leaps to bat it down. Would like Denard to read the coverage and go deeper but this was open-ish and he had three guys in his face quickly. (BA, 0, protection 0/1, team)
M20 2 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Run Power off tackle Toussaint 3
RB power; key here is Norman, the backside LB, immediately shifting playside when he sees the pull.This prevents Lewan from getting a block on him. M opens up the hole as Schofield(+1) gets to the POA in time and blocks Allen; he does not force it back to Bullough and spills it outside so Toussaint is through despite not having a real lead block; Norman scrapes over and tackles. The initial movements of the MSU LBs are much better than those of the M LBs.
RUN+: Schofield, Omameh(0.5) RUN-:
M23 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Deep cross Roundtree 8 + 15 pen
Four man rush; good protection. Robinson steps up and has his space restricted. He finds Roundtree running his cross past all of the zones to the sideline and hits him as he clears the last LB; his throw is a wobbly duck but it does get there. (CA, 3, protection 2/2) Gholston gets punchy afterwards.
M46 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Penalty Offsides -- 5
The slight compensation. Three of four MSU DL jump offsides! THREE!
O49 1 5 Shotgun jet 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Jet stretch Robinson 13
Double A-gap blitz that gets through again one play after a freaking offsides penalty. Come on, people. Come on. Michigan has a playcall on that works against it but barely. Playing with fire. After being burned with fire. Molk(+1) is stepping playside in the bucket fashion; he sees the blitz and peels off to shove Allen; this prevents him from deathsacking Denard in the backfield. Schofield(+1) gets a seal on the playside DT; Smith(+1) kicks out the DE. Lewan has no one to block so he trundles downfield. Robinson is cutting back behind his blocks when Bullough chops him down from behind.
RUN+: Robinson, Schofield, Molk, Smith RUN-:
O36 1 10 Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Base 4-3 Run QB power Gardner 3
Gardner QB; TE covered. Blocked well; Gardner screws it up. Watson(+1) doubles and then releases into MLB; sealing him. Toussaint(+0.5) kicks out WLB. Koger(-0.5) lets playside DE inside off him but Schofield(+1) is hitting it up quickly and can wall him off; SLB is going to flow down the line to tackle but this is 5-8. Gardner(-1) bounces. This exposes him to the safety and costs Michigan 3-4 yards.
RUN+: Watson, Schofield RUN-: Gardner, Koger(0.5)
O33 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Hitch Roundtree 9
Play action and a zing to the sideline for the first down. Genuinely impressive throw in context. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2)
O24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB iso Robinson 0
Robinson back in. Omameh(-2) and Molk double Worthy; Omameh does not bucket step around the DT when Molk is blocking down. He's in the hole; Robinson stops and is swallowed. RUN-: Omameh(2)
O24 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 Base 4-3 Pass Sack -- -1
Jesus. S walks down and is obviously blitzing along with WLB. Telegraphed, Michigan checks out of nothing and runs play action they cannot block because the edge guy has to cut the blitzing safety and leaves Gholston alone on the edge. Robinson has no time to deal. RPS -2. (PR, 0, protection N/A) This is Gholston's sack, BTW: unblocked. MSU will not miss him against UW. He's the fifth or sixth best player in their front seven.
O25 3 11 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Okie off Pass Yakety sax Gardner -6
Gardner fumbles a perfect snap.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-21, 12 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O34 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Roundtree 34
With no deep safety, if a WR breaks a tackle on this route it is six. Robinson zings a deadly accurate pass to Roundtree and 'Tree breaks that tackle; six. Much better route than Gallon's earlier failed slant. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-21, 9 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Sack Robinson -8
Double A-gap blitz is a little better picked up because it's not timed quite as well. Molk takes Bullough; Smith takes... Bullough. Allen unblocked up the middle, sack. (PR, N/A, protection 0/2, Smith -2)
O40 2 18 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Drag Hemingway 5
Four man rush is held off and Robinson has plenty of time to throw. He can't find anyone significantly downfield and ends up hitting Hemingway for a few. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O35 3 13 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie press Pass Drag Koger 12
Omameh(-1) fails to read the play and lets Gholston by him. Smith comes over to pick him up. Everyone else is blocked, so Robinson can move past him in the pocket; he finds Koger open and tosses a duck that almost hits the ground. Koger still has time to turn it up and create fourth and short. (MA, 2, protection ½, Omameh -1)
O23 4 In Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read keeper Robinson 5
Yet another double A-gap blitz gets straight through, with Molk(-2) failing to read it and letting Allen in. Robinson(+3) appears to make a brilliant improvisation here; there is a contain guy but Robinson sees Allen tackling Smith at the mesh point and yanks the ball out, cutting inside of that tackle and finding space because Omameh(+1) got over to block Bullough; Bullough then falls over the legs of Huyge. Robinson has a crack he uses to get the first down. RPS -2.
O18 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Yakety sax Robinson -1
Fumbled snap.
O19 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Quick seam Koger Inc
Double A-gap. Not perfectly timed so Molk's head is up and he gets a block; Smith(-1) shoulders Bullough but only gets a piece; Robinson has to throw. He has a quick seam to Koger that he misses. May be a timing issue because Koger got chucked coming out, but results based charting. (IN, 0, protection ½, Smith -1)
O19 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Cross Gallon 10
Decent time until Omameh(-1) is beaten on a bull rush; Robinson steps around the rusher and he falls. He sets up again and zings a tough throw into a covered Gallon. Gallon brings it in. Q: is this the right spot? Is it where he catches it or where he hits the ground? (DO, 2, protection 1/2, Omameh -1)
O9 4 In Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line Pass Sack -- -9
DOOM. Hopkins lined up as the deep back and Toussaint the FB. Moore(-3) fails to even get out of his stance on the snap and lets the blitzing LB through untouched, doom. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Moore –3, RPS -3)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 14-21, 7 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M35 1 10 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Slant Smith INT
Double A gap doom; picture paged already. (PR, 0, protection 0/3, team -3, RPS -2)
Drive Notes: Interception, defensive TD, 14-28, 4 min 4th Q

Is this blood running down my cheeks or have my tears turned to rust waiting for this?

You are a jerk. And apparently a robot. A robotic jerk. So it's rust, I guess.

Are you any calmer about the snap thing?

I am less calm. A full review of the game tape reveals ten(!) of Michigan State's double-A-gap LB blitzes. Plays on which one of the two guys was unblocked into the backfield are bolded:

  1. Smith dodges tackle in backfield, picks up 26.
  2. Zero yard inside zone from Smith
  3. Three yard power from Robinson*
  4. 15-yard jet sweep as M picks up blitzers
  5. Incomplete hitch to Gallon as both guys come unblocked up the middle.
  6. 13 yard jet stretch (ie: outside zone blocking)
  7. Eight yard sack.
  8. Five yards on fourth and one when Robinson saves Borges's bacon with a brilliant late pull
  9. Quick seam to Koger incomplete as M picks up 1.5 of the linebackers.
  10. DOOM

Michigan picked the blitz up two, maybe three times: on the two jet sweeps and on the second-to-last one. On the first jet sweep they picked it up because MSU screwed up by revealing their blitz before Molk put his head down. On the second one they let a guy through but managed to adjust after he was in the backfield, so I'm being generous(!).

By the time the pick six arrived Michigan had literally seen this blitz nine times and they still had no adjustment to their timing so that Molk would be able to see what was directly in front of him. This was well over half of MSU's penetration and Michigan had no clue what to do with it even deep into the fourth quarter. They did not check out of a single play because they didn't check at all. They didn't run a freeze or attempt to change the timing of the snap after the second quarter.

I mean… when Worthy bowled over Omameh to pick up their third and final offsides call, three of the four DL were across the line.


That is a snap-jumping machine. This was the last time Michigan altered their snap count.

They should have been doing so several times a drive. Not doing so led to all the problems above and made the OL's job very tough in pass protection. This would end up a holding call on Huyge after Denicos Allen shot past him:


Huyge is beaten and the ball isn't even to the QB yet.

No checks, no answers, no ability to address an obvious issue. That was a total failure by the coaching staff.

Now for the tedious disclaimers: I like Borges, I like the coaches, I think MSU fans declaring epic gameday domination for all time based on a single matchup are getting way ahead of themselves. But there is no gray area here.

*[Counting this because Allen shot into the backfield and picked off a pulling guard, FWIW.]

This is fun. Now show me the chart in which Denard Robinson makes angels tear off their wings.

Chart in which Denard Robinson makes angels tear off their wings.

[Hover over column headers for explanation of abbreviation. Screens are in parens.]

2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
Minnesota '11 1 13(3) 1 3 1 - - - - 73%
Northwestern '11 4 12(3) 1 7 2 - - - 1 59%
MSU '11 1 8(1) 4(1) 6 5 - 1 7 1 40%

Yeah, so that was like putting freshman Denard out there. Note the huge PR number. If he had happy feet he had good reason to have them. The protection metric is incredible in this game.

But first, receivers:

[Passes are rated like so: 0 = uncatchable, 1 = very difficult, 2 = moderately difficult, 3 = routine.]

  This Game   Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway 2 - 1/1 3/3 7 - 7/8 12/13
Roundtree - 0/1 1/1 3/3 4 1/4 5/6 7/7
Odoms 1 - - - 2 - - -
Grady 2 - - - 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon 2


1/1 1/1 4 - 1/1 18/18
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/2 1/2 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 -
Koger 1 - - 1/1 3 1/3 2/3 8/9
Moore - - - - 2 - - -
Toussaint - - - - - - - 1/2
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - 0/1 - 2 0/1 - 5/6
Hopkins 1 - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

It was Oprah out there: YOU get an uncatchable ball, YOU get an uncatchable ball, YOU get an uncatchable ball.

And now the ugliest run chart I've put together (in the year and a half I've been doing them):

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 6 5 1 Lucky to have both arms in his shoulder sockets.
Barnum - - - DNP
Omameh 3.5 7 -3.5 Watching him pull is like watching an iceberg wander around the titanic.
Huyge 2 3 -1 Pass blocking not so good.
Schofield 7 3 4 Easy winner for best performer.
Mealer - 2 -2 One snap did not go well.
Watson 1 - 1 Eh.
Koger 3.5 2 1.5 So… yeah.
TOTAL 27 30 -3 But wait, there's more.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 11 1 10 Yay running him 12 times.
Gardner 1 1 0 One good bounce, one bad bounce.
Toussaint 0.5 - - Two carries!
Shaw - - - DNP
Smith 7 1 6 Most of this was on a couple plus runs.
Hopkins - - - Did play.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 19.5 3 16.5 Denard still has legs.
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway 2 - 2  
Odoms - - -  
Gallon -- - - --
Roundtree - - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 2 - 2 Hardly anything got to them.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 30 32 48% Team 9, Huyge 7, Smith 6, Omameh 4, Molk 3, Schofield 1, Lewan 1, Toussaint 1
RPS 4 14 -10 See above.

Last week against NW there were 39 protection points. Here 62, which the team acquired less than half of.

Good hopping Lord in a pickle can.


I mean, sweet clod-kicking Jesus knickers.


That is just… something.

It was a—

Holy baboon-faced god of ancient river peoples spinning around on a pogo stick screaming "hey dilly dilly hey-o."

We get it.

I mean, where do you go from the above? Michigan was comprehensively annihilated. Denard was awful, Borges was awful, the line was awful, everything was awful. So… yeah, the players shoulder a lot of the blame. Borges got guys open with frequency only to see them ignored.

What happened to Omameh?

Michigan pulled him in this game, seemingly to prove once and for all that for whatever reason he can't pull. He's a light, quick lineman who gets to the hole slightly slower than Tom Harmon, who is dead:

Combining him with the lightning-quick Robinson is not so good. This is frustrating because last year he was a killer scooping dudes with Molk and heading to the second level. This year he looks like a guy who'd be benched if there was a plausible backup. Chalk it up to transition costs.

Should there have even been a fourth and one?

I'm not sure. Are they supposed to spot it where you catch the ball or where you touch the ground? If it's on the catch they screwed up the spot. If it's where the ball is when you get a foot down they are relatively close.


I'm guessing it's the latter, because that's where they put the ball.


Yes, yes.


Michael Schofield. I guess the receivers didn't drop anything.


Literally everyone else.

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

It means we have to change our snap counts, figure out some new ways to run the ball, and hope like hell this is by far the worst game of Denard's career.


Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Michigan State Comment Count

Brian October 20th, 2011 at 2:05 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show? Show.

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

Well, at least the touchdowns weren't free.

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

How were they able to run outside so effectively?

For context we should look at the—



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

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

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

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

…but you did take a couple clips.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The outside running, then?

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

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


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

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

What's wrong with Martin?

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

Why can't we jump snaps like MSU did?

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

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

What is the deal with the linebackers?

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

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

Was that a lateral?

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



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


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

What does it mean for Purdue and beyond?

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

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


Picture Pages: Snap Timing Death

Picture Pages: Snap Timing Death Comment Count

Brian October 19th, 2011 at 3:20 PM

[Ed: commenter wile_e8 makes a great suggestion: check out the earlier ND Check Yo' Self Picture Page for everything Michigan wasn't doing against MSU.]

One of the main issues with Michigan's offense was an inability to adjust to Michigan State's constant double-A-gap blitzing. BWS has an example where it ate up a Smith run; this post has two more focused on the precise timing MSU used to shoot into the backfield untouched on multiple plays.

Two plays in this one. The first is actually a 25-yard run on Michigan's first drive on which Vincent Smith breaks a tackle when the WLB gets too far upfield. It would be a disturbing omen.

It's second and one; Michigan is in a three-wide shotgun set and MSU in the 4-3 they'd run all day. Don't bother screaming that the bubble is open.


All right, so Molk starts to put his head down; when it comes back up he snaps immediately.

Molk's head starts down…


And by the time it's completely down Allen is nearing the LOS.

Bullough is next; the blitz seems like it is designed to have Allen pick off Molk while Bullough gets a free run:


But Molk snaps the thing so quickly that he doesn't even get his head up before the play. Instead of blocking Allen he goes to double the playside DT. He does not see the blitz at all:


Allen is through untouched.


Schofield actually does a nice job to adjust and kick out Bullough, giving Smith a crease when he breaks the tackle.

The video:

So that's a problem. Michigan endures another half-dozen of these throughout the game, gets the ball back down seven with under five minutes left, and comes out empty.


Molk head down, Molk head up…


…instant snap with two LBs running straight up the middle of the field. This time Molk does block Allen; Schofield does not slide over to get Bullough, which would put someone else through but someone else not running up the middle at the snap.


Denard throws a slant; Smith runs a hitch. Ballgame.

Video of that:

The timing of the snap is the same, the result different.

So what's going on here?

While some of the timing issues may have been playclock related, neither of these are. Michigan snaps the ball with around ten seconds left on the first play and while there is no playclock listed on the second it was the first play of a drive and I don't remember being upset about getting the play in. This is just… like… voluntary.

Once or twice Michigan did go to longer counts and got the opponent to jump, but one of those was a hard count from under center. The fact that they could get the jumps meant MSU was timing the snap; the fact they could continue into the fourth quarter meant Michigan was using the long counts too infrequently. Michigan

  1. consistently tipped their snap count
  2. never motioned for the snap to reveal what the defense planned
  3. didn't even bother to pause after Molk got his head up so he could evaluate the guys coming hell-bent up the middle of the field
  4. did not check out of plays
  5. did not execute what looks like a hot read here

This is not a toughness issue. Air cannot block people even if you're the Clint Eastwood State Fightin' John Waynes. It's an inability for Michigan to deal with a simple, grandiosely unsound defense that leaves simple throws in the middle of the field wide open*.

All of this is coaching at some level, but we can separate out getting execution out of your players from strategy. On the interception Michigan had an answer that they did not execute, which can reasonably be chalked up to transition/mindflub/one of those things. Michigan QBs passing up wide open guys on that second quarter drive is execution, not strategy. Those are costs of installing a new system, especially one with a lot of post-snap reads for the WRs, something I don't think Rodriguez ever did. On some level that's understandable.

However, they failed to adjust their strategy to help the offensive line out. MSU is running full speed at the line on the snap; varying the count would make those well-timed blitzes poorly timed, allowing Michigan to slide the protection and letting Denard know what he's in for pre-snap… or forcing MSU out of the play. Michigan State timing these snaps so precisely puts immediate pressure on Robinson, robbing him of a half-second he needs to maybe see Koger on the other side of the field or the actual route Smith is running. It gives Smith more time to read the play and understand his hot route. Even if you want the double LB blitz on the INT because you think you have it beat, waiting that beat lets everyone on the offense know it's there without letting MSU check. At the very least make your standard count long enough for Molk to look at the situation in front of him before he doubles on a guy who's going outside because of a blitz.

I find this incredibly frustrating. This was an inexplicable Rodriguez-era problem canning him was supposed to solve. Instead it got worse. Hoke tried to explain away the snap issues

Did you notice that they were jumping your snap count? “I think everyone has an idea of snap counts from guns, because there’s a mechanic that every team has. We have a silent count, and we have a double silent count. I don’t think that’s all the way correct.”

…but clearly there is something there that is bloody obvious to the opposition that has destroyed Michigan's offense against MSU on their last two trips to East Lansing. (Michigan moved the ball fairly well in last year's matchup only to be undone by turnovers.) The next time Michigan visits they'll presumably be in more of a MANBALL offense with Gardner better equipped to go under center and a line that probably reads Lewan-Bryant-Miller-Kalis-Magnuson, so we may have seen the last of this.

*[I was just reading that Smart Football post he linked about matching short passes with runs, which would have been perfect here. A-gap blitz? Immediate toss to slot/TE. Still need to block up the middle to get the QB some time.]


Unverified Voracity Steamy About Many Things

Unverified Voracity Steamy About Many Things Comment Count

Brian October 19th, 2011 at 12:38 PM

Site note. Had some issues getting and converting the game this week—my UFR process is byzantine—so UFR will be delayed until Thursday/Friday. It's a bye week, be chill.

Reminder. This is what Michigan wore on Saturday:


I hadn't seen a good shot of the sleeves, which miraculously manage to make the whole ensemble seem even dumber-looking. If you run across a picture from this game in five years you are going to laugh at the clown uniforms like people laugh at that one year a bunch of teams wore stormtrooper shoulders.

The MZone points at a prescient slippery slope prediction and says get used to it. Michigan's the first team to get their Arena League on twice in one year—even the pro combat victims only have to put up with it once.

How does this happen again? There will be a fuller discussion in the UFR of this, but it is absolutely maddening to see MSU time those double-A-gap blitzes with Molk's head going down and never get a check or read in their face. Molk on this:

"They did jump our snap count," Molk said. "They knew us, they knew how we played and how our plays were going to start."

Michigan State's Trenton Robinson originally told The Wolverine on Saturday his team could anticipate Molk's snaps because he bobbed his head down, then back up before he hiked the ball. …

Molk said Michigan recognized this during the game, but could not adjust because of the crowd at Spartan Stadium.

"Making an adjustment came down to our ability to communicate, and with the crowd noise, it sort of covered that," he said. "It puts us into a tough situation, and something we have to react to, and we weren't ready to react. They got us, no doubt."

During the game? They've done this the last three years! For Michigan to have no answer to the instant A-gap blitz into the fourth quarter is a massive, inexplicable coaching failure. Not once did Michigan block that, not once did they bring Molk's head up to reveal the blitz and then check into another play. There was no one in the center of the field for a dozen snaps and Michigan didn't use this at all.

Upside: At least this blows up the halftime adjustments meme. Downside: it's been replaced with the "Michigan State was tougher" meme, which even Molk is repeating. I guess that's the effect of an offseason in which every other word out of Hoke's mouth was "toughness." I'm not seeing it. I'm seeing MSU outcoach Michigan for the fourth straight year. It's not toughness when no one has an angle to block the same linebacker five times.

Boo-boo, line edition. Via a pouty-looking WCBN sports director hanging out in Sweden:

Taylor Lewan limping around campus with a giant boot on his left foot/ankle. Looks uncomfortable.

Somewhere on the coaching film there is evidence Gholston swept the leg. Of this there can be no doubt.

Obligatory Gholston-Dantonio statement. Anyone who's surprised that MSU is ham-fistedly taking a page from the Gene Smith playbook by declaring Saturday's events an "isolated incident" in an attempt to keep a starter on the field hasn't been paying attention. Dantonio's established a pattern. Ending a kid's hockey career with a sucker punch doesn't get you kicked off the team, every year there's a posse of 20 guys getting together to beat up some engineers, etc. etc. etc. This is the way he wants his program. End of story.

Bielema don't care. I've been annoyed with the program's public reaction to the above, possibly because it seems like they're lying through their teeth for better PR. This doesn't make me right, it just makes me annoyed. In contrast, Bret Bielema is a guy who gets his digs in:

"We'll do our talking with our pads and we'll do it between the whistles."

This is the only guy in the league who was able to call Tressel the asshat he was instead of going with that tragic hero/tragedy business that Carr and Dantonio did or refusing comment like everyone else. He also runs up scores like there's no tomorrow—it's clear he's something of an asshat himself, but these days I'll take any public figure who says what he thinks instead of what someone says he should think because it looks prettier in the paper.

Ain't hearing you about a deranged prosecutor. In the aftermath of the personal-foul-fest over the weeked the WSJ assembled their number-crunching team and came up with a list of the dirtiest rivalries in college football as measured by personal fouls of a late/unnecessary hit variety. A number are expected. One in particular is not:

Auburn-Georgia 5.4 Georgia 59%
Duke-North Carolina 5.2 N. Carolina 69%
UCLA-Southern California 4.8 UCLA 54%
N. Mexico-N.Mexico St. 4.6 N. Mexico 65%
Kansas-Missouri 4.2 Missouri 76%
Michigan-Michigan St. 4.0 Michigan St 80%
C. Michigan-W. Michigan 3.8 Western 58%
Brigham Young-Utah 3.6 Utah 61%
NC State-North Carolina 3.4 N. Carolina 59%

All of those are competitive series save North Carolina bludgeoning Duke annually.  Maybe they're just mean dudes at UNC—they're the only team to show up twice.

Of course, this pretends the personal foul stuff is a two way street, which it isn't in certain cases. On a per team basis your winners are:

  1. UNC (vs Duke)
  2. MSU
  3. Missouri
  4. Georgia

So… yeah, UNC hates Duke a lot. Either that or it's impossible to not get personal fouls for unnecessary roughness when you've got a lot of illegally acquired future NFL players and they've got eleven mewling kittens.

The fresh take NOTline*. Magazine writer Chris Jones came up with a fresh take that really adds to the sporting zeitgeist: you shouldn't say "we" when you are identifying the team you root for because you are not on the team. Awesome, dude. Thanks. For your troubles SBN's Andrew Sharp effectively compares you to Whitney.

Sharp has ten reasons a fan might break out the we but doesn't hit the reason I do it periodically: it is a convenient linguistic trick. If I am discussing the Michigan-Michigan State game and wish to refer to the teams by words shorter to read and type, I can either continually re-introduce the team names and briefly refer to whichever one is the most recent antecedent as "they." That's potentially annoying and confusing. The other option is to dump them entirely in favor of "we" and "they," which clearly indicate who is who while preventing constant repetition of already established facts—that we are indeed talking about Michigan and Michigan State.

It would take a fun-hating mutant whose super power is pedantry to object to this, which is why someone who works for a newspaper or magazine writes this column every three months.


Trouba: pretty good. Hockey 2012 D commit Jacob Trouba is good, first round good. As of late he's pushing his way into the top half of the first round:

Defenseman Jacob Trouba (U-18 U.S. national team development program): He is most likely to land in the top 10 picks and could crack the top five if he keeps progressing. He's 6-1 and 170 pounds, and he can skate well, fire the puck with authority and show a physical presence.

"You hate to say a guy can do it all, but this guy can do it all," said former Calgary Flames general manager Craig Button, an analyst for NHL Network.

Trouba checks in tenth on Button's list of top prospects at TSN; forward commit Boo Nieves is on his watch list. He's seventh to ISS. Nieves also features as a "riser":

Boo Nieves, LW, Kent HS
Nieves has rocketed up the charts after showing off his stuff with USA at the Ivan Hlinka on top of several favorable viewings last season. Nieves is a skilled, offensively productive center who has the potential to grow into his body. He has great hands and displays a real high level of skill. He also has better then average skating, utilizing a smooth stride that provides him with a top gear when required.

He's still not in ISS's top 30.

Comment truth. Let me pull this out from the depths of the game column comment thread:

With our personnel, I think most people would want Rodriguez running the offense. They would just want him to stay far, far away from the defense.

The dirty little secret is this: This game was the cost of doing business, by deciding for a full scale switch from the head coach - who didn't earn himself a 4th year based on results, everyone settle down -  on down, rather than just going after the massive problem that was the defensive coordinator and staff. Now, in the long term it was probably the right decision, but in the short term, we have set ourselves up for frustration. …

[discussion of last year's game vs this year's game with focus on field position and yardage]

So reality is this: Because Rodriguez was defensively incapable, he lost his job. In turn, Hoke was hired and he brought in Mattison, a guy who has proven - along with having a more experienced secondary - to be one of the best hires in college football. He also brought in Borges, who isn't the proper fit for our offensive talent. It's not his fault and as has been stated, won't be a problem in 2 years time. But this year, we're going to have to suffer through another flawed season, which to me is incredibly frustrating given that a spot in the Big Ten title game is there for the taking.

That is exactly where I'm at. We had to deep-six Rodriguez and the coaching hire appears to be working out about as well as anyone could have hoped, but burning Denard's career in an offense he's not suited for is killing me. Shades of gray exist.

Etc.: Basketball ranked 20th by Rivals. Smart Football on combining quick passes with runs and screens—this is like extending the zone read concept to linebackers downfield. Michigan Monday in case anyone thinks the Sparty == Dirty meme is restricted to homers. Lake the Posts also jumps in with outrage(!).


Improvement ‘09: Snap Counts?

Improvement ‘09: Snap Counts?

Submitted by Tim on August 19th, 2009 at 2:43 PM

molkIn which your humble blogger grasps at straws trying find a way, any way, Michigan will improve from last year.

There were two ways that the Michigan offense’s inexperience showed with disadvantages in the snap count. No, I’m serious. They were something of opposites: 1) Early in the year, we saw the Infamous Frozen Line play, in which Michigan tried (sometimes successfully, though the referees didn't necessarily see it that way) to draw offsides calls by snapping the ball whenever an opponent crossed into the neutral zone. 2) Opposing defenses were really, really good at jumping Michigan’s snap counts last year.

Exhibit A, from the Utah UFR:

I don't get it. So Sheridan does the normal hand-slap thing to indicate he wants the ball but this time there's a pause before Molk snaps it. In the interim, Utah jumps offside because they've been timing the snap. Okay, super. Then Sheridan rolls out as the offensive line remains motionless and heaves one downfield to a blanketed Mathews, who leaps and makes the catch. Why not just run a play there? More later. (DO, 1, protection N/A)

The first time this play was run, Michigan got a hopeful jump-ball completion to Mathews. Michigan gets Utah again here, except the refs don't call the obvious offsides. Thanks, guys. Threet hurls the usual sideline route to Stonum. It's accurate but well-covered and broken up. (CA+, 1, protection N/A)

The second time was a drive-killing 3rd down incompletion (which, if the offsides had been called adequately, would have been a free first down).

So, Michigan got somewhat hosed by the referees on one of those, and got lucky on the first one. However, later in the year, we saw a similar occurrence against Minnesota. Defense jumps offsides, ball is snapped, pass is basically a hopeful jump ball downfield. The difference is that, like, the offensive line blocked, and it looked something like an actual play. This adjustment to the “free play” play showed, at the very least, growth by the coaching staff over the course of the year. More likely, it showed that Michigan  will run an effective play when a flag is down for offsides.

On to exhibit B, from the Michigan State UFR:

MSU jumping snaps

Okay, Michigan State's crappy cornerbacks are going to press our crappy receivers all day and not get hurt by it, which will be a major factor in the bubble screen's ineffectiveness. Anyway, on this play State is slanting right to the direction of the play, robbing Schilling of any angle to block a DT lined up inside of him. Also, MSU appears to be timing the snap, as will become relevant later. The DT beats Schilling to the spot and Minor is tackled at the LOS.

Hated formation with a WR covered up. On this play the entire State DL pushes the entire Michigan OL into the backfield; it again looks like they're timing Molk's snaps. As a result, Minor has to cut back behind everyone and does well to get back to the LOS.

Again State jumps right at the snap; this one looks onside. Moosman has something of a tough time with the early-mover, who ends up lunging at Threet just as he throws, knocking this open post route off. (BA, 0, protection 1/2, Moosman -1)

Argh. This goes for a first down but Molk(-600000) holds on a bubble screen, partially because State is again jumping the snap count. (CA, 3, screen)

In the wrapup sections the matter came up again:

This actually came up in a mailbag earlier this year, at which point I said this…

“I’m pretty sure Michigan isn’t using no snap count whatsoever, it’s just that the count is silent. DEs don’t have license to time the snap with impunity. There will be variable pauses between the clap and the snap.”

…and promptly forgot about it.

As we now know, there weren't really variable pauses between the hand clap and the snap, which allowed Michigan State to jump the snap count time and again to mostly good effect. They picked up a few offsides calls, but they also got incompletions, stuffed runs, and sacks because their guys were moving before Michigan's OL could even get out of their stances. They were offsides on another two or three plays, but didn't get called for it.

But! It's clear Michigan State was very well prepared to play this edition of Michigan; they scouted out all the wheels and such and timed the snap counts and exploited Michigan's tendencies on offense wickedly. (On defense, OTOH, Michigan broke tendencies and largely played well save for four enormous errors turned in by Stevie Brown and Boubacar Cissoko.)

Aside from varying the snap count a little and picking up those offsides calls, Michigan could do little about it.

There was a little something Michigan could do about it, which David Molk took care of a couple times:

State has obviously been jumping the snap; this time Molk lifts his head and waits, drawing a DT offsides.

Michigan’s snap counts were all the same last year, much to the delight of opponents. This year, with a more experienced offensive line, might we see a little more variety in the snap counts, despite the likely starter at QB being a freshman? I would presume yes. Michigan’s coaches are a smart bunch, and they did what they could last year with limited talent, experience, and prep time. All of those things are an entire year better in 2009, so some variety will be mixed in. I’ll go back to Brian for the grand finale, this time from the Penn State UFR:

My theory: Michigan is implementing portions of a whole gameplan trying to find something that works. They then practice the hell out of their plan and break it out, finding early success.

However, I, and I think a lot of other Michigan fans, thought "I really hope they have a curveball coming up" in the second quarter; they did not. Once you get past the game plan, Michigan has no backup. So we've seen teams adjust to the offense and have success stopping it. 

When does the backup plan come in? Well, 1) when Threet's elbow gremlins step off, and 2) when these guys get past the training wheels stage and have a base they can fall back on.

Now that Michigan’s offense will have the training wheels off (and hopefully Forcier can be a non-gremlin version of Threet), there will be more variety in multiple aspects of the game.