Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State

Fee Fi Foe Film: Ohio State

Submitted by Seth on November 26th, 2014 at 5:47 PM

[META Note: Ace took sick, so this is getting the Seth treatment. Also we're having Thanksgiving at my house in 24 hours so this is gonna be short.]

Let's live in this moment for a second:

This Moment

The Indiana Hoosiers have the ball. There's 4-1/2 minutes left. And there's just one score of separation between them and Urban Meyer's first Big Ten loss. In this moment, there is hope that a basketball school with a mediocre football team could… just… maybe…

It didn't. On this very play, the universe made a correction: Diamont chucked it to a double-covered guy, it was intercepted, and a little bit of hellish divine comedy later, OSU had the B1G East locked up.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate.

Offense

Personnel. I diagram:

OSU-offense

The three guys we thought would be their biggest stars in the preseason aren't starting but it doesn't matter. J.T. Barrett has done just fine for the injured Braxton Miller, Marshall has been more than an adequate replacement for the H-/Percy-/Slot-/Whatever job since Norfleet-like Dontre Wilson went down. And Deep Threat™ Devin Smith doesn't "start" or get as many targets as Michael Thomas, but he leads the team in receiving yards and has 8 TDs to go with his 24.4 ypc. He's definitely the dangerman in the key backups section in the short history of these diagrams.

[Hit the jump for information-type substance]

Hokepoints Has a Running Quarterback

Hokepoints Has a Running Quarterback

Submitted by Seth on May 6th, 2014 at 11:08 AM

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read option [Fuller]

I am determined this spring to mine every possible stat for every possible insight. This week I delved into quarterback rushes. Not sacks. I wanted to know which offenses tended to have their quarterbacks take off, or planned runs for them into their game plans.

Baseline: here's Michigan and their opponents last year. Sacks and yardage lost to them are not counted, but I couldn't tell from scrambles and QB sneaks, or stuff like if he took off for 10 yards on 3rd and 15 that defenses are happy to give up:

Season Avg vs Mich
Opponent QB Rush Yards QB Rush Yards
Central Michigan 1.8 8 5 11
Notre Dame 1.5 3 0 0
Akron 4.6 19 3 11
Connecticut 2.5 3 3 -4
Minnesota 14.4 77 18 69
Penn State 2.4 4 2 0
Indiana 8.9 42 10 60
Michigan State 4.5 17 4 1
Nebraska 8.8 35 12 31
Northwestern 10.8 58 24 92
Iowa 5.2 25 5 26
Ohio State 14.7 119 14 165
Kansas State 19.2 97 14 76
NCAA Avg 7.5 40.0 8.8 41.4

Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, and Kansas State ran option games. Minnesota's offense was QB power running (thing it is like: Michigan's 2010 offense when Rodriguez gave up on trying to make Denard into a zone reader). According to the UFR database Minnesota quarterback running plays vs Michigan were as follows: 7 QB powers; 2 draws; 2 zone read keepers; a false zone arc sweep thing, a QB sneak, and 7 scrambles.

The stats can't tell the difference between this kind of offense and a dedicated Richrodigan spread 'n shred. There aren't many teams who run this as their base offense, as simple as it may be, but a lot of teams have a mobile change-of-pace quarterback and a small package built around him. Notable teams who deployed a second guy:

Player (2014 Elig) Team % of Snaps % Will Pass Rush Pass
Austin Boucher (graduated) Miami(NTM) 51% 73% 80 211
Austin Gearing (So.) 35% 35% 129 70
Drew Kummer (Jr.) 14% 71% 22 55
Nate Sudfeld (Jr.) Indiana 61% 94% 22 338
Tre Roberson (Jr.) 38% 62% 84 139
C.J. Brown (11th year Sr.) Maryland 73% 72% 119 303
Caleb Rowe (Jr.) 26% 91% 14 136
Philip Nelson (transferred) Minnesota 59% 72% 79 200
Mitch Leidner (So.) 38% 51% 89 91
Gary Nova (Sr.) Rutgers 68% 93% 25 328
Chas Dodd (graduated) 32% 87% 21 143
Tommy Armstrong (So.) Nebraska 39% 68% 63 135
Ron Kellogg III (graduated) 31% 90% 16 141
Taylor Martinez (graduated) 30% 77% 34 116
Trevor Siemian (Sr.) Northwestern 63% 92% 29 315
Kain Colter (graduated) 36% 50% 98 99
Braxton Miller (Sr.) Ohio State 72% 65% 150 276
Kenny Guiton (graduated) 25% 74% 39 110

I included Rutgers to show Chas Dodd wasn't a Drew Henson-ian run threat except in comparison to Gary Nova.

[Jump: Okay spread zealots, do teams with running QBs have an advantage?]

T-Shirts: Better Than Chest Hair Since 2005

T-Shirts: Better Than Chest Hair Since 2005

Submitted by Seth on February 5th, 2013 at 3:09 PM

Here's a Superbowl commercial that didn't make the cut, despite having ALL the Pat Stansiks:

Since CBS refused to run this for $500 bucks, our store partners at Underground are just going to give all them smackaroos to somebody to go on a Michigan gear shopping binge.

And just in time too because the latest from Fashion Week in Paris have arrived.

bandwagon89gameblouses

beatstate

 

mgoblog-small

You many now consume.

In The End, A Parlor Trick

In The End, A Parlor Trick

Submitted by Brian on November 26th, 2012 at 11:53 AM

11/24/2012 – Michigan 21, Ohio State 26 – 8-4, 6-2 Big Ten

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Bryan Fuller

In 1997, Michigan had a multidimensional weapon they'd take out of the garage for a couple dozen plays a game. His name was Charles Woodson, and I distinctly remember the disappointment that would wash over me 70% of the time he came in for an offense snap. This disappointment was because Woodson didn't get the ball. He ran a route, and something else happened.

Despite the disappointment, I got it. You can't just give the ball to the dynamic guy every time he comes in the game because if you do putting him in the game is tantamount to holding up a huge sign that says THIS IS THE PLAY WE ARE RUNNING. You can't flip up your hole cards before you bet.

Al Borges disagrees. If you've poked around the flaming wreckage of the Michigan internet in the aftermath of Saturday, you have undoubtedly heard the wailing and gnashing of teeth because of that. But the thing is so stark it has to be marveled at again: when Denard Robinson entered the game against Ohio State, every play but one was Denard Robinson doing something. Once it was fail to chip Ryan Shazier and try to get out for a screen; all other times it was run the ball, sometimes with a pitch included. The fakeout was a six-yard completion to Mike Kwiatkowski in the first quarter, and there ended any attempt at deception.

Devin Gardner was at quarterback for three of these plays. Michigan held up a sign that said RUN or PASS, and didn't even try the token fakeout where Robinson goes over the top when the safeties suck up. Gardner ran three times. Denard passed zero. Ohio State figured it out. Surprise!

Denard got a dozen snaps and watched from the sideline as Gardner tried to drive Michigan 70 yards for the win. There were six minutes left, and Michigan was reduced to throwing every down as a guy who might break the all-time rushing record for a quarterback watched.

What can you say? It's indefensible. It's a failure without any possible explanation. It caused legions of neutral observers to laugh or fume or sit slack-jawed as they watched it unfold. Sean McDonough was dumbfounded. Orson, in the stands, marveled. Twitter burst at the seams with furious mockery from people who don't care about Michigan but do hate to see Denard Robinson end his final Ohio State game on the bench, having averaged 11 yards a carry on ten attempts.

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Here is a list of things Denard Robinson could have productively done on Saturday that did not necessarily involve him getting the ball.

  • Be a running back on the inverted veer.
  • Stand in a two-back set, then motion out a la Vincent Smith on a pre-emptive flare route.
  • Run a flare from the backfield
  • Line up in the slot and get a fake jet handoff, then run a wheel.
  • Line up in the slot, run a bubble.
  • Run a route you ignore but the defense cannot.
  • Fake a screen to him and screen to the other side.

There were ways to work around the fact that Denard can't block, primarily running your best play with your best two players. What can possibly be so hard about telling Denard "now you're the other guy on the play we run all the time"? Even if it's play action, it draws everyone. If he's on the field, one to three people are concerned with him, and if that's at the edge of the field that's as good as a block. It's a fantastic block. It is a much better block than most of the folk on Michigan's offensive line were capable of.

And nothing. Nothing. Here is a sign that says whether we are running or passing.

“They were a little bit predictable in the first half,” said Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers. “You know, they put 16 (Robinson) back there, he was gonna run it. And they put 12 (Gardner) back there, they were gonna throw it. And after a while that became something that we keyed on.”

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On the other side of the ball, things made sense. Ohio State's offense is a coherent whole that ruthlessly exploits every edge it can. Michigan spent the first couple drives unable to substitute as Ohio State went up-tempo. Afterwards they started running on right after the play; Michigan struggled to get set at times. When OSU slowed it down, they made a playcall after seeing how the defense lined up. They took every advantage the game gives them.

Once JT Floyd got turned around by Devin Smith on OSU's first drive, Michigan was faced with the prospect of repeating last year's festival of deep bombs or giving Floyd help. They chose the latter, and chose to contain Braxton Miller at all costs. To do this they had to give up two things: the underneath flats and the guy in the box that can be a free hitter.

The results: Miller was 14 of 18. Avery blew a deep corner route on a third and long early and there was the bomb. There ended downfield passing. Miller's other 12 completions averaged 9.8 yards a pop on a series of screens and quick throws in the soft outside section of the field. Carlos Hyde surged up the middle over and over again, picking up 146 yards on 26 carries with no Michigan player available to hit. Stat of the game: Will Campbell had ten assisted tackles.

The dispiriting thing is watching that and not being frustrated with anyone in particular when the other team moves the ball. There was no screaming some guy's name, no rolling your eyes and saying "come on make a tackle." When Michigan stopped them, it was a good play by someone. When they did not, it was because you can't play the wide receivers one on one so everyone's got a blocker.

Michigan was lucky not to give up 30 or 40 points. Ohio State is rickety. Botched snaps, penalties, and some heroic individual plays—Ryan checking Miller in space, Jibreel Black and Frank Clark combining to get Miller down on third and goal when Michigan had put four guys against three to the field—prevented that, but it was there. It will be there next year, and the year after, and the year after that. They will not be as rough as this outfit in its first year.

Michigan can only beat it by winning one-on-one matchups, lots of them. That's tough to do. Possible—see Stanford—but tough, and sometimes even if you're Stanford the Oregons of the world blitz you for 40.

image

Most of the time, actually.

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Fuller

One mistake is all it takes.

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The Hoke hire was alarming to me (for about two weeks) because it seemed like waving a white flag and going back to the Carr era philosophy that had seen Michigan slip definitively behind Ohio State over the last six or seven years of Carr's career. In a lot of ways, those concerns have proved unfounded. Carr was a puntosaur; Hoke is amongst the most aggressive coaches in the country. Mattison is as modern as defensive coordinators come. Whatever his flaws, Borges is a far cry from DeBord. He wants to score, for one.

There are two ways in which those concerns have been true, one tiny, one large. The tiny one is the spread punt. You've seen the coverage, seen what everyone else is doing, heard me complain about it, etc. I asked Heiko to bring it up a couple times over the past few years, and we did get an answer of a sort as to why Michigan doesn't run it:

MGoFollowup: Were you aware that they could run a fake out of the spread punt formation?

“Sure. Yeah. They had done it before, right up the middle.”

MGoFollowup: What’s your opinion of the spread punt formation vs. the traditional punt formation?

“Uh, we don’t use it.”

MGoFollowup: Is there a rationale for that?

“I think, you know … I’m more comfortable with what we use. That’s the rationale.”

That is a dull, unthinking answer. Heiko shot it to me as soon as he transcribed it and it depressed both of us.

Here is where the comparison to Beilein goes. Beilein, who has discovered the alley-oop and ditched the 1-3-1 except when it wins a game against Pitt, and wiped out his coaching staff to start anew. Beilein took his comfort level and chucked it out the window. We all stand to benefit. In the wake of this loss, I hope the football staff takes a similarly stark look at itself.

I wonder what possible use a huddle is now. I've had this Smart Football post lying around for months, as I was going to make a post about it:

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that huddling is an archaism destined for the dustbin. I say it’s a slight exaggeration because there is a value to huddling, primarily when you have a great leader at quarterback as a huddle is an opportunity for him to show his leadership skills. But otherwise, it’s inherently inferior to going no-huddle. It’s slower, which is a problem both in games but also in practice where your offense gets fewer reps, and, maybe most importantly, the safety net of a huddle leads coaches to transform plays that can be communicated in just one or two words into multi-syllabic monstrosities.

The Patriots don't use it, Ohio State doesn't use it, Oregon lol huddle, etc. And I see Michigan get out of one with 15 seconds on the playclock having determined what they're going to do without getting information from the defense and with little time to change what they're doing. And I think about comfort, and how dangerous it is to slip into old habits just because they are old.

It feels like Michigan is on the wrong side of history here. After Rodriguez the spread offense is anathema. It's the one thing that keeps Nick Saban enraged at night, and it feels like Michigan's going to ignore it because Rich Rodriguez's defense couldn't stop a six-year-old child, instead of for any defensible rationale. I'm not sure that's going to cut it against Urban Meyer.

Highlights

OSU guy did this one but it's got all the important stuff:

A shorter but HQ reel from mgovideo:

Also pressers from Hoke and players.

Awards

brady-hoke-epic-double-point_thumb_3_thumb

Brady Hoke Epic Double Point Of The Week. Well… this is close but since Jake Ryan saw something like 60 snaps instead of a dozen, his nine tackles two TFLs, sack, and impressive non-tackle of Braxton Miller get him the nod. One on one, he won his matchup. Now we just need five to six more of that guy.

Honorable Mention. Denard(obvious), Roy Roundtree (touchdown), Jeremy Gallon (six catches), possibly Will Campbell (ten assists!).

Epic Double Point Standings.

4: Jake Ryan (ND, Purdue, Illinois, OSU)
2: Denard Robinson (Air Force, UMass)
1.3: Jeremy Gallon(Alabama, 1/3 Minnesota), Drew Dileo (Michigan State, 1/3 Minnesota), Roy Roundtree (1/3 Minnesota, Northwestern)
1: Craig Roh(Nebraska), Devin Gardner(Iowa)

Brady Hoke Epic Double Fist-Pump Of The Week. Obvious.

Honorable mention: Roy Roundtree uses one man-Dileo convoy to score 75-yard touchdown, Frank Clark levels Braxton Miller a couple times, Denard turns not much into 30 yards on Michigan's first snap.

Epic Double Fist-Pumps Past.

11/10/2012: Mattison baits Fitz, Kenny Demens decleats Northwestern, game over.
11/17/2012: Denard WOOPS Tanner Miller in Big House finale.
11/24/2012: Denard uses PHYSICS to score a touchdown

Offense

Rawls lacks YAC, so what's the point? Michigan ended up in fourth and three on their first drive of the third quarter after a one-yard Rawls carry, a six yard Denard carry, and a zero-yard Rawls carry. The third down attempt was pretty much stuffed but Rawls could not manufacture even one yard after contact, something that has been a pattern after he got everyone's hopes up by running over some Purdue safeties.

But the real killer was the first down play, when Michigan successfully blocked everyone and got Rawls the edge. One on one in space with cornerback Bradley Roby, Rawls ran straight into him and went down. One yard.

Rawls's five carries netted two yards. Since he started picking up non-garbage-time carries against Minnesota this brings him to 68 yards on 32 carries, 2.1 per carry. Yeah, the line has something to do with that and Rawls is getting goal-line carries, but since he's getting so many goal line carries because he's bouncing outside the tackles or going down on first contact I don't think that's much to hang your hat on.

Yeah, he'll probably get better as he ages but at this point it would be a shock if he ever ends up anything but a short-yardage back. Chalk another one up to the Fred Jackson Hyperbole Curse.

This is a reason I'm skeptical about Drake Johnson making an impact. Guys Jackson personally campaigns for have a poor track record.

Bad time to get beat for the first(?) time this year. Michigan's first drive ended with a blindside sack and fumble yielded by Taylor Lewan, which was like… that can happen? I think Alabama got a blindside sack in the first game; since then nothing. Bad time for a bad play.

This of course means that he will slide down draft boards and return. That's the ticket.

Devin flaws exposed. It was coming, and it came: against a more talented defense than Gardner had seen so far he was hesitant. His throws were off, mostly deep, and throw after throw was a second late. Against Iowa and Northwestern and Minnesota it didn't matter, but Ohio State's defense is a really good unit that implodes to yield long touchdowns twice a game; when they were not doing that they're pretty good about closing down space.

All that's understandable. Hopefully we see a more polished version in the bowl game and go into 2013 with some confidence under center.

The stuff they got. Ohio State is a defense that is good, and then explodes spectacularly, and that's what they did on the Roundtree touchdown, which was just CJ Barnett making a terrible play. Good for Gardner to recognize that coverage; not a huge credit to the play itself. And then Denard used science(!) to burst through two tacklers on the 67-yarder.

That play was a credit to Borges as it was pretty much exactly what OSU ran some last week, a fake veer that turns into an outside play with a convoy of blockers. Michigan ran it to good effect in the first half, and then died in the second half because OSU adjusted.

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"boy I hope this guy spends most of the second half on the bench" –nobody (Fuller)

Speaking of that play… find me the Michigan fan who was not in full FFFFFFUUUUUUUU mode the instant before after Michigan got the ball back with 1:30, ran for eight yards on first down, and then spent 30 seconds lining up. You can't even put it on Denard this time since there was the option to go to Gardner. Denard bailed them out of another hack job of a two-minute drill.

Rodriguez comparison point. That game was reminiscent of early Rodriguez offensive forays that worked fairly well for a half—think introducing MINOR RAGE against Penn State en route to 17-14 halftime lead—and then evaporated when the opponent took the fancy new stuff away and Michigan had no other way to move the ball. They came in with a couple things that worked, and then Ohio State said "we are not letting Denard run" and that was that.

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Fuller

Speaking of that concept… on the fourth and three to open the second half Michigan ran that same play again. The above picture is from the touchdown; on the stop, Barnum's guy shot outside and upfield, forcing a cutback, and Lewan didn't have an angle to get on an equally hard-charging Shazier. It's almost like they spent halftime preparing to stop it.

“My comment was, after I saw Denard Robinson sneak outta there for a long run, stop the quarterback run,” Meyer said. “That’s the input I had. Probably the same — I think 107,000 people said that as well.”

The most baffling thing… hmm. Not running your extremely fast guy who can actually throw the ball makes the top 20 of baffling decisions Saturday. What are you saving him for?

2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but for now Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:

  • Denard
  • WR Roy Roundtree
  • TE Mike Kwiatkowski
  • OL Taylor Lewan (probably), Ricky Barnum, Elliott Mealer, and Patrick Omameh

The likely replacements:

  • Devin
  • WR Amarah Darboh(?)
  • TE AJ Williams
  • OL Ben Braden, Kyle Kalis, Jack Miller, and Chris Bryant

Bryant is admittedly speculative; Fitzgerald Toussaint may not make it back. How do we feel about this? On the one hand, four new starters on the offensive line. On the other, the interior guys are probably going to be better even if they're young. Possibly a lot better. While Schofield isn't Lewan he was a solid pass protector this year and should be able to cope.

The most important thing is getting those tight ends in shape. Funchess was a crappy blocker this year; more alarmingly, AJ Williams was hardly better. I don't know much about OL technique but Williams has stood out as so spectacularly unrefined that even a layman like myself can look at him and think "that doesn't look right."

Defense

Story of the season. Defense hangs in against good offense as offense curls up and dies, putting them in bad spots time and again, eventually cracks a little, and fades late as exhaustion sets in. Ohio State neared 400 yards and put up 26 points but I'm not even a little mad at what happened. It was all so obvious.

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this was an actual tackle (Fuller)

Most impressive non-tackle of the season. Jake Ryan in space against Braxton Miller was a little different than Jake Ryan in space against most people, but he did hold Miller up long enough for the cavalry to rally. On the day, nine tackles, a TFL, and a number of "oh thank God you are large and fast" moments. All Big Ten, surely.

I am going to hit you very hard now. Frank Clark was the main beneficiary of multiple all-out blitzes Mattison sent on third down.

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Fuller

A couple of these threatened to send Miller out of the game or dislodge the ball; most other times Michigan didn't even bother to rush him.

2013 peek ahead. I'm drafting a "22 Tickets for Team 134" feature that'll tackle this in more detail, but Michigan loses the following folks after the bowl:

  • SDE Craig Roh
  • 3TECH Will Campbell
  • MLB Kenny Demens
  • CB JT Floyd
  • S Jordan Kovacs

Likely replacements:

  • SDE: Jibreel Black/Tom Strobel
  • 3TECH: Matt Godin/Chris Wormley
  • MLB: Effectively James Ross since the bet here is Morgan slides over.
  • CB: Blake Countess
  • S: Jarrod Wilson

That's a lot of youth, with Black the only upperclassman mentioned. It is at least highly-touted youth. Wormley was going to see the field as a freshman, Countess had a breakout freshman year before the injury that cost him 2012, James Ross is a summer in the weight room away from being awesome, and… well, Wilson is not going to be Kovacs.

2013 will probably be just as good as this year, if not a little better, and then look out in 2014: the only projected starters to graduate after next year are Thomas Gordon and Quinton Washington. (Nickelback Courtney Avery also departs.) Washington will be replaced by a fully groomed Ondre Pipkins; Michigan has a few options to replace Gordon.

Miscellaneous

Fourth and three from the forty-eight. My thought at the time was that was a coinflip decision, statistically, and yup:

Stat Go4it Punt FG Att
Success Rate: 0.57 - 0.00
WP Success 0.61 0.56 0.67
WP Fail: 0.47 - 0.46
WP Total: 0.55 0.56 0.46
Break-Even: 0.64  

Those are NFL numbers, of course, and can't be taken as gospel. Whatever adjustment there is to the college game it's not going to push it into slam dunk territory either way. That decision is all about feel.

From my perspective that feel includes information like "interior line cannot block these guys" and I was more nervous than happy when Hoke went for it, but it's right on that line. OSU blew up the playcall, which was a fine playcall since it involved Denard having the ball, and Michigan gave it up. Oh well.

Live by the sword, die by the sword. Since it's hard for people to get away from their base urges I prefer the guy who will be aggressive, even excessively so, since the vast majority of decisions to be aggressive will be correct, and even ones that seem weird like Saturday's are a push.

Yup. If you were wondering if the shirtsleeves would come off, nope:

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MANBALL (Fuller)

If it's sleeting I think the guy should put a jacket on just because it's hard to think when you get cold to your bones.

Just the right amount of shoving. Football games are at their best when there is harmless shoving on a half-dozen plays a game, and M-OSU delivers on this count.

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Fuller

This was immediately after Mike Jones became "that guy who got the dumb personal foul in the 2012 game" to Michigan fans, and never threatened to escalate past this business. They've done this for years now, and I approve.

Weekly Devin Gardner lookalike photo. Recycled from last week because Bryan didn't get a shot of it, but Devin definitely went Mr Burns after the long touchdown to Roundtree.

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Upchurch/Groening

I enjoy this being a thing.

Here

Inside The Box Score:

* The leading tackler was WLB Desmond Morgan with 11. Last week's leading tackler was also the WLB, James Ross III. I guess they are not kidding when they say there is an expectation for the position.
* Will Campbell had one of the craziest defensive stat lines I've ever seen: 0 solo tackles and 10 assisted tackles.
* Jake Ryan was back making plays all over the field, 9 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. On Thomas Gordon's sack, Ryan jumped on Gordon's back and tried to sack Gordon and the QB. It's been said of others, but I don't think it applies to anyone better than Jake Ryan, he plays like his hair's on fire.

Best And Worst:

Best:  MGoMeltdowns are awesome

So as is the custom around these parts, the traffic to the site after a loss follows the same trajectory as general internet traffic does whenever illicit pictures of some starlet are “leaked” to the the web totally-unexpectedly-but-right-before-my-new-movie-Crushed Blue Velvet Girlfriend 2-is-released.  For a graphical representation, here is a screenshot of the site about 4 minutes after the game ended

freakout

Click for full size

It will never approach RCMB or anything in the SEC not related to Vandy, but TWO redundant posts sarcastically “thanking” the coaches for losing the game, one out-and-out “Fire Borges” thread and one claiming he merely “sucked”, one thread already set for deletion, and about 1,100 posts in a game thread, 50% of them berating Al Borges and the team for a poor second half, is nothing to sneeze at.  Subsequent posts included petitions to fire Al Borges, a couple crying out for sanity, and one inferring a discussion about iCarly and Larry Hagman that felt appropriate for an 8th-grader’s “MySpace” profile.  Then Ace showed up with his usual quality summary and solid reasoning, which is like, Booo this man!

LSAClassOf2000 puts yardage for and against in a table.

Elsewhere

Figure you don't want to read crowing so right on to the other stuff…

Blog stuff. Hoover Street Rag:

In the end, I'm never going to understand this, I'm never going to understand them, I'm never going to understand that feeling.  Jim Tressel is honored during the first quarter break of the Michigan/Ohio State game for his 2002 National Championship season, and he is carried off the field by his players to a standing ovation at the Horseshoe.  Ohio proceeds to get its act together and win 26-21 to complete a perfect 12-0 season.  A season in which they are ineligible for a bowl game because of NCAA sanctions related to Jim Tressel's failure to report what he knew about illegal benefits being given to his players to his superiors.  A season in which they are ineligible for the B1G championship game next weekend because of the post-season sanctions.  But it doesn't matter, a standing ovation for what Tressel did, not how Tressel got caught.

Borges complaint section follows. Maize and Brew:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING RUNNING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE FIELD WITH A RUNNING BACK BUILT LIKE A WATER BUG? WHY DID WE DO EXACTLY WHAT OHIO STATE WAS EXPECTING ON SECOND DOWN, AND THEN DO EXACTLY WHAT THEY EXPECTED ON THIRD DOWN AGAIN?! WE HAVE NOT ONE, BUT TWO EXTREMELY TALENTED AND MOBILE QBS, AND THESE ARE OUR PLAYS ON SHORT DOWNS?! WHERE ARE THE TRICK PLAYS TO ROBINSON AT TAILBACK?! ARGGGHHHHHH.

MVictors:

While Hoke never really talks about injuries, it’s not like there’s some gamesmanship required here—the bowl game is five weeks away.   And let’s say he was dinged up and couldn’t run the ball for some reason–toss him in the backfield as a decoy, no?  

Other than the lack of Denard down the stretch, the other frustration was how he was used in short yardage.   He showed no indication that he was ever going to pass it and really didn’t throw in warm-ups.    So if you aren’t going to have him throw it–at any point–then on short yardage put him in the backfield with Gardner and hand it or toss it to Denard, or fake it to #16 and have Gardner run it, or toss it to Gallon or ARGH.

After the 2001 Michigan State Spartan Bob game Lloyd Carr summed up how he felt about his team, when he said, “They deserve better.”  

MNB recap. M&GB recap. Sap's Decals. Maize and Blue Nation:

In the moments after the game, when I snapped this photo, the air was rich with the smell of marijuana, wafting down from the student section were people, from seemingly every direction flooded the field in a frenzy of drunken euphoria.

Between the Buckeye fans posing for photos in front of the team leaving the field with their heads hanging, and the idiots stupid enough to try and mix it up with Michigan players, it was all I could do to keep my composure and just walk away. I had to remember that I'm a credentialed media member and it's not my place to get involved. Just walk away. Props to the Michigan players for doing the same.

What a mess.

Papery stuff. Chantel Jennings scours instagram for Game photos. This one is from Channing Stribling:

Rothstein game story:

A week ago, the Wolverines appeared to have a devastating offense with two quarterbacks, including Denard Robinson, moving one of the most electrifying players in football all over the field. Not only did Michigan short-circuit on Saturday, the devastation was all their own unraveling.

"Yeah, we kind of knew what was coming when Denard was in and knew what was coming when [Gardner] was in," Ohio State defensive lineman Adolphus Washington said.

If Robinson was in the game, Michigan was going to run the ball without question. If Devin Gardner was in, there was a little bit more of a surprise, but more than likely the junior was going to throw the ball or try to.

Nowhere did this show up more than in the second half, when Ohio State adjusted to put nine players in the box when Robinson was in, essentially daring him to throw. Whether he couldn't or wouldn't, Robinson didn't. And that decision cost the Wolverines.

"Coach called the plays and we went with it," Robinson said.

I'll have to look at the fourth down to be sure but Robinson put it on himself after:

"I've got to come a little tighter and get outside a little more (there)," Robinson said after Michigan's 26-21 loss to Ohio State. "I made a bad read on the run, that's my fault."

Hoke as well:

"(Robinson) maybe should have been in a gap wider," Hoke said. "And, he had broken three (long plays) from that same run."

My initial take was that to do that he'd have to bounce into the backfield and the result may have been the same; I'll picture-page it.

Meinke on the end. Wojo gets in his WTF:

The play-calling went from scintillating to stubborn to baffling, and against a good defense, the quarterback combo of Devin Gardner and Denard Robinson was snapped in half. Gimmicky rotations are effective for a while, but in a game like this, in Urban Meyer's rivalry debut, lessons get delivered harshly.

"You know me, we want to run the football and we want to do a good job stopping the run," Brady Hoke said. "We didn't do either."

Nesbitt. Meinke column.

Michigan Museday Matches Nickels and Dimes

Michigan Museday Matches Nickels and Dimes

Submitted by Seth on August 15th, 2012 at 9:44 AM

Personnel

Background image by mgouser hillhaus

A thing I noticed this offseason while going over the depth and usage of various Michigan defenders is that Mattison used a lot more nickel than we gave him credit for. One thing Ace noted was that we're (finally) recruiting more cornerbacks. We shrugged a bit while losing two more CBs to playing time transferitis this fall, but I don't think we should be shrugging so much.

A little background (skip this if you already know personnel terminology and usage): Defensive coaches tend to match their personnel to the types of players on the field for the offense, NOT the formation. In general the number of backs and tight ends will be matched by linebackers, and the more that come out for receivers the more DBs the defense will send out. Three wide receivers generally means five defensive backs (i.e. nickel), two wide receivers equals four DBs (e.g. 4-3 or 3-4), etc.

The classic personnel shift is on 3rd and long, when the steady rock-pounders make way for the seven-yards-or-bust fellas. But it happens so often despite the situation that it's more accurate to see the game of matching personnel as another strategic aspect of the master's football game.

The offensive personnel is usually expressed in three digits meaning # of RBs, # of tight ends, and # of receivers, respectively. So 113 means 1 RB, 1 TE, and three WRs. Sometimes they'll call that same "eleven" personnel, referring to the first two digits. Examples below; click embiggerates.

Not different:

Personnel113-shotgunPersonnel113-iform

Different:

Personnel212-iformPersonnel221-iform5-3

How the matching up occurs is up to the coach. You could, for example, play a run-first OLB whenever a fullback is in, and sub him for a more rangy linebacker when the the fullback runs off the field for a tight end who's a known receiving threat. This happens all the time, but it's hard to track the defenses' reactions since we can't tell one linebacker in a formation from another in UFR. We do have data from which we can determine how many receivers were out there at any given time, and it's clear from these data that the more receivers the more defensive backs.

From the UFR defensive database, Michigan in 2011 was no exception:matchingpersonnel

  Avg. Personnel
WRs in Game DL LBs DBs
Four 3.8 2.4 4.7
Three 3.8 2.5 4.7
Two 4.0 3.0 4.0
One 4.1 3.3 3.6
None 4.7 3.3 3.0
Average 3.9 2.7 4.4

The last row is important because it shows Michigan left its base 4-3 Under set for an extra defensive back far more often than otherwise, usually at the expense of a linebacker. We didn't go to a nickel every time three receivers stepped on the field, in fact there were 22 plays charted where Mattison put his 4-3 personnel against four-wide (mostly against Northwestern and Purdue). But the charts not only say that Michigan was forced out of its base 4-3 set often; it says we played more Nickel downs than 4-3.6411555271_43a84798f0_o

  Receivers in Formation
Def. Form 4 3 2 1 0 Total
Nickel 121 155 14 1 x 291
4-3 22 34 195 29 x 280
Okie 20 32 2 x x 54
4-4 1 x 6 11 1 19
4-6 x x 10 5 x 15
3-3-5 5 7 1 x x 13
5-3 x x 1 2 1 4
Goal line x 1 x 2 1 4
3-4 1 1 x 1 x 3
6-2 x x 1 1 x 2
Dime-30 1 x x x x 1
Dime-40 x 1 x x x 1
Total 171 231 230 52 3 687

If I remove 4th quarters and all plays that occurred when Michigan was up by more than one score, the 4-3 just barely edges the Nickel, 147 to 140. This isn't opponents trying to play catch-up. It's two things: the personnel that Mattison inherited, and the spread offense forcing Michigan to adapt to it.

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

Why all the nickel and diming? The first part is a story about outside linebacker. Early in the 2011 season Michigan played Brandon Herron and Brandin Hawthorne at WILL, while at SAM we lost Cam Gordon to injury and his backup was a redshirt freshman. That freshman, Jake Ryan, was earning his way toward more playing time, but in the meantime we still had Carvin Johnson taking snaps at free safety while Thomas Gordon was in at the nickel role. Watch what happened at about mid-season:

TACKLESBYGAME

That is Gordon moving to free safety and splitting time with Woolfolk, while the freshmen linebackers had their usages increase. Greater faith in Jake and Des explains some of the variance, however the real story is matching personnel:

Opponent Receivers DBs Difference 4-3 Nickel Okie Other
Western Michigan 3.02 4.68 1.67 15.79% 59.65% 15.79% 8.77%
Notre Dame 3.05 4.49 1.44 25.00% 51.25% 12.50% 11.25%
Eastern Michigan 2.20 3.98 1.78 57.78% 17.78% 4.44% 20.00%
San Diego State 2.51 4.38 1.88 43.21% 44.44% 6.17% 6.17%
Minnesota 2.72 4.36 1.64 50.00% 41.67% 2.78% 5.56%
Northwestern 3.75 4.82 1.07 14.75% 80.33% 0.00% 4.92%
Michigan State 2.36 4.25 1.90 55.93% 32.20% 1.69% 10.17%
Purdue 3.07 4.30 1.24 60.87% 32.61% 0.00% 6.52%
Iowa 2.02 4.04 2.02 64.81% 16.67% 5.56% 12.96%
Illinois 2.83 4.57 1.74 25.71% 52.86% 14.29% 7.14%
Nebraska 2.83 4.28 1.45 37.50% 35.00% 15.00% 12.50%
Ohio State 2.48 4.19 1.71 58.62% 24.14% 12.07% 5.17%
Total 2.75 4.38 1.63 40.76% 42.36% 7.86% 9.02%

I pointed out the two extremes on the schedule with boldation: Northwestern used about twice as many receivers in their formations as Iowa did, but there was a limit to how many defensive backs Michigan would counter with. The nickel served as well for 4 WR as for 3, yet accounted for 4 in 5 plays. However when the opposition went to 2 WR (Iowa), Mattison could spend a majority of the game in the 4-3.

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

When Michigan's on offense. Nothing is out of the ordinary yet, but when we turn the tables and show how defenses have reacted to Michigan's personnel it gets interesting:

Season Avg. Receivers in Formation Avg. DBs in Formation Difference
2008 3.13 4.36 1.2
2009 2.84 4.46 1.6
2010 3.07 3.93 0.9
2011 2.62 4.2 1.6
Total 2.91 4.22 1.3

This is not including anything when Michigan was more than a score down, but the season averages counting everything say about the same thing. I went through the plays and even a few youtubes and yes, in 2010 they played one-high against us despite spreading the field to pass as much as Purdue. Michigan went bigger in 2011, and got more defensive backs, which is counterintuitive except for one factor: opponents in 2010 really really really feared the running game, and tempted Michigan to pass.

treecatching

Okie dokie. | Greg Shamus via ESPN

One more table to break this down by Michigan's opponents last year, 4th quarters and two-plus-score leads excised:

Opponent WRs in formation DBs in formation Difference
Western Michigan 2.41 3.97 1.6
Notre Dame 3.10 4.60 1.5
Eastern Michigan 2.71 4.11 1.4
San Diego State 2.44 4.89 2.4
Minnesota 2.31 3.77 1.5
Northwestern 2.55 3.89 1.3
Michigan State 2.54 4.00 1.5
Purdue 2.53 4.13 1.6
Iowa 2.67 4.08 1.4
Illinois 2.78 4.04 1.3
Nebraska 2.67 4.43 1.8
Ohio State 2.79 4.21 1.4
Total 2.62 4.12 1.5

Nothing really jumps out except perhaps more spread in close games, and SD State's apparent paucity of linebackers (weird—didn't they just have that guy who recruits lots of linebackers there?) Actually that's Charlie Strong's 3-3-5, and the GERG numbers from 2010 are similar due to the same effect.

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

What it means for this year. Alabama and Air Force aren't going to be spread it out—their challenges are elsewhere. However the Big Ten schedule is spread-heavy, with Ohio State joining the ranks of the many-receivered. Due to recent attrition, Michigan goes into 2012 with just six scholarship cornerbacks for three positions that will be filled half the time. It's a good thing the coaching staff has four guys coming in at corner to replace the one expected departure. These days, in order to keep up with the Joneses, that nickelback position has to be considered as much of a starter as, well, a third receiver.

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Upon Further Review 2011: Offense vs Illinois

Submitted by Brian on November 17th, 2011 at 4:36 PM

Thing of the week. Introducing Vampire Denard, as MVictors dubbed him.

vampire-denard

Formation notes: Michigan went heavy shotgun in this game. I've only got nine I-form snaps, two of which came in garbage time. As for how those snaps worked out… more on that later.

Michigan operated with a lot of 2-back sets in this game, from which they deployed a variety of zone runs; when they went three-wide with a TE he was usually aligned as an H-back a la Rodriguez.

Substitution notes: Nothing you don't already know. Line was Lewan/Schofield/Molk/Omameh/Huyge, WR rotation was the same as usual, Denard was knocked out when he hit his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet midway through the third, Toussaint got the bulk of the carries.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 under Run Triple option dive Toussaint 0
Wow, good thing I didn't see this live: the NT times the first snap of the game. Anyway: Odoms is in the slot to the short side and comes in motion at the snap; he then appears to get in a pitch relationship with Robinson. Denard hands off on a dive to Toussaint; this is a mistake with the MLB headed to the dive. NT shoots past Omameh thanks to the snap timing and has time to come all the way around to tackle at the LOS. Toussaint had no other options because of the LB, who prevents a yard or two of YAC. RPS -1 for snap jump. RUN-: Robinson(2)
M20 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 65
The big run opened by the safety overplaying Robinson. M uses Koger and an H back and shoots him to the backside of the play to get a linebacker crashing down. Denard reads the exchange and hands. There are three second level defenders left with the scrape. One drops into coverage on the snap since the slot blitz left Hemingway open and Michigan threatens passes in these situations. A second tries to blitz the backside belly gap between Omameh and Huyge; Huyge(+1) just manages to get over to slow him down. LB is coming through because he's gotten in too fast but a significant slowdown is enough. The last guy is the free safety, who is still checking Denard by the time Toussaint bursts past the LOS. With Watson(+1) releasing downfield and sealing the cornerback there is nothing but grass in front of Fitz; the other S manages to grab his shirt because all long Toussaint runs this year end with someone grabbing his shirt. Molk(+1) and Schofield(+1) provided the frontside crease; Toussaint(+2) saw it and hit it immediately. RPS +1. I would normally give this more since there are three guys checking Denard but this is a basic spread play Illinois should not get clunked on like this. Picture paged.
RUN+: Molk, Huyge, Toussaint(2), Schofield, Robinson(0.5), Watson RUN-:
O15 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
Denard slightly in front of the TBs, implying inside zone. Hopkins motions into a pitch relationship with Denard on the snap. This pulls both linebackers to the wide side of the field; slot guy comes in to contain and Robinson hands off. Hopkins never even looks at Denard so I don't think this is a read. Schofield(+1) kicks one DT; Molk(+1) another. Omameh(+1) comes off a momentary double to seal the SLB after he stepped the wrong way on the option fake. Lewan(+2) rides a DE five yards downfield. Toussaint hits the crease provided and hops outside... I think he gives up some yards by cutting back behind Lewan instead of just running right for the corner. RPS +1.
RUN+: Lewan(2), Schofield, Molk, Omameh RUN-:
O9 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 9
Slot LB stays with the slot this time; Illinois makes it up with a safety. They blitz a LB right into the intended hole; Smith(+2) hacks him to the ground as Robinson(+1) darts around him. Molk(+1) seals the playside DT; Schofield(+1) and Koger(+1) get downfield to wall off the last two guys. Lewan(-1) almost gets it all blown up by losing his guy; Robinson(+1) glides past that guy and into the endzone.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Smith(2), Molk, Koger, Schofield RUN-: Lewan
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 13 min 1st Q. Craig James says the last play is 'almost like a designed quarterback run'. O RLY?
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M47 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois keeps the LB over the slot and sends the guy on the short side; M runs another inside zone. The linebackers slide a little to the backside since Hopkins shooting into that end threatens both a Denard keeper and a Toussaint cutback; the corner has the frontside gap. Or at least he would if Gallon(+1) didn't read his blitz and crack down on him, shoving him past the hole and helping Omameh(+0.5) out on his WLB block. With Molk(+1) and Huyge(+0.5) not doing anything too bad on their blocks Toussaint hits the open hole for a good gain.
RUN+: Gallon, Huyge(0.5), Molk(0.5), Omameh(0.5), Toussaint(0.5) RUN-:
O46 2 3 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 1
Bubble complaint lodged. Anyway, Illinois has a corner on one side of the line with no one in his zone since the TE is offset to the WR side. He can run at this as soon as he sees the RB move away from him. He does. On the playside the optioned DE heads upfield so Robinson keeps. Omameh(+1) kicks the playside LB effectively. Cutback means the corner tackles Robinson from behind; even without that Lewan(-1) lost a downblock and Schofield(-1) couldn't get out on a linebacker. RPS -1. Picture paged.
O45 3 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 1
Twinned WRs stacked over each other; Toussaint motions outside of them. No one really goes with him; Illinois is still playing a full two deep so it's six on six in the box. Illinois charges upfield, opening up a draw; a blitzing LB seems like he's supposed to deal with that possibility. Molk(+1) shoves him past the play. Mercilus beats Huyge(-1) upfield in a flash, which wouldn't normally be a problem but the guy actually catches Robinson from behind just as it looks like he's going to burst into the secondary. He can't tackle; he does redirect Denard into the DT peeling back. Omameh(-0.5) could have done a little better here and still made this a big play. Hopkins(+1) got a good block on the last LB. RPS +1; Michigan had this for big yardage but for Mercilus being great.
RUN+: Molk, Hopkins RUN-: Huyge, Omameh(0.5)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-0, 10 min 1st Q. Boo punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 8
It's back. This one works because there isn't even a corner anywhere near the WR on the catch since Illinois bit hard on the play action and played soft behind it. Koger(-1) whiffs his block, unfortunately, and Lewan(-1) did not adjust to that reality; meanwhile Schofield(-1) also whiffs. Hard on these guys in space but man, I think one block here is a big, big gainer. RPS +2. (CA, 3, screen)
RUN+: Gallon RUN-: Koger, Schofield, Lewan
M25 2 2 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson -2
I think this doesn't go anywhere like where it's supposed to go because Molk(-1) cannot react quickly enough to a blitz to prevent a linebacker from getting in past him. Both RBs are headed to the left side of the line but that's no longer an option. Instead of redirecting Toussaint bangs the blitzing LB. Robinson is now alone in some space with two Illinois players. He hesitates(-2) and tries to go back to the play he had already abandoned. If he hits it up directly he may get a yard or two. Instead he loses four; the refs inexplicably say he lost only two. Refs +1, RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk, Robinson(2)
M23 3 4 Shotgun trips bunch 1 1 3 4-3 under Pass Delayed slant Hemingway 8
Lovely little route combo here as Odoms runs a drag across the field and Koger releases deep as Hemingway just kind of hangs out at the line waiting for everyone to GTFO. Denard stares down the drag, drawing a zoning DE, and then comes off on a wide open slant for the first. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1) This was explained in the Football Fundamentals diary.
M31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under Run Zone stretch Toussaint 9
Old friend. Illinois is way undershifted on the line and Molk can release immediately; Omameh(+1) cuts the NT to the ground. Molk ends up missing the MLB but only because he's charging straight upfield; he runs right by the play. Schofield(+1) adjusts to chuck the other blitzing LB to the ground; Lewan(+1) kicks the playside DE and Toussaint(+1) zips into a gaping hole. Illini have two safeties back so they combo to hold this down. RPS +1; Illinois reacted poorly to this.
M40 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 3
Illinois slants to this play, which makes life difficult. Koger gets good push on a downblock; McColgan(+1) blows up the EMLOS; the two good blocks on this play give Toussaint enough of a lane to slam it up for a first down.
RUN+: McColgan, Koger RUN-:
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint 0
Classic Molk reach(+2) sees the NT buried in the middle of the field. With the slot LB sticking to the WR and a backside blitz from the other corner plus two deep safeties there is now one player with any hope of preventing this from breaking big. Omameh(-2) runs by the guy and he makes the tackle. RPS +1.
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 25
The WTF Zook play. Illinois wants to defend this by slanting to the right and shooting a linebacker underneath into the belly gap to tackle for loss; Molk(+2) starts releasing left, reads this play that I don't know if he's ever seen before, and rudely ejects the LB from the box. Lewan(+1) and Schofield(+1) crease the backside DT and DE and Toussaint runs fast into a gaping cavern. RPS+2, but sort of a play where I'd like to RPS-2 Zook without giving a plus to anyone else.
RUN+: Molk(3), Schofield, Lewan, Toussaint. RUN-:
O32 1 10 Shotgun 2back TE 2 1 2 4-4 even Run Power off tackle Shaw 5
I think Michigan tips this by lining McColgan to the weak side, but whateva. Illinois blitzes the MLB to no effect. Think that's a Denard blitz. Huyge(+1) does a good job on the playside DT. There's now two Illinois players to the outside and one scraping from the inside. McColgan gets an iffy bump on the outside guys; Schofield(-1) realizes he needs to turn inside to get a scraping LB too late and lets him by. Shaw(+1) makes one hard cut upfield and runs into three arm tackles. He goes down. Did well to get yardage there and if he had a little more room could have creased this for a big gain.
RUN+: Huyge, Shaw RUN-: Schofield
O27 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Robinson 4
The backside DE starts shuffling down the line to defend the belly and Robinson(+1) pulls. This is the right read and it takes a series of unfortunate events to hold this down. Event one: shuffling DE reads the pull and manages to bang Koger upfield. Event two: NT decides before the mesh point is complete that Denard is pulling and chucks his blocker to head backside. (This is why the handoff looked so open.) Event three: Hemingway's block on the slot guy is crappy. He gets upfield and takes Koger's block; Denard has to cut behind all this. Thanks to Lewan(+1) pushing that shuffling DE past the play he does have a cutback lane that he takes to the sticks. Unfortunately he puts the ball on the turf(-3). Addressed in a picture pages.
RUN+: Lewan RUN-: Robinson(2), Hemingway
Drive Notes: Fumble, 7-0, 3 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Triple option dive Toussaint 6
WLB blitzes right at Molk(+1); Molk picks him up and walls him off. Triple option makes the MLB run upfield. Illinois is filling hard with a safety; Roundtree(+1) cracks down on him. Michigan has adapted to this Illinois strategy well; their WRs are picking up the right guys in the secondary. Change from last week. Anyway, Toussaint is now breaking free. Roundtree's block is tough and his man gets an arm tackle attempt that slows Toussaint; Huyge's man comes off to tackle with the corner. Omameh did a good job on the DT.
RUN+: Molk, Roundtree, Omameh RUN-:
O35 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 10
Schofield(+2) gets playside of a guy who is playside of him on the snap and buries him. Toussaint(+1) reads the block of Omameh and cuts inside; Robinson follows. Omameh's block is kind of crappy but as the DT is coming off he eats Toussaint. Robinson darts by. Molk(+1) takes out the MLB. Hemingway(-1) basically whiffs his block; Denard(+1) runs through that arm tackle attempt and gets a chunk more than the first.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Robinson, Molk RUN-: Omameh(0.5), Hemingway
O25 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Illinois now scraping down the line with that DE; I think this is actually a bad read by Denard(-1). With Odoms in the slot the corner opens up; Koger is running by the DE's block and should have any scraper DOA. (Hemingway's blocking is really an issue in this game.) Anyway, the DE should snuff this out at the LOS but inexplicably derps just as the guy with the ball runs by him. Toussaint(+1) runs through an arm tackle from that guy. That done he rides behind a great diving block from Schofield(+2) that sees the playside DT deposited five yards downfield. Half of Toussaint's plus is using this block to its fullest. Molk(+0.5) helped with a momentary double and then walled off a linebacker.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield(2), Molk(0.5) RUN-: Robinson
O18 2 3 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 8
MLB blitz; Lewan(+1) shoots him down the LOS and eliminates him. Playside DT is already slanting away; Molk and Schofield help him but not plus. Hopkins(+1) walls off the DE containing Robinson. Slot LB is in no-man's land; Toussaint(+0.5) hits it up for a quality gain. RPS +1.
RUN+: Toussaint(0.5), Hopkins, Lewan RUN-:
O10 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
With Koger pulling around it seems like Denard has a blocker for the scrape LB and is one on one with a safety. Anyway. Handoff is made. Molk(-2) is chucked to the ground by the NT; seems like it should be defensive holding but results based charting. Omameh(+1) is still blocking this guy but he's got a two for one. Schofield(-1) falls down and allows the backside DT to flow behind this business. Toussaint(-1) still has a lane thanks to a good Huyge(+1) kick but hesitates. For what reason I don't know. Angling outside and just slamming for whatever you can get seems like 4; he gets two.
RUN+: Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Molk(2), Schofield, Toussaint
O8 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 6
Michigan's blocking changes, possibly based on opponent alignment. Lewan(+1) kicks the DE; Koger(+1) dives inside that block and picks off an aggressive LB. Schofield(+1) comes off a double to get another LB and Toussaint dances through the blocks to get down to the four. From there it's push the pile.
RUN+: Lewan, Koger, Toussaint, Schofield RUN-:
O2 3 G Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Speed option Robinson 2
Omameh(+2) slashes the backside DT to the ground and that is all she wrote. Molk(+1) gets the last linebacker with a chance and Robinson(+1) reads the situation for an easy six.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Molk, Robinson RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 12 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 0
Okay, now Illinois has this down. Shuffling DE comes down the line and tackles Toussaint as he cuts behind Omameh. M is running the Odoms end-around fake; without that—with a bubble—it seems like the keeper is open. As it is I don't even know if this is an option. RPS -1.
RUN-: Robinson
M41 2 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA TE Flat Koger 2
Robinson has to dump it immediately and can only be sure Koger is safe; he hits him; a cover two corner comes up to tackle on the catch. Koger fell down anyway. (CA, 3, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M43 3 8 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout out Hemingway 15
Man, this rollout gets three Illini defenders running at Robinson unfettered but he does have enough time to zing a great pass into a well-covered Hemingway for the first down. Hemingway has to leap for it but it's not particularly tough catch and putting it at the height Robinson does is a good way to keep it from prying hands. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Toussaint -1, team -1)
O42 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass TE wheel Koger 40
Finally we get a derp easy play based on a team overreacting to something. M runs PA and then fakes the throwback screen. When the corner comes up hard on Gallon, Koger releases downfield and gets crazy wide open a la 2010. Denard has a touchdown... and leaves it short. To be fair, an Illinois blitz did get a guy in on Robinson, forcing him to throw off the back foot. Still... lay it a little further out here, man. (MA, 3, protection ½, team -1, RPS +3)
O2 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Run Zone read dive Toussaint -3
Bandit type player actually looks like a DL; he charges hard at the LOS when Molk pops that head up. Another LB blitzes behind this. Both these guys get in free. Toussaint has no chance. RPS -2; Michigan dead on snap.
O5 2 G I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint -3
Guh, man. Michigan runs a delay on the five after passing like five times in this game. I'd rather just throw here. Illinois blitzes right into it and again gets an unlbocked LB into the backfield. Molk(-2) doubled a DT and was the primary culprit. Still not a fan of the call. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk(2)
O8 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 7
No one open, Robinson finally just runs and almost gets a huge reward for it; unfortunately he does step OOB early. Review picks up the ref error. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2)
O1 4 G Shotgun trips 2 3 0 Goal line Run Speed option Robinson -4
I do think the snap takes this from a low chance to zero chance but man... they didn't try to manball once on this series. If this is a good snap Robinson might pitch and then Toussaint either gets crushed by the guy flaring out or dives inside of him and drives the unblocked LB into the endzone. Still... when RR did this he threw two TEs on the line to give his runners more gaps to probe. RPS –1.
RUN-: Molk.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 5 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
Illinois shifts as Molk puts his head down, sliding one LB to the line and putting another guy right over the NT. Robinson has few good options once Molk(-1) gets beaten playside. He can wait and get tackled from behind by the shifted LB or not wait and get tackled by the NT. He chooses door #2. RPS -1.
RUN-: Molk
M13 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Shaw -8
W/ Illlinois in a true even set Molk cannot reach anyone. Omameh(-3) is then tossed to the ground by the playside DT, which blows up the play. Normally you can cut to one side or the other other of that guy; here Omameh fails to exist and Shaw is doomed either way. Shaw(-3) compounds matters by not cutting straight upfield and accepting his loss of a couple. Instead he bounces outside and loses eight.
RUN-: Omameh(3), Shaw(3)
M21 3 18 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Sack -- -6
Zone blitz confuses the M D line; live this looked like Huyge got destroyed but really this was just a complicated protection executed poorly. Huyge sets up to maybe block an OLB who drops off; Omameh eventually peels off Mercilus because a blitzer is coming unblocked up the middle and he does not have faith—or does not know—that Smith is about to slice the guy down. Mercilus annihilates Robinson as he delays because he isn't actually looking at the dude; ball pops up and is either recovered or intercepted. (PR, N/A, protection 0/3, Omameh -1, Huyge -1, Team -1) No replays show the routes, but M got killed on a zone blitz and had no obvious short options. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 14-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 7
Starts out with the triple stack; Odoms motions to the other side of the field. Illinois ends up with just six in the box; M runs at it. DE contains; handoff. Huyge(+1) picks up the WLB's blitz and kicks him out. Omameh(+2) gets an excellent driving block on the playside DT and a sizeable hole forms. Molk(-0.5) reads another LB blitz late and can't cut his guy off; he does impede him enough that Toussaint can run through an arm tackle. He cuts past a safety that Odoms isn't blocking in the back but is walling off; the delay allows the guy containing Robinson to come back and tackle from behind.
RUN+: Omameh(2), Huyge, Toussaint RUN-: Molk(0.5)
O36 2 3 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Iso Toussaint -2
Schofield(-0.5) gives too much ground here, making the angle of attack awkward. Lewan(-1) whiffs on a linebacker as he releases downfield, which spooks Toussaint into bouncing outside despite the fact that he's still got Hopkins and will probably get something by just slamming it up. As it is his bounce is a bad idea since it's into a guy with excellent position.
RUN-: Lewan, Toussaint, Schofield(0.5), Hopkins(0.5)
O38 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch tight 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Drag Odoms 19
Part II of drag-follow, this time with the drag opening up. Illinois corner starts pointing at the Odoms motion and gets no response; he ends up having to make a hopeless march through traffic and has no shot of catching Odoms as he makes the turn upfield. Pattern got M an easy first down on a dead simple catch. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS+1)
O19 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint -2
Playside end dives under Koger(-1) and gets upfield into Schofield, picking off that puller. Aggressive MLB now shoots into the gap unmolested and Toussaint has nowhere to go. Hopkins had to flare out to block the blitzing slot guy, bubble complaint etc. RPS -1.
RUN-: Koger
O21 2 12 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 Dime even Pass Screen Smith Inc
Smith gets bashed as he tries to get into the pattern and Mercilus gets a free run as Lewan(-1) is suckered by a zone blitz, so Robinson doesn't have time to let this set up or find a receiver. He throws it away. (TA, 0, protection ½, Lewan -1, RPS -1)
O21 3 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout fly Odoms Inc
Guhhhhhh. Odoms runs right by a zoning corner and is wide open for a touchdown. Denard throws it on a line and zips it just past the outstretched hands of Odoms. He deflects it but no way. If Odoms isn't 5'8” it's a TD easy. Still, Robinson had this and if he puts a little more arc on it this is an easy six. (IN, 0, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: Missed FG(39), 14-0, 1 min 2nd Q. Michigan gets the ball back for a final play; Hail Mary not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M42 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Yakety snap -- -9
On Robinson; snap is perfect.
M33 2 19 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 11
Koger(+1) drives the playside end inside. The WLB is gone upfield to the other side of the line. Toussaint(+2) gets a crushing block on the MLB that blows him downfield; Hemingway(-2) does nothing with the slot LB. Robinson feints inside as that guy threatens to do bad things upfield; Omameh(+1) pulls into him, at which point Robinson bounces back outside and jets for the corner, stiffarming a safety.
RUN+: Robinson(2), Toussaint(2), Omameh, Koger RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M44 3 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout what -- Inc
Rollout just gets Robinson killed when he has to pull up since the edge is not clean, which exposes him to a free run from the backside end. Robinson pulls up and ends up chucking a ball directly at an Illinois DB, which is dropped. I have no idea what he saw; should have thrown it away. Possible this was deflected? These rollouts are more trouble than they're worth. (INX, N/A, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 10 min 3rd Q. Robinson is done for the day.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Hopkins comes around for the speed option; DE forms up so Gardner hands off. Toussaint(+1) squeezes through the backside hole between the OL and that DE. That's thanks to Schofield(+1) giving him some extra room. Schofield's guy eventually spins off to get an arm tackle attempt in; that slows Toussaint and allows a LB to come from behind. Lewan(+1) did a good job to erase the MLB on the play. RPS +1. Play design gets the gain here by optioning off the DE.
RUN+: Toussaint, Schofield, Lewan RUN-:
M38 2 1 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Playside DT slants away from the play into Huyge, who is essentially blocked and cannot get out on the MLB. The rest of the play goes as intended but unblocked LB in the hole means a cutback into a mess for no gain because Omameh(-2) got shoved to the ground and a DT is sitting there unblocked. RPS -1.
RUN-: Omameh(2)
M38 3 1 I-Form Big 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Toussaint 0
Eight guys in the box and a safety coming down. M doubles the playside DT; Koger(+1) pops off and gets a driving block on the MLB. Playside DE slides down; Hopkins does kick him but Schofield has to slow up significantly to get through the hole. He ends up blocking the overhang corner as Toussaint(-2) runs into two unblocked players; had to follow Schofield and Koger for the first.
RUN+: Koger RUN-: Toussaint(2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-0, 7 min 3rd Q. Runs from the I so far: 6 for -4 yards. Illinois muffs subsquent punt.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M32 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Delay Toussaint 3
Corner blitz overruns the play but the guy recovers well. Toussaint finds considerable running room at first until the DE on the edge gives it up to fill the hole; Toussaint bounces out smartly only for that blitzing corner to tackle from behind. Molk(+0.5) and Schofield(+0.5) got good looking blocks that weren't tested; Lewan couldn't really be blamed since the DE released in a way he had no ability to combat. The corner blitz gets the play. RPS -1.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk(0.5), Schofield(0.5) RUN-:
M29 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Rollout hitch Odoms Inc
Edge acquired this time but this is going to be a five yards and immediate tackle sort of pass despite the roll. Ball winged to Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
M29 3 7 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Pass Rollout cross Hemingway 20
I think the snap is too early here; a guy is coming across the formation but ends up not even getting to the center by the snap. He ends up useless when he's supposed to be a drag route underneath, I bet. Gardner gets pressure thanks to a Smith(-1) whiff on the cut but at least he whiffs to the outside and sends Mercilus inside; Gardner manages to run through the tackle attempt. Once he does that he lobs a wobbler to Hemingway that's brought in for a good gain. (CA+, 3, protection ½, Smith -1)
M9 1 G Ace 2TE tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Pitch sweep Smith 0
Pitch formation and pitch play picture paged last week, except Hemingway(-2) runs by the playside LB, leaving him to a pulling Molk, who has no chance to get this guy shooting upfield for leverage. Hemingway then whiffs on the safety. So he blocked the wrong guy and didn't even block the guy he was trying to. Smith has to cut back behind Molk because the LB has shot out to the corner; heavily flowing MLB Molk should be blocking and safety Hemingway whiffed on combine to tackle.
RUN-: Hemingway(2)
M9 2 G Shotgun trips 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack Pass Rollout drag Hemingway Inc
Blitz w/ DE flying upfield and LB coming behind it cuts off the roll and forces a quick, bad throw from Gardner. Hemingway can't haul it in; it's three yards if he does. (IN, 1, protection ½, team -1, RPS -1)
M9 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Gardner 5
Give up and kick.
Drive Notes: FG(27), 17-0, 4 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 2
Playside DE contains; Koger(+1) moves out on the slot LB, who is coming down. That erases him way outside. Omameh does an okay job on the backside DT; Huyge(+1) gets a good block on the MLB, and Toussaint has a huge cutback lane... that he totally misses. Instead he runs to the wrong side of Omameh's block and turns a good gain into a crappy one.
RUN+: Omameh, Koger, Huyge RUN-: Toussaint(2)
M22 2 8 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone read keeper Gardner 2 (Pen -11)
Backside DE shuffles down and Gardner pulls. Depending on Hopkins's assignment his either fine or insane, because Hopkins slams that DE. Gardner now dealing with a scraping LB and a safety shooting down and has to bounce all the way outside, where he gets a couple yards. Hopkins gets a chop block PF for his block of a technically engaged DE, but I don't really blame him since the whole point of this offense is that guy is not actually blocked. So... someone's wrong. Hopkins or Gardner? I'm guessing Gardner.
RUN-: Gardner(2)
M11 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Run Zone read dive Toussaint 9
Illinois clearly backing out into safe coverage so M runs at a six man box. Molk(+1) and Omameh(+1) blow out the playside DT; Schofield(-1) has a tough time with his guy and he almost blows up the play but the great work on the frontside gives him a crease; Molk pops off on a LB. Toussaint does good work to make one dash cut right upfield after clearing the arm tackle attempt from the backside DE. He's into the secondary, where everybody is. Everybody tackles him.
RUN+: Toussaint, Molk, Omameh RUN-: Schofield
M20 3 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Okie Run PA Scramble Gardner 4
A blitz off the edge gets two guys in on Gardner almost before the fake mesh point and erase any thought of a throw. Gardner manages to scramble for decent yardage. PA on which you are not blocking a guy on third and ten? Come on. (PR, N/A, protection N/A, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-7, 13 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Run Zone stretch Toussaint -5
Yeesh: not only does the slot LB blitz but so does the corner. Both of these guys are on the playside. Slot LB charges upfield; Hopkins(+1) manages to shove him past the play and Toussaint hops past him. With the playside DE sealed and Huyge(+1) out on the playside LB this is opening up but for that blitz; Hemingway(-1) again is watching his guy make a tackle after barely or not touching him; quicker reaction here maybe gets Toussaint a bounce. As it is he almost does before getting chopped down by an ankle tackle. RPS -2.
RUN+: Hopkins, Huyge, Omameh RUN-: Hemingway
O27 2 15 Ace 4-wide tight 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA Whatever ??? Inc
Fake toss; WLB is blitzing upfield and is instantly in on Gardner. He chucks an ugly dangerous duck off his back foot that lands yards in front of Hemingway. He might have been open. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, team, RPS -1)
O27 3 15 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Dime even Pass Dig Odoms 27
Three man rush gives Gardner all day. He gets a crease and steps up into the forever pocket, then hits a wide open Odoms breaking into the endzone. Yeesh, Zook. (CA+, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2, though again this is more of an RPS -2 for Illinois than anything else.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 24-7, 10 min 4th Q. Game is over when M gets the ball back but for posterity...
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Power off tackle Toussaint 13
This is all RB. Lewan(-1) downblock is beaten by a slant; that guy cuts off the pulling Omameh. Toussaint has no crease and if he's going anywhere it's into the arms of an unblocked LB. Backside blitz should have this dead on the cutback but Illinois has two guys go after Gardner's waggle, allowing Toussaint(+2) to cut back hard and fast into the secondary. No RPSes now but this is not something that should have worked.
RUN+: Toussaint(2) RUN-: Lewan
O27 1 10 I-Form big 2 2 1 4-3 under Run Iso Toussaint 27
Everyone runs right at this and misses; Molk being a culprit. This is just here because Toussaint(+3) did silly things.
RUN+: Toussaint(3) RUN-:
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 31-14, 2 min 4th Q. M gets the ball back and kneels. EOG.

I AM SO CONFLICTED

Illinois gives up 280 yards a game and hasn't had anyone score more than 21 against them save Northwestern; Michigan had more yards in the first half than OSU and PSU did in their entire games against the Illini; they spent most of the second half trying to strangle the game with their backup quarterback; one extra yard and one field goal pushed a little further inside and they put up 41.

Be happy.

BUT THE NO POINTS

Bothersome. Less bothersome than not moving the ball at all, like Iowa and MSU.

I THOUGHT YOU WERE SUPPOSED TO HATE BORGES

I hate the pro-style-with-Denard-and-Zoney-McOffensiveline, not the man. Are you Joe Paterno again?

IT'S NOT LIKE I HAVE ANYTHING BETTER TO DO NOW

Would you like to scream—

CHART

—chart?

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

Opponent DO CA MA IN BR TA BA PR SCR DSR
2009, All Of It 1 7 6(2) 3(1) 4 4 - - ? 44%
Notre Dame 3 25(8) 3(1) 4 1 - 4(1) 2 - 71%
Michigan State 4 14(3) 1 7(1) 1 - - 2 2 68%
Iowa 1 11(3) 2 3(1) 2 - 1 - - 64%
Illinois 4 9(1) 1 4 1 3 1(1) - - 60%
Purdue 2 12(1) 1 3 1 1 1 3 - 68%
WMU '11 - 6(1) 4 3 1 - - - 1 56%
Notre Dame '11 6 7(1) 1 6(1) 5 1 1 1 - 50%
EMU '11 1 10(1) - 5 1 - 1 1 1 59%
SDSU '11 - 10(2) - 4 2 1 - 1 - 53%
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%
Purdue '11 1 7(1) - 1 2 1 - 2 - 66%
Iowa '11 2 21 2 7 1 - 3(1) 2 - 69%
Illinois '11 1 4(1) 1 2 - 1(1) - 1 1 66%

Gardner had two CAs, three INs, and a PR.

Denard's DSR is an incredibly small sample size—4/6—so read as little into that as possible. His two bad throws were the "argh, why aren't you six feet tall, Odoms" overthrow and his last insane pass that was so off and wobbly it seems like it must have slipped or been deflected. He did have an impressive throw to Hemingway:

He gets an INC for his passing in this game, but if you look at his season trend he does seem to be getting better. The last three games he's been hovering in the md-60s, which is acceptable. The MSU debacle is a heavily mitigated outlier in a decent Big Ten season.

My problem with Denard's game was not in the air, but on the ground:

Offensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Lewan 8 5 3 Had some mistakes in space.
Barnum - - - DNP
Molk 14 7.5 6.5 Off to roaring start and then hit a wall on the goal line stand.
Omameh 14 7.5 6.5 Had a really good day except when getting tossed to the ground on two plays that lost a ton of yards.
Huyge 7 1 6 Very solid day against Mercilus.
Schofield 11.5 5.5 6 Doing well, solid starter.
Mealer - - - DNP
Watson 1 - 1
Koger 6 2 4 Back to the usual after fun with Purdue DEs.
TOTAL 61.5 28.5 68% A solid B day from the line against a good D.
Backs
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 6.5 8 -1.5 Fumble, bad reads, hesitancy.
Gardner - 2 -2 Blew one read.
Toussaint 18.5 6.5 12 +5 on the meaningless last drive but still a quality day both running and blocking.
Shaw 1 3 -2 Turned in the ultimate Shaw run, at least.
Smith 2 - 2 Supplanted. M may have tipped screen by throwing it to him.
Hopkins 2 0.5 1.5 Marginalized in spread.
Rawls - - - DNP
McColgan - - - DNP
TOTAL 30 20 10 Good day from Toussaint; everyone else bler.
Receivers
Player + - T Notes
Hemingway - 7 -7 Huge, huge problem. I hate having him in the slot.
Odoms - - -  
Gallon 2 - -  
Roundtree 1 - -  
Grady - - - --
Jackson - - -  
Dileo - - - --
TOTAL 3 7 -4 Paging Floridian mountain goats to slot STAT
Metrics
Player + - T Notes
Protection 14 13 52% Team 8, Omameh 1, Toussaint 1, Huyge 1, Lewan 1, Smith 1. NO MORE ROLLOUTS
RPS 18 20 -2 +8 before goal line stand; that was  big chunk and then Borges was just bleeding the game out w/ Gardner mostly. That'll happen.

So… yeah. Denard being negative on the ground is a recipe for bad things happening. A chunk of that is the fumble, but even if you take that out he barely edges above even. He danced too much and gave up yardage, he missed reads on the zone, and he didn't have any runs on which he could truly deploy his speed. That is part of Toussaint's day, obviously, but Denard's trend on the ground is now in the land of cocked eyebrow.

When the playside LB is doing this…

triple-option-2

…and you're handing off you have messed up. That kind of thing is getting distressingly common.

Good god, I've never even seen a relevant wide receiver. What happened?

I don't know, man, but the difference between Hemingway and the little headbutting goats from Florida is stark. Having Hemingway in the slot against an opponent that loves to bring a linebacker off the corner is asking for trouble, and then there were plays that were just bad. Michigan ran that same pitch sweep I picture paged from the Iowa game to Hemingway's side; instead of blocking the playside LB Hemingway ran right to the safety. And then he whiffed. Molk had no shot at cutting off that LB when he ran free and Smith had to cut back into bodies. And then there was this:

fumble-no-bubblefumble-no-bubble-2

I get that you might not be able to seal the guy to the outside but at least shove the dude somewhere. Like… touching him would be a start.

Meanwhile, Michigan's throwing go routes into the endzone at Odoms. I get moving Hemingway around a little bit but let Odoms headbutt people and catch touchdowns from the slot. Needs moar tiny bastards.

Barely relevant WR chart?

And here's the barely relevant WR chart.

[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 - - - 2/2 10 0/2 8/9 18/21
Roundtree - - - - 10 1/5 5/7 9/10
Odoms 2 - - 2/2 4 - - 2/2
Grady - - - - 4 - 0/1 2/2
Gallon -

-

- 1/1 7 - 2/2 21/21
J. Robinson - - - - - - - -
Dileo - - - - - 0/2 2/3 2/2
Jackson - - - - - - 1/1 1/1
                 
Koger - - - 1/1 6 1/3 3/4 10/11
Moore - - - - 2 - 1/1 -
                 
Toussaint - - - - - - - 2/3
Shaw - - - - - - - 1/1
Smith 1 - - - 4 0/2 1/1 7/8
Hopkins - - - - 2 - - 1/1
McColgan - - - - 1 - - 1/1

The only thing to say to this is "whatever."

I thought running Denard on the goal line was instant touchdown, smart guy?

It's a good idea when you're in a power set… maybe not so much when you've only got five blockers against seven guys. When RR wanted to power it into the endzone he would put two TEs on the line without fail, which spread the defense further out—harder to get around the edge—and gave Denard more gaps in which to cut. Heck, Borges did it:

That is tough to stop with everyone spread out and one guy going down enough to give Denard a crease. Going four wide is asking for trouble. Think of it like a power play for the defense, which always has one extra guy to tackle: would you rather be killing a 5 on 4 or 4 on 3? (Note that this equation is reversed when there's a lot of field left and two deep safeties are back: then you've got the power play.)

The snap didn't help either, obviously.

Is it just me or do you also want to cry into the pillow when they come out under center?

It is not just you. We've been tracking the efficacy of Michigan's running game from the shotgun versus under center all year. It's been a blowout in favor of shotgun most weeks, but never so much as it was on Saturday. Michigan ran ten times from under center and collected 39 yards.

It's even worse than that sounds. 40 of those yards—ie, more than all of them—came on the two Toussaint runs after the Illinois onside kick that I only charted to demonstrate how good of a back the kid is. On the first he cut to the backside of the play on a power, which rarely goes well; on the second he had to dodge three tacklers on the backfield on an iso and bounce all the way to the sideline before finding open grass. At no point did Michigan open up the hole it wanted to from the I.

Shotgun runs averaged 5.8 yards a pop. If you take out the 65-yarder they get hacked down to 3.9… so… yeah. Take out the best run of the day and Shotgun Michigan had an average outing against the Illinois defense. Leave it in and it's the best performance of the year by over a half-yard. Under Center Michigan was two garbage time carries away for being negative on the day.

Those are the numbers.

stretch-argh

AAARGH TEN MAN FOOTBALL

Anecdotally, it felt like all of Michigan's under-center runs were doomed from the start and a lot of  Michigan's unsuccessful shotgun runs were close to breaking long. This Toussaint zero-yarder is one easy Omameh block from being a big gain:

Guhhhhhhhhh. Omameh gets even a weak shove on the linebacker he's way playside of and Toussaint is shooting at the safeties with a lead blocker. That's thanks to the Classic Molk Reach Block, something that just about kills any attempt to defend a stretch play and a thing I hope we see more of as the season concludes.

On another Michigan caught a double A gap blitz and ran right by it.

That's playing with fire, though given the different alignments of the QB in stretch versus inside zone alert opponents might pick up on it.

To be fair, it didn't work consistently in this game. There was a nine-yarder, the missed opportunity above, the WTF Shaw play, and a late stretch that lost a chunk of yards because M was in murder-the-clock mode and Illinois blitzed not just the slot but the corner from the playside. The numbers don't suggest using it more. But I'm telling you: with its sparse use so far this season there is a big stretch play in the near future if Michigan just runs it 6-8 more times.

So they ran the stretch. Did that feel like an RR-esque gameplan?

Moreso than any we've seen so far. The TE-as-H-back was straight out of the RR playbook and allowed Koger to attack both the frontside and backside of the line depending on what was called for. The stretch came back, and Michigan used the belly to good effect. They attacked various places along the line and didn't expose themselves to the monotonous repetition of the blitz.

Will we see something similar this weekend? Who knows. Borges changes like the wind.

Is the offensive line actually any good?

Molk is very good, Schofield has been consistently above average, Lewan is solid in the run game and people don't even bother testing him on passes. Huyge… variable. Not good in pass protection. And Omameh clearly has size and strength issues even if he had a good game this time out. Watch Akeem Spence toss him to the ground on the Shaw BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEDERP play:

That is a big no-no and it happened twice. He also biffed that block on the coulda-been stretch.

Despite all that I had him +7.5 on the day, so he's not just a liability. It's just that when he does something wrong it's very wrong.

Heroes?

Toussaint and the interior offensive line.

Goats?

Hemingway's blocking was terrible. Michigan needs more from Denard on the ground if they're going to win the next couple weeks.

What does it mean for Nebraska and beyond?

Do you think this will be the final straw for playing from under center? I don't, either, but there's no way either of the last two games sees play distributions like the Iowa game. Probably. We'll get the usual dosage of POWER that has no POWER and is actually kind of like A GAP ADULT CONTEMPORARY. Hopefully it will be on second and third and one and actually pick up yards, unlike this game.

But anyway: this is a shotgun running team still, and seems to be doing some more shotgun running things. The triple option stuff was clearly a decoy in this game, which is why they dumped it after it worked a couple times. If I know Borges that means an actual triple option is coming. That plus a little more stretch and maybe a return to that sprint counter once the stretch is established could break some stuff open. Look for misdirection against Nebraska—Lavonte David is fast but if you get fast running the wrong way you are in business.

We didn't learn anything about the passing game on Saturday; you might be able to put a grain or two in the "Denard isn't as bad as as it seemed early in the season" pile, but that's it.

Unverified Voracity Starts Sexy WWII

Unverified Voracity Starts Sexy WWII

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2011 at 4:12 PM

My eccentric Oregon financial advisor doppelganger. Smart Football points to a fellow who goes by FishDuck and is all about zone reads, feeding his dog, the violent-yet-genteel devouring of Mike Patrick, and more zone reads:

An interesting point picked up from Chip Kelly's presentations: Oregon has tipped inside/outside zone for six years without ill effect because declaring the play causes people to overreact to it, which opens up constraint plays. More than that, the zone often acts as its own constraint as over-aggressive players flow playside or bunch up inside, opening cutbacks and bounces.

He's also got a video on Oregon's deployment of power, which it uses as a counter to their usual inside zone stuff. We haven't seen this out of Borges yet, but I'm hoping. My desire to see Michigan pair an opposite-side-of-the-line speed option with the inside zone borders on lust. And by "borders on lust" I mean "invades Poland with sexy tanks."

On point. Doctor Saturday lays out the situation and the stakes on Saturday as well as you can:

When he was hired in January, Hoke's mission was explicitly to roll back the Rodriguez era, to restore whatever it was that made Michigan feel like Michigan again. To that end, even Wolverine fans seemed to find the sudden proliferation of countdown clocks, macho posturing and various Buckeye-related eccentricities laying it on a little thick. But six weeks in, the Wolverines are right on schedule in the national polls, the Big Ten standings and the weekly stat sheets. If they clear the midseason hurdle Rodriguez's teams never could at Michigan State, they can claim one more phase of the mission accomplished.

Kind of a big deal, this game.

Point: Tim. Reportorial ex-girlfriend Tim, who now goes by the bizarrely long moniker "Tim Sullivan" over at Rivals, was a committed skeptic about Rob Bolden since he was one of a trio of touted in-state quarterbacks in the 2009 recruiting class.

Despite the rankings, Tim said the guy didn't know how to play football. It seems like his scouting prowess has been borne out:

Game Over, Man.  Game Over.  This quarterback contest is done.  Urban Meyer remarked toward the end of Penn State's first offensive drive that at Thursday practice, he did not see Bolden complete a single pass over five yards.  This makes sense, as Bolden did not throw a single decent pass on the entire first drive.  …

Rob looks completely shattered at this point, and it's time for the coaches, players, and fans to embrace the crazy train that is McGloin Moxie Mania.

It's McGloin o'clock in Bolden's Penn State career. Beaten out by a walk-on, does a transfer again beckon? /NYT headline writer imitation

Point: Hoke. Shudder at the awful puntasaur display in the Iowa-Penn State game:

Iowa got to the PSU 33, faced 4th and 8... and punted.  That Guthrie was able to pin PSU on their own 10-yard line (a solid accomplishment) is irrelevant.  Punting from the other team's 33-yard line is A F---ING STUPID AND TERRIBLE IDEA.  I don't even need statistics to back me up on that one (although they would).  Even if Ferentz didn't want to try to convert on fourth down (4th and 8 isn't easy, obviously), why not give Mike Meyer a crack at a field goal?  It was a beautiful day, the ball was lined up near the middle of the field, and Meyer has made 50+ yard field goals in the past (this year, in fact).  But no.  Ferentz gave a vote of "no confidence" to both Meyer and his offense on that play.  Iowa probably deserved to lose the game for that decision alone. 

Of course, JoePa was determined to out-conservative -- or out-dumb -- Ferentz; he punted three times from the Iowa side of the field, including late in the game on 4th and 2 from the Iowa 36.  If he really didn't think his offense could rip off a two-yard gain against a gassed and reeling Iowa defense, I... I just have no words for the level of neanderthal football thinking on display in this game.

Of course, that coaching blunder on Ferentz's part might be narrowly eclipsed by the decision to eschew running a two-minute offense upon getting the ball at the Iowa 20 with two timeouts and 1:42 to go before halftime.  God forbid we try to score there.  It's not like we don't have a no huddle offense that's been effective this year or a kicker with decent range.  Nope. 

Even if trying the field goal with Gibbons is a mistake, it pales in comparison to that business. I cannot express how much I love the Mathlete's new Dumb Punt of the Week feature. The inaugural winner is Ohio State's Frank Solich, who punted on fourth and one from the Buffalo 36. Buffalo has the #91 rushing defense. After an 11 yard punt, Buffalo drove for a touchdown. Ohio State lost by a point. The game theory gods do not take kindly to being spited so grandiosely. (See also: Kirk Ferentz.)

I missed another Hoke game theory bit: he got the ball at the 22 with about two minutes left and did not pull the Ferentz. Robinson rushed for a loss of one on first down, then five straight passes got Michigan to the Northwestern 44 before Robinson's third awful interception set up a Northwestern field goal drive. While we've seen Hoke eschew half-ending drives a couple times this year, those were with a minute or less on the clock, not two.

Now… it didn't work out that time, but these things are never 100%. Did it make sense at the time to try to score with a couple minutes left against Northwestern's defense? Yeah.

Glarb glarb glarb. So when Michigan shuffled its fullback on third and one and got owned I had a conniption fit. This was the result of DeBord Doom re-emergence:

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That's the corpse of Steve Watson you see getting annihilated at the LOS. Glarb.

BWS picture-pages this and points out that the shuffling fullback opened up the Gardner rollout TD on which he had either the run or pass; I'm not so sure showing the first play is worth the cost to get a yard when your redzone offense seems to be able to get a yard whenever it wants. I like diabolical machinations better when they're like the above Oregon stuff—plenty diabolical in their own right without the counter.

Mitchbreaks. Mitch McGary's impending Michigan decision now seems far less certain:

Recently, reports came out that Mitch was nearing or had made a decision. However, Tim refutes that notion “He hasn’t made a decision. I just talked to him tonight (Monday night) and we talked about it a little bit. He’s coming home Wednesday night and we’re going to sit down and talk about it. They get a four or five day break this weekend so he’s flying in to O’hare and my older son will pick him up. We’ll be able to sit down and sort things out.”

Likely rumor vector: AAU coach to national guy, national guy tizzy checks in with coach a few more times, everyone wants to back off. Confidence level: reduced, but still high.

Etc.: Denard Robinson is healthier this year because he is homeopathic or something. Mark Huyge has had a tough year. Holdin' the Rope doesn't like "smug, pompous buffoon" Mark Dantoinio. Jon Merrill suspension 50/50 to end his career. Sad face.

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern

Upon Further Review 2011: Defense vs Northwestern

Submitted by Brian on October 12th, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Formation notes:  Michigan spent the bulk of the first half in their nickel package with Ryan down on the line and Gordon and Johnson at nickel and safety, respectively. In the second half they took Johnson off in favor of using Ryan as a slot LB until Northwestern started their passing hurry-up on their fourth(!) drive.

Substitution notes: The usual defensive line substitutions, with Heininger and Black seeing frequent time, Campbell a little, and Washington maybe a snap or three. Michigan did briefly show Avery as the nickelback, but that only lasted a drive or two. Demens went the whole way; Morgan got a couple series late in the first half. Countess replaced Woolfolk in the second quarter and went the rest of the way.

Demens, Kovacs, Floyd, and Gordon didn't come off the field.

Show? Show.

Ln Dn Ds O Form DForm Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Bubble screen Floyd 7
Hawthorne starts flowing up into the playfake and there's no one to the short side, leaving the slot all alone; Floyd is playing ten yards off. With Hawthorne positioned like he is there is no way he's making this play anyway. RPS -1.
O27 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Out Floyd Inc
Floyd(+1, cover +1) is right there on the receiver's cut, forcing Persa to throw it perfectly—upfield and away from Floyd. He does so; WR has a shot at a decently tough catch and cannot make it. Rushing lane was opening up but Persa did not take it.
O27 3 3 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Demens Inc
Demens lines up right over the center and rushes, trying to take the center out of the play as Martin(+0.5) stunts around. This basically works; center slides off on Martin and Demens(+1) uses that opportunity to shoot up into the pocket. He's about to sack when an in the grasp Persa chucks it inaccurately in the vicinity of a receiver Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) is all over; may have a PBU if ball is accurate. Pressure +1, RPS +1. This is really close to a sack, BTW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 14 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Shotgun empty quad bunch Nickel press Pass 5 Drag Van Bergen Inc (Pen +15)
Avery in as the nickelback. NW has a tight bunch to the wide side of the field and motions the tailback outside of those guys. Michigan is confused, with Demens eventually heading out there to deal with him, but late. Doesn't end up mattering this time. Michigan runs a twist that gets Roh(+0.5) through thanks to Martin(+1) threatening to shoot past the C. He's screwed either way. Persa has to dump it; RVB(+1) reads Persa's eyes and starts moving into the throwing lane, batting it down. Hawthorne(-1, cover -1) got beaten by Ebert on this drag and would have been able to turn it up for big yardage. Pressure +2. Roh picks up a roughing the passer call that is horsecrap. That's one step and then hit. Awful call. Refs -2.
O35 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 5
Colter in at QB; Michigan seemingly misaligned with no reaction to the strong side and Kovacs lined up a couple yards behind the LBs. They do not comprehend Colter is in at QB. NW runs an option to the wide side. Both LBs and Roh(-2), the playside DE, suck up on the dive fake. Mattison said DE == QB so I'm –2ing every DE who tackles a dive guy or lets the QB outside. Even Kovacs hesitates; no one is tracking the pitch back at all. Roh does recover to string the play out a bit, and Kovacs flows hard, forcing a pitch a few yards downfield. Colter didn't make Kovacs take him, though, and he flows down to tackle, preventing this from becoming a big gain. I have no idea who's at fault here. Either Roh or Demens needs to get out on the pitch and Kovacs needs to do so as well. Kovacs(+1) for getting out as secondary support and making a tough tackle(+1). RPS -1.
O40 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Woolfolk 14
Bler bler bler. Michigan has two guys to the wide side of the field that possesses three NW WRs. Those two guys are seven and ten yards off the LOS. Woolfolk(-1) then misses the tackle(-1) and turns this from seven into 13. RPS-1.
M46 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Improv Avery? 27
Black drops off into a zone before the play and Woolfolk blitzes from the other side. Unsurprisingly, this is picked up. Martin(+1) is coming through the line and is held; no call; Persa can flush outside of the pocket because Woolfolk got upfield. Outside of the pocket Persa is deadly; he finds a guy for a big gainer. Cover -1, Pressure -1, RPS -1.
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Dumpoff Hawthorne 4
Yeesh, looks like Demens(-1) doesn't get enough of a drop and Johnson(-2) pulls up on a dig, leaving a post wide open for a touchdown (cover -2). Persa misses this and checks down. Hawthorne(+1, cover +1) with an immediate tackle. With Martin out and Campbell in there is no rush at all (pressure -2).
M15 2 6 Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Kovacs 15
Trips plus two backs equals a covered up WR, equals run, equals massive frustration that this catches Michigan off guard. Ryan(-2) crashes down on the dive fake; Demens and Hawthorne move forward despite this obviously being an option and get sealed away; Demens is playside so –1. Kovacs(-1) misses a tackle(-1) at the ten but that could be harsh since he is the only player on the edge against two other players. If he takes a more conservative angle Colter pitches and the RB walks into the endzone. At least Kovacs had a shot here. RPS -2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O37 1 10 Pistol trips TE Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Demens 12
RVB(+0.5) and Martin are coming at the QB hard, forcing a quick pitch. That should be advantage D since the DL are stringing the RB out quickly. Gordon(+0.5) comes up to maintain leverage, at which point... no one comes up to tackle. Demens(-2) had gone upfield around a blocker for no discernible reason and is late as a result. Martin can't quite make up for his mistake; Hawthorne(-0.5) is there seven yards downfield. His tackle(-1) is run through but does force the RB OOB.
O49 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Flare screen Van Bergen 3
Woolfolk(-0.5) is caught up in man coverage here and never realizes this is basically a run play; he ends up on his butt. Gordon(-0.5) has the same thing happen to him. Maybe that's harsh for press coverage. Demens(+1) and Van Bergen(+1) read the play and get out on it to hold it down, with RVB actually making the tackle.
M47 2 7 Shotgun empty TE Nickel even Run N/A Shovel pass Hawthorne 2
Yeah, technically a pass, but this is a run play in UFR's book. This is a variation on the Florida TE shovel this blog raved about the past couple years, with Persa running outside at first and taking Gordon with him, then shoveling inside to the pulling TE, who is actually WR Drake Dunsmore, as they run power. Ryan(-1) blown up and out. Big hole. One guy in space against Hawthorne; if Dunsmore cuts behind the block either Roh hacks him down or it's a big gain; instead he runs right into Hawthorne. I guess Hawthorne gets a +1, Demens a +0.5, as they tackle(+1) in space for a minimal gain, but we got lucky.
M45 3 5 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Pass 6 Out Gordon 6
Again with Demens lined up over the nose; Michigan sends the house. They don't get a free run and don't get a hurry (pressure -1) but they didn't give up anything big so no RPS -1. NW running some man-beater routes that force Gordon into an awkward path; this gets Ebert the step he needs to stab this pass one-handed and turn up the sideline for the first. Gordon was there to tackle so it's not like he did a bad job.
M39 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Scramble Ryan 5
Tempoed, Michigan only has two down linemen at the snap (RPS -1). As a result, Ryan is lost in no-man's land. Coverage(+1) is good downfield; Persa takes off, diving as Ryan comes in on him.
M34 1 10 Pistol 2-back offset Nickel even Run N/A Veer triple option Hawthorne 23
Colter magical option formation, and they give despite again having Kovacs versus two guys on the edge. Maybe Colter was worried about Black. I'm not entirely sure about what goes wrong here but it seems to me like Campbell(+1) takes on a double and beats his man to the inside as the interior guy peels off, which means the RB has to go behind him and the C trying to get out on Hawthorne(-2) would have no angle if Hawthorne read this and made his NT right. Instead he and Demens are a foot away from each other and when the RB cuts behind Campbell there is no one there.
M11 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Scramble Hawthorne 4
Good coverage(+2) means Persa can't find anything despite having a long time (pressure -1). He eventually rolls out; Roh(+0.5) and Hawthorne(+0.5) remain on their receivers long enough to force a scramble and then come up quickly to hold it down.
M7 2 6 Pistol trips TE Nickel press Run N/A Speed option Johnson 7
Demens(-2) again heads too far upfield too fast and gets himself into a lineman who ends up cutting him to the ground after they run down the line for a while. This is a speed option! Get outside! RVB(+0.5) forced a pitch and flowed down the line to make it difficult for the RB; Carvin Johnson(-1, tackling -1) comes up hard around the LOS and whiffs entirely. He does force a cut upfield, but because Demens is on his stomach the cut is not a modest gain but a touchdown.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-14, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O7 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Morgan 2
Morgan in for Hawthorne. Morgan(+1) bashes into the center at the LOS and drives him back on the dive; Martin(+1) fights through a double team, refusing to get sealed. When the G releases he's still playside of the T. With Heininger(+0.5) beating a single block there's nowhere to go.
O9 2 8 ??? ??? Pass 4 Scramble ??? 6
Good coverage(+1) causes a flush but because the DL split so badly that was kind of obvious; no second read here. (Pressure -2). Not sure who to minus specifically because tape is cutting out at the beginning of this play.
O15 3 2 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Speed option? ??? 12
Technical difficulties. We come back with the pitch already made. I am somewhat certain this is largely Demens's fault(-1), as he was lined up playside of Morgan presnap but when we come back Morgan is actually closer to the play. He then gets shot past the play. Morgan(-1) took a too-aggressive route around a WR and couldn't make the play; Johnson(+0.5) does come up to make a fill on a dangerous play, though his ankle tackle is maybe less than ideal.
O27 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass ??? ??? ??? Inc
Apparently this is just a misthrow, but I don't know.
O27 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass ??? Sack Demens -2
Oh, hell, BTN. I guess Demens(+1, pressure +1) is a minimum?
O24 3 13 Shotgun trips bunch Nickel press Penalty N/A False start -- -5
Derp
O19 3 18 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Black 6
Give up and punt.
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-14, 11 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M41 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Martin 7
Zone blitz drops Roh and sends Morgan. Martin(+1) slants around the G and C to get a run at Persa(pressure +1) and bats the ball. The thing still finds its way to the receiver, but the delay allows an immediate tackle... that Demens(-1, tackling -1) does not make.
M34 2 3 Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read stretch Van Bergen 2
RVB(+2) shoves the playside OT back two yards, cutting off the outside and forcing a cutback. He disconnects when this happens and tackles himself for a minimal gain. Nice play; scary if he doesn't make this. Think he missed a check when Dunsmore motioned into play H-back, but he made up for it.
M32 3 1 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Zone read dive Heininger 1
NW goes tempo. Heininger(+2) takes on a double and holds, going to his knees in the backfield and absorbing both guys without budging. Martin(+1) is single blocked. He stands his guy up and sheds inside to meet the RB a yard on the backfield. Momentum from him and a blitzing Morgan coming from behind gets the pile to the LOS but no farther.
M31 4 In Pistol 2-back offset big 46 bear Run N/A Speed option Roh -1
Roh(+3) takes on the playside TE and sheds him to the outside, then shoots up on Persa, forcing the pitch. Getting a forced pitch from a blocked guy is clutch here. Before the snap, Kovacs motions to Morgan, who takes a step shortside and then starts flowing hard; he takes the leading fullback's block, leaving Kovacs(+2, tackling +1) alone on the corner with the pitchback, who he cuts to the ground in the backfield. Watch Kovacs take the lighting quick path to the ballcarrier after the pitch. Baller. Also make no mistake: this is Roh's play at its heart.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 7-14, 8 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Floyd 6
There by alignment with no one on the the slot and Morgan reacting to the zone fake. Floyd does as well as he can to get into the blocker at about five yards but help can't converge for seven. RPS -1
O24 2 4 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 9
Another bubble by alignment; Gordon is over the slot but in these situations the guy grabs it and goes right up the hash, where there is no one. Johnson eventually fills and makes a dodgy tackle. RPS -1
O33 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 7
Exact same thing as NW goes tempo. RPS -1. Better tackle from Johnson.
O40 2 3 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Van Bergen Inc
Morgan(-1, cover -1) is now paranoid about the bubble, though he's not aligned any better, and starts outside as NW runs actual patterns. Slant is wide open. Persa throws it; Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) bats it down as he's come inside on a stunt.
O40 3 3 Shotgun trips TE Nickel even Pass 5 Drag Martin 19
Zone blitz sees Martin left in man coverage on Dunsmore on a drag. That goes about how you would expect. (Cover -1, RPS -1)
M41 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel press Pass 4 Fade Countess 39
No pressure(-2); huge pocket for Persa to step into. Countess(-1, cover -1) gets flat beat on a go route and is a step and a half behind the WR; even though it's a little underthrown and definitely in the defeat-Michael-Floyd zone he cannot catch up and gives up the big completion. Does get a hand on an arm, but it's that half step that kills him.
M2 1 G Shotgun trips 2back Nickel even Run N/A Speed option Gordon 2
Covered WR with Colter in. RB motions to the other side; Kovacs goes with him. Speed option to the plentiful WR side. Gordon(-1), Demens(-1), and Floyd(-1) get blown up and after Ryan forces the pitch the RB walks into the endzone. This is clever by NW: Kovacs is the guy with the pitchman so they get him out of the picture and exploit the LBs. RPS -1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown,14-21, 2 min 2nd Q. This was pretty terrible on Mattison's part. Bubble bubble bubble Martin on drag no answer for option.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Roh 16
Martin(+1, pressure +1) goes right around the center and gets a hurry as Roh drops off and Morgan comes. Another zone blitz gets burned by the drag route as Roh cannot keep pace with Colter, RPS -1.
M36 1 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Comeback -- 13
No pressure(-2); Persa has plenty of time to survey and find the deep comeback coming open. Gordon the nearest guy but not really on him.
M23 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Morgan 16
Morgan(-1, cover -1) beaten easily by Colter. Morgan(-1, tackling -1) then fails to tackle. Quick throw leaves little time for pressure but the lack of push from the DL is worrying. Why is Morgan in the game against a spread offense when you have Hawthorne available, especially on a two-minute drill?
M7 1 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Run N/A Zone read keeper Demens 4
Black(-1) doesn't get upfield, causing a pull. If he was crashing on a scrape that's one thing. Here he's in no-man's land. Demens(+1) sets up a lineman, getting into him and then pushing out into the space Persa occupies; Gordon(+0.5) also flows down to help tackle, though he had an easy time of it because Colter didn't even bother blocking.
M3 2 G Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Run 5 Snag Woolfolk Inc
Pick play designed to beat man coverage. It does so but Persa is late, allowing Woolfolk(+1, cover +1) to recover and knock the ball out as it arrives. Pressure(-1) not getting to Persa.
M3 3 G Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 3 Post Johnson Inc
Three man rush gets nowhere (pressure -1); Johnson(-1, cover -1) gets outside and opens up the post. Persa hits him; dropped.
Drive Notes: FG, 14-24, EOH. Refs are idiots about the time either way here.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 4-3 under Run N/A Speed option Ryan -1
Ryan back at LB instead of DE and hanging out over the slot. They run a speed option; Ryan flies up on the edge. It kind of looks like he comes up on the QB and has just given the pitchman the edge but Persa doesn't think so, so we'll give him the benefit of the doubt. Ryan's(+2) excellent positioning prevents a pitch, forces Persa to cut it up, and results in nothing thanks to RVB(+1) and Martin(+0.5) flowing down the line well.
O39 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Sack Martin -5
Persa apparently looking at a hitch Floyd(+1, cover +1) has covered; he hesitates and never gets a second read because Martin(+2) bull-rushed the center back into him and Roh(+2) came under the left tackle; the two combine to sack. (Pressure +2) Hawthorne appears to have the TE seam covered; Countess is way off the hitch on the other side of the field.
O34 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel press Pass 4 Seam Van Bergen  
Van Bergen(+2, pressure +2) rips through the RG and gets immediate pressure up the center of the field. Persa fires too far in front of his receiver; Johnson nearly digs out the pick. Route was a seam or skinny post that Gordon(+1, cover +1) was in coverage on; incidental contact with the feet caused the WR to fall. He looked in pretty good position, FWIW.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-24, 9 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O18 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
Yay. Ryan is on the wide side slot but there's still no one over the short side, so they throw it. With Floyd playing very soft, no chance this doesn't pick up a pretty decent gain. Hawthorne does well to get out there and push him out before it's eight, I guess. RPS -1.
O24 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout -- 9
No one on the edge (pressure -2) and Persa can run or throw for the first. He chooses the throw, hitting the second receiver, who's drifting outside of Demens's zone. (Cover -1) Countess makes a quick tackle.
O35 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass N/A Bubble screen -- 6
argh argh argh. Ryan blitzes off the corner; Persa sees this and immediately throws the bubble without a mesh point. Gordon(+1) is the only guy out there. He gets into the slot guy at the LOS, getting outside and forcing a cutback, then disconnects to tackle after just five. RPS -1.
O41 2 4 Shotgun trips 4-3 under Pass 5 Drag Hawthorne Int
Michigan tempoed and not aligned at the snap. Zone blitz gets Demens in but Martin(-1) has vacated his lane and Demens can't do anything about it as Persa steps up into the pocket. Receiver is moving to give Persa an option; he throws it to him for what will be seven yards and a first down if it doesn't derp off the guy's pads, allowing Hawthorne(+1) to make a diving interception.
Drive Notes: Interception, 28-24, 1 min 3rd Q. Dude... how was this not overturned? Poopin' magic yo.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 6
Michigan spread out with LBs shaded over the slots so NW hits them inside. Martin(-1) fights through a block way upfield and opens up a big hole in the middle. Demens(-0.5) and Ryan(-0.5) sit back and accept blocks but at least they combine to force the guy into a tackle.
O25 2 4 Shotgun empty 4-3 even Pass 4 Hitch Countess 6
Schmidt motions out; there is a bunch to the wide side and then the RB outside of them. Quick hitch to the RB that Van Bergen(+1, pressure +1) actually deflects, but the ball still goes right to the RB. Countess(-1, cover -1) is really soft, giving up the first down despite the ball taking a long time to get there because of the deflection.
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Hitch Floyd 10
Floyd(-1, cover -1) beaten pretty clean by Ebert; this is a five yard route on which Floyd is at the sticks on the catch. Ebert picks up the rest of the first down as a result.
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Run N/A Inside zone Martin 2
Martin(+1) and Heininger(+1) hold up to blocks, closing off holes up the middle of the field. Mark manages to pick his way through little gaps for a few yards, but that will happen.
O43 2 8 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 5 Fly Floyd Inc (Pen +15)
Floyd in press; Michigan zone blitzes behind it. Gordon gets in free (pressure +1, RPS +1); Persa throws it to the fly route without really knowing if it's open. Floyd is there, gets his head around, and seems to break up the pass... and gets flagged. On replay, yes, he got his hand on the shoulder pad and prevented the guy from jumping for the ball. I'll take that though, since it's subtle and you can miss it. I still have to (-1, cover -1)
M42 1 10 Shotgun trips 4-3 even Pass N/A Bubble screen Ryan 4
Finally something that looks like defense. Gordon(+0.5) flows up hard and Ryan gets outside of the slot blocker as Demens reads the throw and gets out there usefully. Ryan gets cut under; Gordon and Demens are there to tackle. As the WR is digging for an extra half yard Gordon(+3) strips the ball loose.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 35-24, 12 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O31 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Drag Demens 5
M sitting back in an obvious four-man-rush zone as they work to not blow it; grades handed out with that in mind. Persa hits Colter underneath on a drag; Demens(+1, tackling +1) comes up to tackle immediately.
O36 2 5 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Slant Hawthorne 9
Hawthorne(-0.5) comes up on a not very convincing run fake and opens the slant up for a first down.
O45 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Run N/A Jet sweep Gordon 6
Glerb. M blitzes into the sweep and Gordon(-1) widens out to blow it up; he misses the tackle(-1). This makes good play from Hawthorne and Demens to get outside their blockers bad play and the DL, slanting away from this on the snap, cannot pursue fast enough to prevent a gain.
M49 2 4 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 4 Circle Floyd 6
Circle route high-lows the corner and Floyd sinks, opening up the short stuff.
M43 1 10 Shotgun empty Nickel even Pass 3 Cross Gordon Inc
Line slants right and Black drops off into a short zone... I think one of the LBs forgot to blitz. This means Persa has acres of space; he steps up and zings it to Colter... behind him. First down otherwise. (Pressure -2, cover -1)
M43 2 10 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass N/A Bubble screen Johnson 5
Late-arriving WR doesn't actually get into position so NW has five in the backfield. No call. These refs are idiots. NW throws the bubble and Michigan is finally playing it well. Gordon(+1) gets into the slot guy at the LOS in a good spot to force the WR upfield; Demens flows but misses; Johnson(+1) comes into finish with a good hit.
M38 3 5 Shotgun trips 3-3-5 press Pass 4 Hitch Countess Inc
Michigan in tight man on the first down line; Persa's first read is Floyd(+1, cover +1), which is not a good idea. Second is Countess, still not a great idea but gotta throw it, so he does; Countess(+2, cover +1) breaks it up.
M38 4 5 Shotgun trips bunch 3-3-5 press Pass 5 Sack Kovacs -10
Mattison sends Kovacs on a crazy ninja blitz from way deep; at the snap he's hurtling at the LOS at full speed. The seas part. Kovacs goes too high, though, and Persa ducks under his tackle. Tackle attempt pulls the helmet off, though, and that's a sack. RPS +2, Pressure +3—this was instant. Kovacs... +1, results based charting. And well timed blitz. Also wag of the high tackle finger. Gordon(+1, cover +1) breaks up the desperate improv throw Persa gets off after the helmet incident.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 35-24, 7 min 4th Q. Northwestern's last drive is down 18 with 2 minutes left and is not charted.

SECOND HALF DOMINANCE

Er. So. I don't really think so.

A WITCH

Yes, yes, probably, but the things that happened in the second half were:

  1. Three and out, one contained speed option, two incompletions thanks to DL pressure.
  2. Bubble, easy rollout hitch, bubble, drag route for first down that bounces off receiver's numbers to Hawthorne (sort of).
  3. Inside zone, hitch, hitch, Inside zone (defensed!), legit pass interference on deep ball, bubble leads to fumble.
  4. Hurry up pass mode w/ Michigan in soft zone, drive ends with Persa IN, five-yard bubble, and two good plays by the D.

So… the move to have Ryan in the slot didn't really slow down the bubbles, which went for 6, 6, 4, and 5 yards. This is better than the 8 they seemed to average in the first half, but it is not a thunderous shutdown of the spread.

There were three drives on which NW was actually running its offense. On one the adjustment got a speed option contained and then Michigan got some pressure. On two NW has just picked up its second easy first down if the WR doesn't bat it into the sky. On three they have second and six after picking up a couple first downs when Gordon yanks the ball loose. What happens if the WR doesn't DROPX the drag? If Ebert's knee is down? What is your confidence level that Michigan is going to stop Persa & Co. if these things don't happen?

VERY HIGH THANK YOU

Wait… are you Joe Paterno?

NO I AM YOUR FILTHY IRISH ALTER-EGO

I see. So… what I am saying is that the vaunted second half adjustments are little data being made big and what we saw in the first half was very frustrating to me. How do you stop a bubble aligned like this?

bubble-my-face-plz

You don't. On Northwestern's final touchdown drive they ran three straight bubbles for 22 free yards. This is 2011. You should not have to adjust to the staple constraint play of the spread 'n' shred.

BUT MATTISON

Yes, well… I don't want to make too little data big again. I sure as hell don't know 10% of what he does and rushing to judgment about what Michigan's defense will look like once he's had them for three years is stupid. Mattison uber alles.

HOWEVA, it seemed like he was caught off guard by the spread 'n' shred. He's been in the NFL for three years but he was also the DC at Florida and Notre Dame over the increasingly spread-mad last decade of college football, so he should be familiar with it.

Were players not reacting appropriately? Maybe. Late the secondary did get more aggressive and helped hold the bubbles down. But that was the difference between 8 (or even 13) yards and 4-6. As I was UFRing this I was again thinking of Magee describing his philosophy, or rather WVU's defensive philosophy: they run the stack because it's built to stop the spread. Maybe Michigan needs a three-man-line package for games like this?

In any case, Mattison's admittedly hypothetical inability to deal with the spread 'n' shred in year one of his regime is a moot point. The remainder of Michigan's opponents are either pro-style (MSU, Iowa, sort of OSU), triple option (Illinois, Nebraska), or so incompetent it shouldn't matter (Purdue). I'm a bit worried that Fickell is installing a ton of bubbles right now, though.

DO YOU FIND THIS DEEPLY IRONIC

That Michigan can't defend a bubble but won't run a stretch because it's not preparing you for the Big Ten? Kinda. /ducks

I REQUIRE NOTES OF THE HUN

Chart?

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Van Bergen 10 - 10 Pressure and PBUs. I enjoy his contributions.
Martin 10 2 8 Not as many plays as you might want but it's hard when everything goes outside.
Roh 6 2 4 Fourth down play; needs moar pass rush.
Brink - - - DNP
Heininger 3.5 - 3.5 No real problems, but not tested much.
Black - 1 -1 Not much PT.
Campbell 1 - 1 One play.
TOTAL 30.5 5 25.5 Step back from last couple weeks.
Linebacker
Player + - T Notes
C. Gordon - - - DNP
Demens 5.5 9.5 -4 Did not get outside even on speed options.
Herron - - - DNP
Ryan 2 3.5 -1.5 Dodgy edge.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP
Jones - - - DNP
Evans - - - DNP
Beyer - - - DNP
Hawthorne 4.5 4 0.5 One big error on dive; good in coverage.
Morgan 1 4 -3 Struggled, pulled.
TOTAL 13 21 -8 Major problems containing.
Secondary
Player + - T Notes
Floyd 3 3 0 Push is good against Persa.
Avery - - - Didn't register.
Woolfolk 1 1.5 -0.5 Pulled.
Kovacs 4 1 3 Mostly neutralized because he had to try to tackle two dudes.
T. Gordon 8.5 2.5 6 Fumble half of the plus.
Countess 2 2 0 Beaten deep once, but also a push.
Johnson 1.5 4 -2.5 Not as bad as you might have thought.
TOTAL 20 14 6 Wow. I mean, no long stuff, right? Except the one.
Metrics
Pressure 16 17 -1 Bipolar day.
Coverage 13 15 -2 Not bad. Some issues getting RPSed.
Tackling 4 6 40% Not a good day; this is what the spread tries to do.
RPS 4 15 -11 Killed by easy bubbles.

So… I ended up thinking that it was crazy that none of the linebackers could contain on the outside and hardly tried. When people keep leverage and force the guy inside, as Johnson did and Kovacs did and Gordon did, and there is no one to clean up from the inside that is a problem with a linebacker, and that linebacker was more often than not Demens. An example from Blue Seoul:

6231719502_9d2026dc5d[1]6231719992_a7e7101f94[1]

6231720430_62d9c3945c[1]

Seoul says Gordon has to do a better job getting off the block but he forces this upfield at the numbers and there is no linebacker to clean up; backside guy Hawthorne is even with Demens.

Seoul also caught my complaint about Demens on one of the option touchdowns:

6231723730_6bb1ffe037[1]

Okay, Johnson missed. He missed to the inside, at which point a good D rallies to tackle.

6231724246_09ca5bf9d0[1]

Here a slow-reacting Demens gets caught up in an OL and cut to the ground. This is not even a triple option, it's a speed option, so, like… go. I've been taunting other LBs for being too aggressive this year but this is the alternative.

Demens did have a good blitz or two, FWIW.

The rest of the chart is basically as expected. No safety got burned on the pass and the missed tackles from Johnson were not too bad; he is still a clear downgrade from the starters. Van Bergen and Martin are high quality players; Roh is doing better but we still need more pass rush from both defensive ends. The cornerbacks are much improved but still not outstanding. Michigan got about a push in both pressure (four sacks but also a number of plays on which Persa had a ton of time or broke contain) and cover, and Mattison was slayed dead on RPS.

What was with the option success?

If you were suspecting that Heiko was the guy who asked this of Mattison

Northwestern ran the veer option with a lot of success against this defense, and there seemed to be some confusion with the assignments. For those plays, whose assignment is the quarterback, and who has the pitch man? “That’s why people run the veer option. And again, to play an option team, you have to be very very disciplined. You have to really feel confident in what you’re doing, and it’s happening really fast. There was a number of times where you might have seen Jake go down and hit the dive. Well, our ends had the quarterback all day, so right away you knew, ‘Uh oh,” and sure enough, now you have two guys on the dive and nobody on the quarterback, and that’s why people run that offense. It taxes young guys. It really does. So your next thought is to stunt it a little bit, move it a little bit, to try to make a play, and that quarterback was pretty good. Fortunately we settled down in the second half and the guys said, ‘Okay I got it now.’ Every guy that made a mistake like that during the game, they came out, they looked right at you, and they went, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘I know, too! That’s 20 yards down the field.’ But I was really proud of them.”

If you had to defend them again, who would be assigned to whom? “We do the same thing. The only thing we do differently, if we defended it again, is we would play it more honest like you’re supposed to and not cheat to take away one part of the game and not the other.”

Did Kovacs have the pitch man? “That was his job. When you’re playing the option and you’re playing man coverage, there’s a guy with a blocker on him. A guy who has man coverage and still is supposed to get off and try to make that play. Well if you’re stronger, better, faster, you can throw that guy away and make that play. So we had Jordan going through the alley, meaning he would go dive, quarterback, to pitch, and he made some good plays on it.”

…you are wise in the ways of how MGoBlog differs from other media. I wanted to know how Michigan planned to defend the option so I thought I'd have Heiko ask and Mattison gave a terrific, useful answer*. So now we know that…

…defensive ends were a big problem. QB outside of DE without pitching is a problem. Here Kovacs gets a 2-for-1 by forcing a pitch and still getting out on the RB, but Colter would learn from this and juke Kovacs on his first touchdown run. I don't blame Kovacs much, if at all, because he's on the edge against two guys. Forcing it back inside and getting any tackle attempt at all is better than letting the pitch guy walk in.

It wasn't all bad for Roh:

That is one of the plays of the game and it happens because he beats a block to force a pitch and allows Kovacs to do what Kovacs does best: take a great angle at speed.

Ryan had similar problems, and then there is the Demens complaining. So: better play from the DEs to force the play inside of them or at least force a quick pitch and getting those linebackers to the edge more quickly.

*[How much does everyone love the coordinator pressers? One million points worth, right? I mean, they give it to you straight and give you actual information and reassure you that the guys in charge are really smart.]

PUNTSHENANIGANS

Yes, again this week:

regular-punt-stupid-2

When those guys miss their tackles there is no one within 15 yards. Result: 20 yard return.

Heroes?

Martin, Van Bergen, and Gordon. Gordon's strip was a 100% player-generated turnover that is a reason to believe they are being coached on these things.

Goats?

Demens, and the inability to line up to defend a bubble.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

Well, I'll be extremely nervous when we come up against Nebraska and Ohio State since their mobile quarterbacks could force us into situations that will exploit the same things. I just watched that game and it doesn't seem like either team spends a lot of time threatening bubbles; both enjoyed themselves some pistol offset stuff with Nebraska having great success running the inverted veer out of that diamond formation becoming all the rage. Either could gameplan for the M game—Ohio State might well start preparing whatever package they think will beat M because it's not like they have anything else to play for.

As for this weekend, Michigan State is the opposite of Northwestern and the 4-3 under will be a much more comfortable fit against State's largely pro-style offense. HOWEVA, we have seen State prepare special packages for M since time immemorial and one of the recent ones was a trips-TE bubble package that exploited M in 2008 like whoah. If that's still on the shelf they might bring it out and force Michigan to line up against it. HOWEVA HOWEVA, that year they could run the ball; this year M might be able to defend it without giving up those pitches that killed them that year.

Other items:

  • Michigan continued to prove the secondary is much improved and the safeties are for real, especially the starters.
  • Heininger held up pretty well, caveats about limited tests included.

Déjà Vu, Then Something Different

Déjà Vu, Then Something Different

Submitted by Brian on October 10th, 2011 at 1:01 PM

10/8/2011 – Michigan 42, Northwestern 24 – 6-0, 2-0 Big Ten

courtney-avery-bubble

Last week's picture pages focused on a two-play sequence in which Stephen Hopkins bulldozed a Minnesota linebacker on an iso, then pretended he was going to do the same on the next drive before running right past him for a long completion up the seam. If Michigan wasn't playing Minnesota the iso would have gone for a few yards and that sequence would have been the Northwestern game exactly: two halves, pretty much the same same thing, radically different results.

Half the first: this old bad thing again

It is not fun to be a Michigan fan seeing your past flash before your eyes when your team is going up against the spread offense. Three hundred yards and twenty-four points in the first half? I have seen this before. It ends with me in the fetal position muttering something about Armanti Edwards or Donovan McNabb or this exact Northwestern team blowing up the recordbook in 2000 in this exact stadium at this exact time. The only intelligible things in the moaning will be a bleated "Herrrrrrmaannnn" or strangled "Englissssssh."

I uncurled long enough at halftime to get a tweet out about how we were essentially getting Rich-Rodded to death. We'd heard about but rarely seen this kind of thing the last three years: Northwestern killed Michigan with bubbles they weren't aligned to defend and expertly used varying tempos to catch Michigan off guard much of the first half. This was the spread 'n' shred at full absorption, the kind of thing you can do when you are totally committed to one style of offense you know well.

That was influenced by these super-interesting Calvin Magee videos* in which he's describing the philosophy of the offense that just led a redshirt freshman everyone recruited as a receiver and his sidekicks to a BCS win over Georgia. I'm an hour and a half in and and it's mostly been Magee describing the various tempos WVU uses and breaking down various bubble screens.

This fresh in my mind, my experience of the first half was thus accompanied by a strong sense of déjà vu as the Wildcats bubbled and tempo-ed and aargh-safetied their way down the field. It was simultaneously the thing we'd always seen and the thing we never got to see. It was yet another reason to shake your fist at the Great Rodriguez Defensive Coaching Malpractice. It was unpleasant.

I envisioned Rodriguez sitting in the same room with Ralph Friedgen. Rodriguez watches the Michigan game; Friedgen watches Maryland. Mike Leach pops his head in from time to time. They are sipping cognac, smoking cigars, and laughing maniacally.

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

Half the second: this old bad thing again, happening to them

devin-tddenard-northwestern

via MGoBlue

It is more fun to be a Michigan fan seeing your past flash before your eyes when the Rodriguez spread is the other team's and they are suddenly incapable of moving the ball while their defense is incapable of anything at all. Insert any of a dozen games over the last three years for comparisons. 2008 Penn State may be the canonical example.

The collapse of the Northwestern offense shouldn't be overstated. They only had four second-half drives that meant anything thanks to the offense executing this second half:

  • 8 play, 80 yard TD
  • 12 play, 80 yard TD
  • 6 play, 47 yard TD
  • 7 play, 28 yard FGA
  • 9 play, 53 yard TD

This was a masterpiece for the time of possession fetishists. Northwestern opportunities were limited. (As an incidental bonus, Michigan also got 28 points while "keeping the Wildcats off the field." Funny how that works.)

In the aftermath you can't poke a newspaper-type person (and even the occasional blogger) not talking up adjustments. I'm not so sure the adjustment were brilliant. They consisted of telling Denard to stop throwing terrible interceptions and throwing Jake Ryan into the slot—hello heebie jeebies—so the Wildcats couldn't bubble Michigan to death. That accomplished, they waited for the turnover flood.

One sack, two of those turnovers, and a quarter-and-a-half later Michigan was already in rush-the-passer, kill-the-clock mode up 11 with nine minutes left. The first turnover should have been a first down conversion that pushed the Wildcats into Michigan territory; the second was an excellent strip by Thomas Gordon on a drive that had moved from around the Northwestern 20 to midfield.

The adjustment was not giving up the thing they shouldn't have been giving up in the first place and not arm punting directly at opponent safeties. Michigan was just better, no brilliance required. The second half bore that out.

The end result: 42 points despite three turnovers, 541 yards, 360 ceded, and a margin of victory over the Wildcats larger than any since 2004. The 2004 team was the last one Michigan team to smoke-and-mirror its way to a Rose Bowl—if that's really what a team one inch away from beating Vince Young really did.

As the weeks pass the questions fade. Michigan seems flatly better than everyone they play, no qualifiers necessary. This week the Spartans will test that theory. They are the mirror; this weekend blows away the smoke.

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

*[It's mostly football stuff but a couple of personality items:

1. Magee's showing a clip of a bubble they ran against Cincinnati and apropos of nothing says "the coach, I can't remember his name, is a really nice guy." Someone in the room says "Dantonio?" and he replies "Yeah, Dantonio. Nice guy." Wonder how Magee feels about him now—easy to think someone's a nice guy when you beat him 38-0.

2. Magee's describing a bubble against Georgia in their Sugar Bowl win as a pre-snap read he let White have because he "wants to let the kid grow." WVU ran two different bubbles, a pre-snap read based on alignment and a post-snap read with a full mesh point and an option afterwards if the QB keeps. By allowing White to make the read before the snap he's giving him more flexibility in the offense.

Rodriguez, in contrast, "isn't going to put his fate in the hands of a 19-year-old kid" and wants his QBs to "read it out" post snap all the time.

This particular bubble looked there pre-snap but wasn't actually because a desperate Georgia defense was plunging the safety down at it; WVU didn't have any PA off the bubble—hard to believe—at the time, something Magee said he regrets and they obviously fixed.]

Non-Bullets Of Inverseness

Yes we have no photos. Road game means we don't have a gallery, at least not yet. Mike DeSimone collects everyone's pictures weekly at his page.

brady-hoke-epic-double-pointBRADY HOKE EPIC DOUBLE POINT OF THE WEEK AWARD. Awarded to Brady Hoke for the following section.

Game theory bits. You will not be surprised that I was very much in favor of the fourth and one in the first half, especially given the state of Michigan's defense at that point and what we'd seen Northwestern do on D in their first few games. The result of that play and their ability to convert on the ensuing drive was the difference between going in down 24-14 and 24-7.

While the dominant second half made that touchdown irrelevant in the long run, the people who doubt the wisdom of that call are the same who ascribe a mystical power to momentum. If you're worried about giving momentum up by not converting you have consider the possibility of acquiring it by getting a touchdown, which in addition to being momentum-tastic is also worth seven points. For me, simple calculation: fourth and one near midfield against a team with an iffy defense and in possession of Denard Robinson. Go.

Also not a surprise: thumbs down to the field-goal attempt. I'd actually started arguing with my friend about it on second down. I was in favor of going on fourth and reasonable; he and others around me were in favor of kicking. My main rationale was that there's a huge difference between 18 and 11 (game over, especially with more time off the clock) and only a meh difference between 11 and 14.

We were having this as a hypothetically kicker-independent argument, but there seemed to be agreement that with Michigan's situation at that spot you go. If you had Nate Kaeding I could see kicking, but Gibbons has never made a field goal of 40 yards, let alone 48, and 4th and 5 is very makeable.

Even with the FG attempt I disagreed with, my "Brady Hoke is awesome on gameday" meter incremented a notch. On twitter someone said he tried to sneak Denard and a WR out with the punt team before the timeout, which if true is awesome. It means the TO was not hesitation but rather a trick being snuffed out and that even when the trick was foiled Hoke still went for it.

EPIC DOUBLE POINT STANDINGS, RETROACTIVELY APPLIED:

2: Denard Robinson (Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan), Brady Hoke (San Diego State, Northwestern)
1: Jordan Kovacs (Western Michigan), David Molk (Minnesota)

Almost went with Hemingway for the ND game since Hemingway didn't throw a bunch of interceptions but "WHAT?!" and "the game is ova" were tiebreakers.

Something I've never screamed before. "NICE BLOCK," I yelped a moment after Michael Shaw blew up Bryce McNaul with a cut block:

Thanks to terrible play by the NW MLB and what looks like a slant by the playside DT all Shaw had to do was meekly shove McNaul for Denard to burst into the secondary, but yelp == shoutout.

aa16[1]

via AnnArbor.com and Mike DeSimone

Hello Mr. Gardner. Gardner had another package in this game. I didn't like this one as much. It seemed too on-the-nose to run that jet sweep to Denard, then come back with a naked boot off it the next time you ran it. Michigan just executed a similar pattern against Minnesota, so NW was prepared. Above is the linebacker Gardner dodged en route to three yards.

And then there was that bit late in the game where Gardner came in. At first he was just handing off/getting the corner from the one, which is not that thrilling, but before that they brought him in to hit Jeremy Jackson on second and ten.

If Gardner can handle it future plays with both guys on the field should be less focused on Denard—maybe make that jet sweep fake and then drop back as per normal. Robinson is an option but not the only one.

Obvious waggle is inverted. On the Watson touchdown, the universe thought "waggle" when Michigan brought in an I-form big on second and goal from the nine. Michigan ran it to the short side of the field, breaking a tendency, and got rewarded for it with an wide open Steve Watson (who Denard nearly missed).

Bipolar OL. Maybe. Michigan couldn't run the ball but it occurred to me there was a strong possibility they got RPSed trying to run the spread against a team that knows it backwards and forwards. There seemed to be a lot of blitzing into places Michigan was trying to run.

So run problems exist. On the other hand, Denard had eons to find people to throw the ball to. Vincent Smith epic blitz pickups had something to do with that, as did Wildcat-fan-infuriating three-man-rushes, but so did the offensive line. So much so that this was a Freudian slip in a thread about the refereeing:

Yost Ghost

Yost Ghost's picture

There was .. (Score:1)

also a rushing the passer on Drob that was never called. He was takled for a loss, in the third I believe, and while on the ground was hit by a second defender and then a third. That third defender had enough time to pull up but didn't. No call.

Borges seemed to agree with this blog's petulant complaining about rollouts, which were reduced. Northwestern got negative pressure on pocket passes and the rollouts that were called saw better protection as those edge blockers went hell-bent for the outside instead of hesitating. Michigan's currently first in sacks allowed [tiresome avalanche of caveats]; so it seems that Michigan's best option when it's going to pass is letting Denard sit back and survey. No one is getting near him.

The arm punting bit. Denard did throw three interceptions. This is less than ideal. One of those was a badly inaccurate deep ball into single-ish coverage; the others were WTFs. But the opponent line that Denard is basically a tailback at quarterback

The long passes were underthrown jump balls that NU didn’t win. I am disappointed (but not surprised) that the secondary was not told to look for the ball once the receiver was 25 yards down the field. Throughout the year, most of Denard Robinson’s long passes have been underthrows that would be INTs if the defender looked for the ball.  … At least 100 of those passing yards were 50/50 jump balls. the pass defense wasn’t great, but the defensive scheme in general limited most of Robinson’s runs and made him throw. … Denard has receivers that are willing to go up for the jump ball and bring it down (e.g., the Notre Dame win), and until teams can stop that, all Denard has to do is limit his wild throws to the opposition and get the ball into the general area of his receivers.

…has started to grate. Even with the turrible interceptions Denard still completed 65% of his passes for nearly 13 YPA. That is enough for him to far exceed Dan Persa's QB rating last game (177 to 131) when Persa completed 73% of his passes like he always does. And, like, 13 YPA. 48 and 57 yard bombs to Hemingway and Roundtree help, but Robinson being Robinson put those guys in single coverage.

And here's the thing. While the jump ball thing is a fair assessment of some of the deep stuff, remove his two longest completions and Denard still averaged 9.7 YPA. Chop out the two successful bombs—but not the INT or the Gallon overthrow—and Denard averaged almost a first down per passing attempt. Northwestern fans cannot talk crap about him in any fashion. Do terribly unfair things to his passing stats and he still pwns you. Teams with secondaries are another matter, but we are seeing Denard get back to being the fairly accurate guy he was last year. 

When allowed to set and step into throws Denard can toss all kinds of stuff. As Borges gets his head around the things he can and cannot do his efficiency should improve, because he's got enough in his legs to compensate for the fact he's not Andrew Luck. Now, about those throws that make all of us want to die…

[Disclaimer: There's a difference between not thinking you can sustain an offense on downfield chucks into double coverage and back-shoulder fades to Jeremy Gallon and thinking a QB averaging 10 YPA even when you mutilate his stats unfairly is not a QB. Thank you for not needing this disclaimer.]

WTFs. I don't know, man. I think one of them was an attempted wheel route that was either badly disrupted or saw the guy fall down; in any case there was a safety right there so that was a very bad read. The other I have no idea. Hypothetically that could have been a massive WR bust, but I doubt it. I will look at these in UFR but I doubt I'll be able to tell much.

Shaw. If Tommy Rees's brain goes "FLOYDFLOYDFLOYDFLOYD" then Michael Shaw's goes "BOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCEBOUNCE." It worked against a slow-ish Northwestern team cramming the box; kudos to Borges for making that switch.

Roundtree. Welcome back to the offense, kid. Totally thought you were Junior Hemingway on the long one.

Woolfolk. Again pulled for Countess. Obviously injured.

Johnson. Hoo boy, going to come in for some finger-wagging in UFR. His whiff on the Kain Colter TD was spectacular.

The West: open. It was going to be wide open when Nebraska was losing 27-6 to Ohio State, but even with that comeback there the Michigan-Michigan State game has the shape of a division championship game, doesn't it? Whoever wins it will be two clear of their instate rival with the most threatening other teams in the division already carrying losses. The winner of that game could lose once and probably be fine since Iowa is unlikely to sweep M/MSU/Nebraska and Nebraska similarly unlikely to do so against M/MSU/Iowa/PSU/Northwestern.

Michigan State would have a smaller margin of error since their remaining games against the East include an almost certain loss versus Wisconsin; Michigan wins this weekend and they become solid favorites.

Video Bits

As per usual, when I attend road games I usually can't get around to VOAV. Penance:

Postgame interview with the person of particular note:

Here

ST3 goes inside the box score:

After starting slowly in the sack department, we picked up 3 last week and 4 this week, including a decapitation by Kovacs and a Wile E. Coyote style steamrolling by Will Campbell.

After giving up 297 yards in the first half, the defense settled down (and the offense controlled the clock for major stretches) limiting NU to 438 yards total for the game. A tad higher than my goal of 400 per game, but NU does have a good offense, I think everyone would agree. And they would have been held under 400 if the refs called holding penalties. More on that in the ref section, don’t neg me yet.

That 438 includes a 79 yard drive at the end of the game when Michigan was up three scores and just bleeding clock. If anything ever convinces you that advance stats are more real than the regular ones, that should be it. On 11 real drives—about an average game's worth—the Wildcats had 359 yards, which is about average. On the meaningless last one the Wildcats piled it on. Advanced stats will dump that last drive.

Hoke for tomorrow:

6-0 starts for Michigan are rare. 

Most of my life (33 years) has been spent rooting for a Michigan team that would win most Saturdays, live in the national rankings, and stub their toe early in the season.  4-0 or better starts have only occurred 11 times in those 33 seasons:

4-0: '78 '96 '09

5-0: '85 '95 '99 '10

6-0: '86 '97 '06 '11

The starts to the  last three seasons have been a stretch that Michigan fans have not witnessed since the dawn of the Carr era.

A Michigan fan sneaks a UTL coin into the ND lockerroom. Michigan State wallpaper flows like wine: Blue Indy and Monumental provide.

Elsewhere

Media, as in files. Melanie Maxwell's gallery for AnnArbor.com. This thing was epic:

100811_SPT_Umich_vs_NWest_MRM_51_display[1]

We should get a giant inflatable Wolverine head for the players to run out from under, except it should probably be, like, the comic book version, and then to make it even more rad we could shoot off some fireworks during the national anthem and this would make things electric.

Media, as in unwashed blog masses. If you are a true schadenfreude connoisseur, there is a Sippin' on Purple game thread that descends into self-loathing misery. I didn't enjoy it much except for the one post where the person said every time Denard takes off it terrifies them.

TWB on the good and bad. The Hoover Street Rag gets a head start on the MICHIGAN STATE IS THE BEGINNING OR END OF THE WORLD hype, which is deserved. Big House Blog provides cheers and jeers. TTB has bullets. One of them:

Kenny Demens had his best game of the year.  Demens hasn't been as productive this year as I expected, but he's still been a solid player.  This game was his best, though.  He had 10 tackles, including a sack, and did a good job of chasing down wide receivers and crossing routes in space.  A lot of middle linebackers (Obi Ezeh, for example) would have been left in the dust or would have missed the tackle on those smaller players, but Demens is so strong that if he gets his hands on someone, that person is going to the ground.

BWS:

In five of Michigan's nine losses during the 2008 season, the Wolverines were either ahead or tied at the half. But during the subsequent two quarters, Michigan's offense crumbled and the defense wasn't good enough to prop the team up. Throughout the Rodriguez years, exponential in-game decline became a staple of the team's performance

MZone on second half Denard vs first half Denard. MVictors bullets:

Don’t you feel like, for the first time in a long while, that Michigan clearly has the advantage in coordinators?  While there is room for improvement, it’s a blast to see Borges tinker around with Denard and Gardner, and the defense has rattled several quarterbacks this season and has clearly improved.  The team seems to get better as the game goes on.

This Week in Unexpected Sentences from Lake The Posts:

the 'Cats two second half TOs and Denard Robinson’s unstoppable passing prove too much in blowout win.

Nationally, Holly Anderson on the second-half D:

The story of Northwestern being shut out entirely in the second half is one of repeated, eerily consistent, enormous drive-ending plays by the Michigan defense. A sack and an interception killed the Wildcats’ third-quarter drives; a fumble and a sack put paid to their first two fourth-quarter efforts, and the final Northwestern drive barely reached Michigan’s red zone before the clock ran out.

Iowan Adam Jacobi has quick hits on the game at CBS.

Media, as in badge-wearers. Fox Sports's resident officiating expert on the Kovacs/Persa decapitating:

Some face mask penalties an official should never miss. This is not one of them. When I watched this play in real time and even after the first replay, I did not think the face mask was grabbed. So many helmets come off, and often it has nothing to do with the face mask being pulled. In this case, however, the last replay indicated that Kovacs did grab the mask with his left hand. The referee, who is behind the quarterback, would never see this, and he is the only official who is watching the quarterback. It was a foul, but not all fouls can be seen. Coach Fitzgerald was penalized for running out on the field to argue, which is absolutely the correct call. You cannot let a coach come as far onto the field as Fitzgerald did to scream at the officials. It makes no difference whether there is a missed call. That cannot be allowed.

That's on point. It's clear on the replay that Kovacs did grab the facemask but you can't expect the official to see that. (Side note: Adding Pereira to their coverage of NFL and college sports was a brilliant move by FOX. He's great at giving an unvarnished take from the referee's perspective. In that same article he bags on the live-ball unsportsmanlike penalty the NCAA just instituted, but he also gives it to you straight when you are being a stupid fanboy.)

Pete Thamel has yet another Denard piece, but okay:

Koger’s favorite Robinson story is from when he was a freshman, and he bounded up and down outside a team huddle.

“Put me in coach, I run fast,” Robinson said repeatedly.

When Robinson overheard Koger relaying that story Monday, he blushed with embarrassment and tried to plead down some details. But early on, Robinson’s need to slow down was obvious.

Also:

“I was just thinking about it the other day — man, it’s going by too fast for me,” he said with a smile. “I don’t want to leave.”

eeeeeee /passes out

Junior Hemingway had a lime:

"It feels real good," receiver Junior Hemingway said of the six victories.

Let's have a real wool lime.

AnnArbor.com's Kyle Meinke says Michigan answered a lot of questions. True, but I don't think "can Michigan win without Denard Robinson?" was one of them. Tim Rohan on the dichotomy of Denard. Raftery on the receivers. Chengelis on going to EL.

Mailbag: Zone/Power, Stretches, Trail Technique, Play Action, Linebackers

Mailbag: Zone/Power, Stretches, Trail Technique, Play Action, Linebackers

Submitted by Brian on October 3rd, 2011 at 2:46 PM

NOTE: I am looking to purchase a pair of tickets to Northwestern. If you've got a couple extras email me to discharge built-up beveled guilt.

powerzone-read-stretch

Power vs zone read. A couple weeks ago I wondered if running a bunch of power had opened up the zone read again or if it was just an effect of playing Bob Diaco and Ron English. Frequent correspondent Tyler Sellhorn provides some insight:

WLBs are the bugaboo defender for the power play (double team frontside = WLB difficult to block/unblocked).  They are coached to hit the window created by the inside OL stepping to the double.  Playside combos of inside zone are difficult to distinguish from straight doubles. 

The best defense vs. ZR is to exchange gaps between the DE and WLB (you already know this).  Therefore, these two plays in concert screw with the WLB assignment-wise from a gameplan standpoint.  Gap-exchange weakside means that the free defender versus power is no longer paying any attention to the RB running said power.  Leaving the DE to defend the ZR by his lonesome, though, against DR...hell to pay.

Hope that enlightens.

God Bless,
Tyler Sellhorn

Since then we've seen San Diego State defend the zone read (and nothing else) ably and Minnesota defend nothing (and nothing else). A test of this theory will come against Northwestern, which may have given up 38 to Illinois but held the Illini rushing game to just 82 yards. Sacks factor in but even without those Scheelhaase and company managed just 3.1 YPC.

They also gave up 400 yards passing, so don't get too frightened.

Stretches versus outside zone. I've been using the two terms interchangeably, which Tyler suggests is mistaking rectangles for squares:

…the zone stretch, the various sweeps (including QB sweeps), pin/pull, and when the G tries to "log" the end/OLB on Down G, the Dash (frontside zone read) all try to accomplish the same thing: circle the defense and (usually) carry the ball between the numbers and the sideline.  

What I am getting at is that you have made the statement that there have been zero stretches and it feels like you are implying that M is not trying to get outside when you make that statement.  There are lots of ways to get the same thing as "stretch" conceptually, and Borges is trying to fit the concept into what he already has experience calling and know what to call when.  For example, QB sweep was the first call against WMU. 

So yeah, you keep harping on "zero stretches" when there have been plenty of attempts to get the ball outside, but M is using different blocking schemes to do the same thing.  You just need to be clearer about what you are trying to say in regards to this: we should be running outside more or we should be using stretch to run outside.  That is the distinction I am encouraging you to make.

Tyler Sellhorn

Right, then: I'd like to see more outside zone blocking from Michigan because they're pretty good at it and don't seem particularly good at getting outside with pin and pull stuff or toss sweeps.

Advanced not looking at the ball. Chris Brown of Smart Football had a couple of things to add in re: Michigan's NOBODY CARES WHEN WR LOOKS FOR BALL coverage technique:

Saw your picture pages on Michigan DBs playing the fade and having success playing the man versus the ball. Thought you might find this of interest from Saban.

Basically if you are even with the WR, you play the ball. If the receiver looks over his inside shoulder you look back that way; if the WR turns his outside shoulder back you turn into the WR (toward the sideline) to play the back shoulder fade.

But if you're out of phase with the guy, ie trailing him, you don't turn back to find the ball because you never will and they'll catch it; you play the man and his hands and eyes. (I get the impression that this wasn't the case last year.)

From the photos I saw on your site the Michigan DBs are doing a good job playing the man, but that's because they aren't "in-phase" with the WRs. If the throw was better they'd probably be completing the fades. But you're closer to this stuff than I am; mostly wanted to pass along the Saban points.

So Michigan's trail technique seems born of necessity. Since they don't have Charles Woodson or Leon Hall back there the best they can do is go for the PBU. We've seen Blake Countess look for the ball because he's in better position a few times.

If Countess proves to be the real deal and Michigan can get a second corner at that level we may see more DBs look back for the ball. As it is the current technique is at least an excellent stopgap.  

A little outdated. This came in before the Minnesota game:

Brian,

Do you think Denard would be as effective a runner from the RB position as he is from the QB position? My gut says he would not be but can't explain why. I bring this up given his continued poor passing performance with some people clamoring for him to change positions.

Peter F

Denard wouldn't be as effective a runner because he excels in the space allowed by a spread formation. In a pro-style offense he would probably be too slight to be a tailback, at least full-time. He'd end up in the slot.

The main tactical innovation allowed by having your QB as a runner is it allows you to spread the field horizontally by adding more WRs without giving up the extra blocker. With the defense locked in on those slots—something the threat of the bubble screen enforces—a guy like Denard can pick and choose from big gaps that open up because the defense is stretched.

Handing it to a tailback without using the QB as a threat invites an unblocked guy through since there are fewer blockers in the area. Think of this like a power play: a 4-on-3 power play is more dangerous than a 5-on-4 because it's easier to find the open guy and there's more space. The shotgun provides the extra man by using the QB as a runner. That extra space means Denard can make yards by accelerating past tackles instead of breaking them.

Denard's still pretty good when things get tight, but the pounding would be worse if that was all he was doing.

Play action problems.

Brian, would like your view/analysis of Denard's play action fakes and the importance of these in the offense. It does not appear to me that Denard really sells the hand off as much as other QB's. I'll spare the comparison to Peyton Manning. A good play fake can open up zones in the secondary and give Denard more time to make his reads as the defense should be crashing on the running back. Or, is this less of an issue in a zone read offense since there is basically a play fake on the majority of plays.

It appears to me Borges likes to throw off play action and if the QB is not selling it, that might account for some of the pressured throws we have seen from Denard so far. (disclaimer about adjustment to learning a new offense a given)

Thanks,
Trueblueintexas

There are two entirely different playfakes Denard is executing. There's one from under center and one from the shotgun. It is possible that Denard's fakes from under center are not convincing, but I think the bigger problem is that the run game is not threatening. When you're averaging three yards a carry, safeties don't have to worry about your run game because it's not getting to them. I'll keep an eye out if we get more play action from the I-form later in the year. It's possible he's a problem there since he hasn't really practiced that skill.

The shotgun is a different matter. When Michigan goes play action from the shot gun it's either Denard stepping to the line or a zone read fake. Both are inherently convincing. In the first Denard is moving towards the LOS as the offense run blocks. In the second they are executing the mesh point exactly as they would on a running play. Unless the line is doing things that tip off the opponent there's no difference. The sheer number of hand-wavingly wide open dudes on shotgun PA should be sufficient evidence that Denard's doing just fine with his fakes there.

Linebacker blaming.

gerg

Brian,

I'm reading the SDSU preview and you say that Demens and Hawthorne have to get better at diagnosing plays quickly.  This appears to be a consistent theme with M linebackers over the last few years.  I would assume that this "skill" is probably the easiest to evaluate when recruiting high school players as HS offenses are pretty run heavy.  Did our coaches completely drop the ball in recruiting these guys or did they believe diagnosing plays is something that can be taught and, thus, focused more on the recruit's physical traits/potential? 

Thanks!

I'm not sure that skill is easy to evaluate because a lot of high school kids don't get much coaching and what they get is of debatable value. You might be able to detect a kid who just Gets It, but plenty of college-level athletes who look clueless early develop into excellent players with college coaching. Prescott Burgess and Shawn Crable are two examples in recent Michigan history.

In the case of Michigan's current starters, the Great Rodriguez Defensive Coaching Malpractice is probably more at fault than recruiting. The current LB crew has been coached by Jay Hopson, Greg Robinson, and Adam Braithwaite. Braithwaite has the best resume of all of those guys by virtue of not having one. They've also swung from one system to another and, in the case of Herron, Hawthorne, and Cam Gordon, from one position to another. If these guys weren't having trouble diagnosing plays that would warrant creating a golden idol resembling Mark Smith.

As it is I think they're doing as well as can be expected. Hopefully we'll see the improvement we never got under the GRDCM as the season progresses.