Neck Sharpies: One Dead Zone Run

Neck Sharpies: One Dead Zone Run

Submitted by Seth on October 11th, 2017 at 10:27 AM

There was a rather long twitter exchange earlier this week between BiSB and former player/regular MGoBlog reader Jon Duerr about this play, a ho-hum split zone that Michigan State swarmed. Both guys saw things in this play that somewhat characterized the Spartans’ approach this game, and why Michigan had to pass to counter it. So I thought I’d draw it up.



This play has been an effective counter to the base inside zone run all year. Rather than making the tight end block the DE lined up over him, the TE releases into a linebacker, leaving that end to get clobberated by a crossing TE or FB. Defenders who think they’re trying to defeat zone blocks to the frontside suddenly find themselves sealed in place, and linebackers who thought they were flowing to frontside gaps are just putting themselves in position to be blocked by free-releasing linemen who shouldn’t have an angle on them:


Regular zone rules are otherwise in effect. The covered linemen and the next closest uncovered linemen will try to combo the DTs then work their way to the Mike and Will linebackers. With split zone however play is designed to seal the tackles—who think they’re winning at preventing themselves from getting reached—in place and release the covered guys to the linebackers, who will naturally try to flow to the frontside of those blocks. Then—“whoops”—the linebackers are on the wrong side.

What you do with your receivers is up to you (and what your opponent is doing). The tight end’s crack block on the SAM is mirrored by the split end (X)’s attack on the Will, which mimics a mesh play. Michigan added the flanker (Z) cracking a safety rather than running off a cornerback, since the CB might take himself out of the play by playing man anyway.

Michigan State snuffed it out by playing super-aggressively against the run. They’re doing three things to blow this up.

[After THE JUMP]


Picture Pages: UMass Counter Reconsideration

Picture Pages: UMass Counter Reconsideration

Submitted by Brian on September 23rd, 2010 at 5:09 PM

Normally in these posts I've noticed something or understood something or am trying to explain something. No so much on this one. I grabbed this because it's a play where it seems like four different things could go right or wrong to turn it into a better or worse play than it ended up being, which is a five-yard run on first and ten.

It's the beginning of UMass's first drive of the second half; Michigan has just put up three touchdowns in four minutes of game time to surge into an 11-point lead. UMass starts off in an Ace formation with twin WRs to one side of the formation and twin TEs to the other. Banks and Kovacs are to the top of the screen, RVB and Gordon to the bottom:


At the snap the tailback starts running to the left side of the line. Martin gets under the center and starts pushing him back. Michigan linebackers start stepping to the playside, and Kovacs starts burrowing into the line:


A moment later the action has continued but the tailback has started coming back to the right. The move left was a feint; this is a counter. It's pulled the Michigan linebackers to the right:


A couple things on the above frame: it certainly looks like Martin is in a position to tackle in the A gap if the play ends up there, and he has gotten into a position where he is useful. But: I +1ed him on this play I shouldn't have since the defense is trying to seal him to one side and has. I don't think this is a negative play since he hasn't gotten blown off the line or anything, but it's not a win for the D.

The confusing thing about the linebacker play to me is if Martin is going to go to one side when the play starts it would make sense for the MLB to immediately go the other. This is "making the nose tackle right" if the nose can cut off that gap, which it certainly looks like Martin has.

HOWEVA, in the UFR comments, Steve Sharik made a point I hadn't ever thought of: when you pull linemen you are putting more blockers in a gap than there are defenders if everyone just takes a gap. So it makes some sense that Michigan LBs were in a read-and-react mode against UConn, which was pulling linemen all over the place. ND also makes heavy use of pulls, and frankly I'd be surprised if Michigan bothered to change their gameplan for UMass. The Minutemen did their share of pulling, anway. So it's more complicated than that. If Ezeh hammered it up behind Martin on this play and the opponents were pulling around into Martin's gap they would find a lot of space.

By the next frame the tailback has taken the handoff and the defense realizes it's a counter. Banks and Kovacs are engaged in a shoving match with the OL on the right side of the line that is going nowhere, which is usually a +0.5 in my book. It won't be here, as we'll see.

Mouton and Ezeh are free, though Ezeh is about to get a guy peeling off Martin:


Mouton sitting in that gap dissuades the RB from trying to hit it up; a step later he's still moving outside as the center attempts to get out on Ezeh:


Ezeh gets his face across the blocker and Martin is fighting through his guy; no place to go (except maybe cut behind Martin for a big gainer, but RVB seems like he'll shut that down):


A moment later this is obvious. Mouton is nearing the second TE, giving M three defenders on three blockers and Floyd ready to handle a bounce:


Here is some confusion. The RB fakes outside…


…which causes Mouton to hop outside the TE and surprises Floyd; Kovacs has finally yielded to the physics of his leetle body, giving the tailback a crease:


Kovacs and Floyd close the crease down, but it's six yards:


Video; watch how the tailback's little juke outside gives him the crease:

I misidentified this play as an inside zone, which it kind of is but that does not take into account the counter action. These are the things I think about it after some consideration:

  • I should not have given Martin a plus nor Ezeh a minus. Both plays are fine. Ezeh did react in time to get across the center and Martin cut off his gap, then fought back through his blocker in time to help close down the play's intended hole. But Martin did not force a cutback—that was the play design—and didn't help on the tackle.
  • On a later edition of this same play Banks should have been minused for flowing down the line too hard and opening up space for the tailback, but I still think Ezeh is slow to read and react, thus allowing him to be "blocked" by a center who's falling to the ground because of Martin's violent burst into the guard; I'd rather run the D like Martin is going to able to slant into the gap he wants against most teams and watch the cutbacks. Kovacs's ability to pursue hard when he has a gap to one side of Mouton to fill, then redirect and make a tackle when the RB cuts inside of Mouton is impressively aware.
  • This was the story of Banks's day: I'm not doing much but I'm not going backwards either.
  • Kovacs is small and this hurt him here as he tried to stand up to blockers, but really if it takes this long for help to arrive it's not his fault.
  • Mouton and Floyd are confused when it comes to edge play; here it seems like Mouton should make sure he bounces the RB to Floyd and instead he hops outside, creating a gap that the RB can use. If he bounces it to Floyd he should be able to tackle; if Floyd expects that Mouton will funnel it inside he should be able to tackle. Neither happens. More of this deficiency can be seen in the earlier Mouton picture pages and the easy touchdown UMass scored when Floyd let the RB outside.
  • I think I would prefer a chancier scheme that said "aww, the hell with it" and blasted linebackers into open gaps once they read run. If Michigan's going to get ground like they did attempting to play read and react—a lot of should-be-zero-yard runs like this one turned into four or six—they're going to give up a lot of drives like we saw Saturday. Getting those zero- and negative-yard plays on early downs seems more likely to get the defense off the field. This will put more pressure on the safeties when this doesn't work out, but they seem like good tacklers and guys who take good angles.

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana

Upon Further Review: Offense vs Indiana

Submitted by Brian on October 1st, 2009 at 1:15 PM

Personnel bits: Indiana basically did the same thing as Eastern presnap. Post-snap stuff gets extensive discussion below.

BONUS: I'm trying to integrate previous explanatory posts into the UFRs in an effort to reduce confusion.

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Deep Hitch Hemingway Inc
Zone read fake into a pass rollout; Koger picks off the unblocked backside DE and Forcier steps up into a ton of room. He could run for 5-8 and looks like he's going to; at the last minute he pulls up and throws to a wide open Hemingway. Airmailed. Indecisive. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
M39 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Flare screen Brown 61
Explosivo. Odoms(+2) gets a great cut block on his corner that takes out a charging safety; Hemingway(+1) crushes his corner to the ground, and Schilling and Ortmann drive a linebacker into the Odoms mess. Brown turns on the jets, at which point no man catches him. (CA, 3, screen) Replay.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-7, 8 min 1st Q. Pam Ward: bleah.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Deep Post Mathews Inc
Little bit of a different sort of PA with your typical zone read fake but instead of rolling out Forcier hangs in the pocket. Koger(-1) is tasked with one-on-one blocking of one of Indiana's good DEs and loses him, allowing Forcier to get hit and perhaps making him throw sooner than he'd like. Pass is just about on the money but the Indian DB jumps on Mathews' back and seemingly interferes. There's even a flag, but then it's waved off. WTF? I mean, the guy clearly grabs Mathews's shoulder. (CA, 0, protection 1/2, Koger -1)
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Brown 6
Check the link for a primer. Indiana 1) blitzes a corner for the QB contain, which means the WLB isn't running himself out of the play on a scrape, and 2) has the backside DE a bit better prepared for this; he takes Koger's block and starts flowing downfield in pursuit. The WLB did go for the stretch fake, though, and got pulled out of position. The two IU players recover to tackle after a good gain.
M35 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Out Odoms 7 + 15 Pen
Odoms only has a step on what appears to be an OLB because I think he runs a sloppy, rounded out. Opinions? Forcier lays in an excellent pass given the good coverage and Odoms brings it in, turning it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Stupid PF on Middleton gets 15 more.
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Dive Brown 2
End around fake does not hold the unblocked DE and there's apparently no other contain; handoff would have gained a lot. May have to calll the end-around more to keep folks honest. Not sure if this is supposed to hit the backside or be an actual inside zone play but I do know that Schilling(-1) got blown back, which cut off both holes, basically, and condemned Brown to run up into the backside DE and unblocked WLB.
O41 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 41
Various parts: 1) outstanding seal by Moosman(+1) immediately takes the backside of the play out. 2) Schilling(+1) reacts adroitly to a blitzing linebacker, kicking him out well enough for 3) Brown to cut up behind him into the gaping crease provided by 1. DE fights outside to maintain the contain he's supposed to, and... 4) Koger(+1) cuts inside the block! I have not seen a Michigan lead blocker sort do this on a zone stretch yet. I complained all last year about Moundros wandering outside to block no one when a stretch play failed to get outside the tackle; here it appears that Koger reads the block of the DE and decides to cut inside to pick up a block where Brown will head. This he does, allowing Brown to cut around him for first down yardage. 5) Mathews blocks the corner, and Brown is gone. Replay.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-7, 6 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M7 1 10 Ace Twins 1 2 2 4-3 under Run Inside zone Brown -1
Huyge(-2) straight up beat by the Indiana DT; coupled with a blitz this leads to two guys crushing Brown in the backfield.
M6 2 11 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under Pass Rollout hitch Savoy 8
Max protect look with both TEs and the RB staying in to block. Indiana is playing way off and the hitch is open. Hit; escorted out of bounds; next play. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M14 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Hitch Savoy Inc
No rollout but a very similar play on which Indiana calls scissors to our paper, shooting an OLB into a short zone and getting him to knock down the pass despite the fact he's not even looking at it. Forcier might have come off the outside hitch to someone more open, like Webb. But... eh, just a good D play. (CA, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-7, 3 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Bubble fake to slant Webb Inc
Three WRs with only two guys attempting to cover them to the bottom of the screen, which M figures will cause a bubble freakout. It does, but it's a fake, and Webb runs a little slant that's wide open. Forcier hits him in the hands; he drops it. Would have been 8-10. (CA, 3, protection 1/1) Michigan should try running this as a bomb; Indiana's safety was biting hard and this would have (also) been wide open deeper.
M38 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Shaw 2
Someone finally defends this, with the DE reading the H-back and flowing down the line to cut the hole off. This should open the bubble screen since the contain on the play is from the nominal nickelback, but more about that later.
M40 3 8 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Improv deep hitch Stonum 25 (Pen -5)
Dorrestein(-2) flat beat by the DE opposite him; fortunately for M the other DE has crashed inside and Forcier can scramble out, which he does, finding Stonum along the sideline for big yardage. Stonum drags toes to make a nice catch. Play comes back because one of the OL is ruled to have lined up doo far in the backfield, which never gets called. CONSPIRACY. (DO, 2, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)
M35 3 13 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Fly Hemingway Inc
Miscommunication between Hemingway and Forcier. From the stands I saw Forcier motion to Hemingway, indicating he should have continued deep. In any case, this was thrown into double coverage and could have been intercepted. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-14, 1 min 1st Q. CONSPIRACY
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen Grady 2
This should be open as the nominal nickel defender is coming in and the safety Polk is charged with running this down but Polk does an excellent job and Forcier's throw is a little far upfield, which gives him time to close. (MA, 3, screen)
M21 2 8 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Sack -- -3
Dorrestein(-2) smoked by the DE, forcing Forcier to scramble up in the pocket. Unfortunately, Minor's double to help Ortmann has just changed the other DE's momentum so that he can more easily track Forcier down from behind; he grabs Forcier and drags him down. Forcier tries to Mallett it but is ruled down. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Dorrestein -2)
M18 3 11 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB draw Forcier -4
Oh, Rodriguez... lame. Lame. I wondered if this was Forcier doing scramble stuff but the WRs are stalk-blocking. It's a QB draw. And it's one that Indiana blitzes right into, so Forcier just goes down and lives to fight another day.
Drive Notes: Punt, 14-14, 12 min 2nd Q. Yeah, I thought Forcier was getting too scrambly in this game too but there's nothing so far that wasn't the right play.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Minor 5
Good scoop block seals the backside defensive end and gets Schilling out on the WLB, but Ortmann(-1) can't hold his ground well enough to allow Minor to dart into the secondary. Minor ends up running into Ortmann's but a yard or so downfield and is sufficiently slowed for the crease to close; decent gain anyway. Minor had to take that alley because the frontside scoop by Moosman and Huyge didn't work out well, FWIW.
M35 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Shaw 3
Robinson in. Indiana does not appear to respond. M runs a variation of the counter dive using Minor as the H-back; since Indiana continues to use the nickel corner as contain, Brown is running directly at the WLB. Still picks up some yards.
M38 3 2 Shotgun Empty 2TE 0 2 3 Nickel Run Outside zone Robinson 3
Apparently a short-yardage variation of an outside zone with the RT and RG not scoop blocking the playside DT but just plain doubling him and sealing him. Koger, unfortunately, trips as he attempts to get out on the playside LB, which leaves him unblocked. Denard takes a pop at the LOS but manages to bounce off it a bit and fall forward for the first down.
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Minor 6 (Pen -10)
Forcier back. Moosman(-1) does not get playside of the DT on this play despite help from Huyge and then drags his guy to the ground, drawing a deserved holding call. That guy in the backfield still disrupts the play; Minor does a valiant job of cutting it up and bouncing off guys for a good gain. For naught.
M31 1 20 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA argh -- Int
Same version of the zone read play fake that leaves Forcier in the pocket. He has an opportunity to survey the field, decides against a throw, and then gets pressure. He goes one way, finds a DE there, goes another way, finds the same the other way, and then moves up, out... he's clearly just trying to chuck the ball away but gets tackled and the ball appears to slip out of his hand. It floats and is grabbed by a DL. Torn between TA and BR, but he was in a lot of trouble and did too much. Also probably should have just chucked it earlier. (BR, 0, protection 2/3, team)
Drive Notes: Interception, 14-17, 7 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Yakety... ok. 5
Robinson in for this drive. He fumbles the snap, because that's his finishing move. This was supposed to be a QB draw and pretty much remains one; Robinson slips a tackle darts outside, and is one good safety fill from another ridiculous run.
M35 2 5 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Rollout Circle Grady 3
Again they are in man on the slots with this safety guy, and after Robinson's read fake into a rollout he throws a circle route on-time and accurately to Grady, who should be able to turn it upfield except for another great play from this safety Polk. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M38 3 2 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Yakety Sax -- -Lots (Pen +5)
First freeze play, the one that works. Robinson barked a cadence and Moosman just chucked it way low; this is a bad snap not on the freeze. Which worked.
M43 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB zone stretch Robinson 2
Better blocked than two yards except for the inability of the backside DT to be handled by Dorrestein(-1) and Huyge(-1); even so Robinson had more room slightly more outside and shouldn't have cut it up so dramatically, I think. Another stretch play where Michigan's lead blocker just heads outside a tackle that the runner won't.
M45 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout hitch Grady Inc
Robinson late on this throw and compounds that by throwing it inside, allowing an IU DB to break it up. (MA, 1, protection 1/1)
M45 3 8 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Pass Seam Koger 35
Robinson stands in an excellent pocket, finds Koger streaking past the linebackers in the zone, and hits him with excellent timing. Accuracy... well... I'm not filing it MA but it could have been better. Koger makes a terrific leaping adjustment, spinning back to face forward after he reels it in and picking up 10 YAC. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
O20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB zone stretch Robinson 8
Playside IU DT forgets about the stretch threat or something because he steps straight upfield and invites Moosman(+1) to seal him, which he's happy to do. Huge hole and two downfield blockers on the LBs; Robinson hits it up for eight.
O12 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read dive Minor 12
Ooh: variant. Michigan's sick of IU adjusting to the counter dive and pulls out a different thing that looks like it, with the H-back kicking backside but Minor hitting it up in the gap between the two DTs—the “zone counter dive” goes between the backside DE and DT—as second level blockers level the LBs. Minor gets on the right side of a great Huyge(+1) downfield block and rages into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-20, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Penalty False Start Brown -5
Robinson still in; odd with two minutes left in the half. Eh?
M19 1 15 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB draw Robinson 6
Six yards, but six exciting ones. This play breaks down because Huyge(-1) can't control his man and the intended crease is filled up, leaving Robinson to dance around Indiana defenders until he's finally hauled down.
M25 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive? Brown 0
This seems like a bust, because it's sort of the zone counter dive but the h-back just runs by the backside DE, leaving him to tackle Brown immediately. This looks like the QB counter play covered in picture pages except for Robinson handing the ball off. Merph.
M25 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Robinson 3
Indiana blitzing and bringing both safeties up, which means Robinson nails one of them when he bursts into what would otherwise be open space; Michigan was probably looking to punt and go in at halftime. Robinson, unfortunately, fumbles.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 21-20, 1 min 2nd Q. Michigan does have a couple plays before the end of the half but they're not charted since Indiana is just giving Michigan the yards on the final play.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M49 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Waggle flat Grady(24) 15
Basically the zone counter dive except faked; Forcier rolls out and finds Grady a yard or two in front of an Indiana linebacker. Forcier hits him. Odoms(+1) comes back to delay, if not block, that linebacker, and Grady(+1) makes Polk miss, turning it up for excellent yardage. (CA, 3, protection NA)
O41 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Nickel Run Inside zone Minor -1
Safety walks up, presenting a seven-man front. Odoms comes in motion for an end-around fake. Up the middle to Minor; Huyge(-1) and Schilling(-1) get beat by slants and Minor gets swallowed in the backfield.
O42 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Out Odoms 7
Zone read fake with a pulling guard to provide some pass blocking on the backside. With the nickelback acting as QB contain and a fly route dragging the outside corner upfield, Odoms' little out route is wide open. Forcier's throw is a bit behind and Odoms has to make a pretty tough catch; Polk makes a nice tackle. (CA, 2, protection 1/1)
O35 3 4 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Yakety Sax -- -18
The play where the Indiana DE jumps twice and Moosman snaps it, apparently catching the guy... but no. Forcier was looking to the sideline when the snap came, and the snap itself wasn't bad.
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-23, 12 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O40 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Bubble screen Grady Inc
Probably a run-pass option similar to the one we saw in the Western game where Forcier takes it out and then has the bubble if he wants it. This was not called. Mathews(-1) bizarrely heads inside in an attempt to block the safety, then decides he' wrong and tries to come out on the corner, which means he doesn't block anyone. That corner is charging hard and would snuff this out even if it wasn't dropped by Grady(19) (CA, 3, protection NA)
O40 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Yakety Sax -- Inc
This snap is high but catchable; it's also really zinged back, which makes it tough to handle. Forcier can't, but does manage to recover the thing and chuck it away to avoid a loss of yardage. Not charted.
O40 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Throwback screen Hemingway 1
Poor block from Koger(-1) lets the corner in on Hemingway and disrupts the play; Indiana had a delayed blitz and a stunt on and had two other players in the area, so this was probably going to be snuffed out anyway. (CA, 3, screen)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-23, 10 min 3rd Q. Michigan was going to try a quick kick but got a false start, so Zoltan punts. I think this playcalling is done with a go-on-fourth mentality, BTW: screen probably doesn't pick up all the yards and if they get anything more than, oh, one, Rodriguez probably goes.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB sweep Robinson 8
Robinson in. Michigan runs off tackle, pulling Huyge and using Minor as a lead blocker. Koger gets discarded by the Indiana DE, causing both lead blockers to go after him and stripping Robinson of his convoy, but Odoms(+1) gets a fantastic block on the nickelback and allows Robinson the corner, where he jukes the safety Polk and ends up with a nice gain.
M37 2 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB zone stretch Robinson 5
Excellent sealing reach block from Moosman(+1) gets a crease between himself and the tackle, and Robinson hits up into it. Indiana's DE got upfield enough here to force the cutback, which reduces Minor to a guy running outside and forces the cut-up; he then comes back to grab Robinson as he passes and holds this gain down. Excellent job by that guy.
M42 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Yakety Sax -- -20
I think the issue here is that Moosman is just whipping the ball back way faster.
M22 2 30 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Nickel Pass PA Scramble Forcier 9
Forcier. Some initial time but then Dorrestein(-1) just sort of pushes his guy away and disengages, allowing a DT up into the pocket and causing Forcier to bug out. He rolls out and finds open space, picking up good yardage on the scramble. (TA, N/A, protection 1/2, Dorrestein -1)
M31 3 21 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Cross Odoms Inc
Good pocket and Forcier actually moves up into it, rifling a ball to Odoms as he comes across the zone. This isn't going to pick up the first but would be worth ten yards of field position; it's low and Odoms can't dig it out; it bounces off his knees. (CA, 2, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 21-26, 3 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass PA Rollout sack -- -1
Indiana changes up their backside DT stuff, shooting their guy well upfield instead of having him move down the line cautious in case Michigan hits them up the middle. They might have found a tell here. Koger's backside block is okay but forces Forcier up into a pocket that doesn't really exist, where an unblocked linebacker closes to tackle. Had Stonum on a hitch and should be more willing to throw; will come with time. (BR, 0, protection 1/1)
M24 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 8
Excellent seal by Moosman(+1) gets your standard giant C-T crease. Downfield Koger(+1) has a nice block on one linebacker but Huyge(-1) can't cut or seal the other linebacker, who disengages to tackle.
M32 3 3 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass PA Waggle flat Grady(24) 3
Same play they ran earlier with a zone dive fake and the FB heading out into the flat. Indiana actually in a good D for this because it's cover two and a CB is a short zone but Grady(+1) manages to power through the tackle for first down yardage. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M35 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read keeper Forcier -2
Forcier keeps it despite the DE not crashing down, then doesn't throw the bubble despite said DE having contain on him. Not so good. (BR, N/A, N/A)
M33 2 12 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout fly Mathews Inc
Plenty of time on the edge as there's no one out there and Brown is acting as a personal protector. Forcier has time to survey and finds Mathews between the safety and corner, but underthrows it. (IN, 1, protection 2/2)
M33 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Seam Grady(19) 20
Drop back; plenty of time, no one open. Forcier starts rolling to by time and finds Grady sitting down between levels in the zone, hitting him for the first down. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O47 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 5
Playside DT gets doubled by the C and backside G on a scoop block, which doesn't quite work but does delay the DT, driving him a couple yards off the LOS. Koger(-1) gets a cut block that's pretty silly because there's time for the guy to get up afterwards; Schilling has to deal with him. Brown sees the traffic and the safety coming up to fill unmolested and cuts back a little bit, running up the back of the previous-mentioned DT; pile falls forward for decent yardage.
O42 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 12
Moosman(+2) reaches the playside DT and then authoritatively pancakes him. Sweet, sweet block. This provides a gaping hole for Brown that he cuts up into; Huyge(+1) and Dorrestein(+1) first scoop the backside DT and then block the WLB, sending Brown into the secondary. Hoosiers just do drag him down.
O30 1 10 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run Yakety scramble Forcier 9
Another bad snap, but Forcier(+1) manages to turn this one into something positive because the backside DE freaked out about the fumble and lost his contain. An inadvertent successful zone read.
O21 2 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Minor 8
Webb(+1) and Ortmann(+1) basically pick the playside DT up and escort him roughly back as Michigan attacks the tackle area. Huyge pulls around and Grady acts as a lead blocker; Grady kicks out the SLB, leaving Huyge one-on-one with the safety; safety dives in a desperate attempt to trip Minor... and does. That was the only thing between him and the endzone, as Indiana blitzed up the middle. Our rock, their scissors.
O13 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Minor 1
Exact same play to the other side of the line. Basically works, too, with Minor about to slash upfield into the secondary and possibly the endzone when the backside(!) LB completes an amazing slash through a crease in the line and makes a shoestring tackle. Best play I've seen any LB make all year.
O12 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Brown 5
Playside DT doesn't get sealed but does get shoved down the LOS too far, giving up a yard or two of ground. Backside DT should have this as he's avoided the backside cut but he heads too far upfield and allows Brown to hit it up behind Moosman for five.
O7 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Pass Scramble Forcier 7
Same waggle they've hit in the flat a couple times. Now... this is not the world's best read from Forcier since he's got Odoms hand-wavingly open in the back of the endzone for six and instead decides to take off, but with only one guy out there and Grady blocking, fine. At least he's decisive. And he's not wrong: first down is easy and the touchdown comes with a spectacular endzone leap. (TA, 0, protection NA).
O8 2PT 2PT Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB draw Forcier 8
False start brings it back here. Good call for the D as Indiana's blitzing from the outside and once Forcier is through the crease in the OL he's just got members of the secondary. Safety comes up to hit as Forcier tries to leap again, at which point M Bush Pushes him into the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown (2PT), 29-26, 9 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M26 1 10 I-Form 3-wide 2 0 3 Base 4-3 Run Dive Minor 3
Heading right up the middle with an end-around fake. Here a momentary double on one DT from Moosman and Schilling(-1) does not get the DT sealed, leaving him to tackle in the hole. Couple yards because he gave some ground there.
M29 2 7 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Minor 0
DL slanting hard to the playside; playside DT ends up driving into Huyge and never gets sealed; backside DT is similarly uncontained. The two guys tackle Minor as he approaches the LOS.
M29 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Sack -- -12
Indiana sends six with a delayed seventh and the pickup here is decent but there are soon more guys than there are blockers. Forcier absolutely has one guy on either a post or a wheel but instead of throwing it runs out and is eventually sacked; he throws it away but it does not get to the LOS, so it's grounding. (BR, 0, protection 2/3, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 29-33, 7 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass? BOOM MALLETTED Brown 2
Oy. Tate stands in the pocket, but is forced to scramble around because Brown(-2) whiffed a cut block on the Indiana DE. Tate manages to step through that guy's tackle attempt, then flips it backwards to Brown a la Mallett-Butler against Wisconsin, turning a sure sack into like two yards. Brilliant? Idiotic? I don't know. (PR, 0, protection 0/2 Brown -2)
50 2 8 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone counter dive Brown 4
DE is sliding down the line so the backside hole is cut off. Rest of the line is a mess. People are getting some push but not a lot; no one's in the backfield but there are no creases. Brown does a good job of picking his way through heavy traffic for four yards. An all around “eh” play.
O46 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Rollout scramble Forcier 5
Forcier rolls out and he's only got two options to look at; one gets cut off short but it sort of looks like Grady's deep hitch is open. Can't see the safeties so maybe not. Forcier scrambles out, finding a crease back through the middle of the line for a first down. (TA, 0, protection 2/2)
O41 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run Zone read stretch Minor 7
Tate goes out with shoulder stuff so Denard is in. Good seal by Moosman with help from Schilling but either Minor just doesn't read the blocks quite well enough or Moosman doesn't quite hold his ground enough because Minor trips over Moosman's legs as he passes. Minor(+1) then impressively keeps his balance and blows through a linebacker's tackle, turning two yards into seven.
O34 2 3 Shotgun Trips 1 1 3 Nickel Run QB lead draw Robinson 4
Just easy, as Indiana only has six in the box. Michigan doubles a DT, kicks out a DE, and sends Minor to act as a missile on one of the LBs; Robinson picks it up easily.
O30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Run Zone read stretch Minor 5
Forcier returns. Almost identical to the other stretch on this drive down to the trip as Minor gets through the hole, though this one is on Ortmann more than Moosman. Michigan is not getting the WLB blocked well enough and he's coming through to tackle after the RB breaches the hole.
O25 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Base 4-3 Run QB lead draw Robinson -2
Robinson in. Not a fan of this again; Indiana is blitzing the nickelback and a linebacker into this. Linebacker scoots past Koger(-1); Koger should just take on the MLB but instead peels back; two guys are now trying to deal with him. MLB unblocked, Robinson tries back juke that doesn't work.
O27 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel Pass Post Odoms 27
Indiana sends the house, with six guys crossing the LOS and another delayed blitzer; they're in man cover zero. Forcier stands in, gets good protection – blitz wasn't timed that well – and lays it in beautifully. Okay, a tiny bit underthrown. Great analysis, Van Gogh. (DO, 3, protection 3/3) Replay.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 36-33, 2 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Run Power off tackle Minor 5
Moundros in for the first time all game. Same thing as earlier: double and blow the playside DE off the ball, pull opposite OG around, use lead blocker. Moundros(+1) crushes the OLB and Schilling gets a good block on the edge; Minor has a ton of room before oddly holding up after about five yards, probably because he was afraid of going OOB. Still should have had a few more.
O25 2 5 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Run Iso Minor 4
Excellent kickout by Moundros(+1), who blows the MLB right out of the hole, providing an easy four yards for Minor.
O21 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 Base 4-3 Run Iso Minor 2
Same deal except the Indiana safety Polk is screaming towards the LOS and actually meets Minor in the backfield. He gets trucked, though, and Minor falls forward for the first down and the win.
Drive Notes: EOG, 36-33. Kneeldowns not charted.

How ya like me now?

Bolded, questioning alter-ego, you mean all this time you've been Martavious Odoms?

Maybe, maybe not.

Well, to answer your question, Shmarvious Modoms, I like you quite a bit, even when you're not touching the ball. The hidden secret of Brown's sixty-one yard screen is you pwning a guy way bigger than you:

There were more examples of downfield blocking turning small plays into first downs throughout the game. And, of course, there was the game-winning touchdown set up by the other you, Kelvin Grady.


Michigan ran a couple bubble screens that got blasted by Indiana safety Nick Polk, who had a great all-around day until a certain play. Here's one of them. Watch the safety come charging up.

This indicates a couple things: the nickel guy is frequently being deployed as the contain, which seemingly closes down a lot of things but opens up the bubble. Except that Polk is getting downhill like a mother and tackling with authority. But you do know that Indiana's scheme in reasonable down and distance situations features a lot of man-to-man coverage with a safety on a slot. (Here's another example.) This comes in handy later:


Teams have schemed to take away the bubble screen this year but that opens up other stuff. Finger in a dike.

Also, poor Polk is the guy Minor trucked on the final real snap of the game.

I am going into withdrawal. Charts?


(Hennechart again; MA is "marginal", screen results are in parens.)


Western Michigan 2 14 1 2 1 2 - 3
Notre Dame 5 20 (6) 2 4 3 3 - 4
Eastern Michigan 1 8 (2) 1 1 (1) 1 4 (1) - -
Indiana 3 13 (3) 1 (1) 2 5 3 - 2


Western Michigan - 1 1 1 2 - - -
Eastern Michigan - 1 1 (1) 2 (1) - - - -
Indiana - 1 1 (1) - - - - -

Robinson is basically a wildcat quarterback who throws a little bit.

As for Forcier: his accuracy remains extremely good but there are a hefty number of BRs on that chart, as Indiana often trapped him in the pocket or dragged him down as he tried to leave it and sacks and that interception resulted. That kind of freshman stuff is going to continue to happen. Forcier's downfield success rate did take a dip down to 57%, which isn't great. It's worth noting that those three TAs were scrambles that totaled 21 yards. One was a touchdown, the other a key first down. The only TA which you could construe negatively was a nine-yard gain on second and thirty after a Yakety Snap. On the other hand, the true damage wrought by those BRs is considerable.


This Game Totals
Player 0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3
Hemingway 2 - - 1/1 2 - - 5/5
Mathews 1 - - - 5 1/4 1/1 6/6
Stonum - - 1/1 - 1 0//1 2/3 4/4
Savoy 1 - - 1/1 2 - 0/1 3/3
Odoms - - 1/2 2/2 3 1/1 1/2 7/8
Grady-19 - - - 3/4 2 - 1/1 8/10
Roundtree - - - - 1 - - -
Rogers - - - - - - - -
Koger - - 1/1 - - 1/1 2/2 5/5
Webb - - - 0/1 1 - - 2/3
Minor - - - - - - - -
Brown - - - 1/1 - 1/2 1/1 4/4
Shaw - - - - - - 0/1 -
Smith - - - - - - - -
Moundros - - - - - - - -

Two flat drops, one by Grady on a screen that probably wasn't going anywhere and, for the second consecutive week, a ball that hit Webb between the 8 and the 0 and would have gone for a first down. Not a whole lot of excitement elsewhere as Michigan struggled to protect Forcier and largely avoided downfield passing.


PROTECTION METRIC: 22/32, Koger –1, Brown –2, Team –2, Dorrestein –5.

That is not good. That is bad, and all of it save the "team" category came when Indiana defensive ends pwned the opposition. That might be understandable when you're a pass-catching tight end or a tailback, but Dorrestein was responsible for a lot of the Forcier chaos and didn't do much to justify Mark Huyge's move inside. Huyge's struggled in pass protection himself; unless Patrick Omameh surges into the starting position he lost in spring—not likely at this point—it's going to be those guys the rest of the way and the protection will be dodgy.

What happened to the counter dive of doom?

Indiana adjusted to it. Watch the backside DE:

He sees the H-back pull across the formation and starts flowing down the line in preparation for the block. Here Koger pops him good and he gets blown back and must make a tackle downfield after giving up a crease but the next couple times Michigan ran the dive of doom they closed the hole off at the line of scrimmage and kept it to a couple yards. Michigan then abandoned it, but on second and two they ran a similar-looking variant that sucked a linebacker into a downfield block and popped Minor into the endzone:

Michigan will probably try it out a couple times against Michigan State to see how MSU plans on responding to it, and if they do a similar thing they'll pull out the Swiss army knife and start countering it. One thing that should be quite successful against this adjustment is the QB-breaks-contain-with-lead-blocker play we saw in an earlier Picture Pages. This is where I think the offensive philosophy of Rodriguez pays off: okay, you adjusted to that. Instead of attempting to out-execute you, here are three things that look like that but aren't it and something entirely different. In Hail to the Victors 2008 I compared the backside end to the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog and the zone read to the Holy Hand Grenade; in keeping with the Monty Python theme can we declare Rodriguez's offensive philosophy "and now for something completely different"?

Did the run game seem to slow down to you given those adjustments?

Slightly but the numbers are totally deceiving. The Indiana Shut Michigan's Ground Game Down meme's been floating around out there, mostly in the Ohio State reaches, but if this constitutes "shutting down":

Twelve of Minor and Brown’s 23 carries went for four yards or less.

Um, okay. That is a spectacularly convoluted way to say "half of the RB carries went for five or more yards." To the numbers: remove the 4 team carries for –28 yards (three kneeldowns and a grounding penalty), the two Forcier sacks for seven yards, and the 38 yards lost on two separate Yakety Snaps and your numbers are 42 carries for 222 yards, or 5.2 YPC. That is indeed a decline from the Eastern Michigan game, but it's not something to get worked up about.


Not to blame Moosman particularly, but the whole snap fiasco from C to QB to guy who thought the freezes were ready to go was a downer. And Dorrestein was a problem in pass protection.


Odoms, for actions with and without the ball, plus Schilling had a very good day.

What does it mean for Michigan State and beyond?

Not having Molk is a downer because I thought Dorrestein had a rough go in pass protection and doesn't bring as much in the run game as Huyge was. And Michigan will have to bring out its ninjitsu stuff next week because I guarantee Michigan State will have everything Michigan's done to date scouted; catching them overreacting to last month's hotness will be a key in the game, and exploiting State's lack of discipline and general hatred will be the order of the day. Hate makes you strong, and stupid.

Other than that it was pretty much par for the course: Carlos Brown is ridiculously fast. Brandon Minor is a moose. Tate Forcier is really accurate and really good for a freshman but hasn't quite learned what he can and what he can't do at this level. I have a feeling Michigan State's ability to make Forcier pay when he tries to scramble out of the pocket will be the difference.

Picture Pages: Scrape Counterpunch

Picture Pages: Scrape Counterpunch

Submitted by Brian on September 17th, 2009 at 11:56 AM

Last week in Picture Pages we saw one of Michigan's counters to the "scrape exchange" that Western ran constantly last game. Michigan ran a ton of bubble screens or "long handoff"* routes and gave Forcier another option after he decided to pull the ball out: run or toss it to a (usually) wide open receiver. Once Forcier got over some early jitters, this worked well.

Notre Dame was determined to take that away:


This is Michigan's first drive of the second half. Michigan's moved the ball and just got a gashing Brandon Minor run on a zone stretch. They're going to play off that success here.

You can see Notre Dame's response to what they saw in the Western game: line up in press coverage all day, including over the slot receiver. There will be no bubbles here. To prevent Notre Dame from being outnumbered in the box, 80% of the time Notre Dame walks one or both safeties up just before the snap. And to deal with the zone read, Notre Dame is running a scrape exchange every play. (Reminder: on a scrape exchange the backside DE just hauls ass for the tailback and a linebacker pops out to contain the QB.)

Notre Dame has countered Michigan's counter to their counter and pretty much shut down Michigan's rushing attack in the first half. But it's time for the counter-counter-counter-counter.

Here's the snap as it approaches the handoff point. Note that 1) there's no bubble available and 2) Kevin Koger is pulling across the formation. Oh and 3) Moosman, who is the second OL from the top, is just drive blocking his guy instead of taking zone steps to the left in an attempt to get his helmet across. His ability to shove the DT back a yard or two is key to this play.


A couple of moments later, Michigan's diabolical plan is revealed:


Points of interest:

  1. Kevin Koger's pull block pops the backside defensive end, providing a lane between that guy and RG David Moosman.
  2. Mark Huyge gets a free release on the linebacker, who you can see moving upfield and to the outside to contain Forcier. When he realizes Forcier does not have the ball he will have run himself into a spot where Huyge has a great angle to block him.
  3. Molk and Moosman have terrific angles to block their guys. Why are these blocks so easy? Notre Dame is anticipating a stretch play, which is what Michigan usually runs from this formation, and if it was a stretch play it would be imperative for them to get playside of their blockers. On this counter, that expectation runs them into places where it's easy to seal them away from the play.

This is basically over. A moment later, you can see the motion of the scrape linebacker has taken him into Huyge's block and that Moosman and Molk have locked up their defenders. Brandon Minor doesn't even have to cut:




The play ends at the one yard line. Watch it in glorious Youtube-o-vision:

Minor misses a cut on first down, Forcier fumbles on second, and a pitch gets blown up on third; Michigan misses a chip shot field goal, providing yrs truly with a wave of despair. But it ended well: Michigan was provided a short field on the next drive after a Notre Dame fumble and went from the 26 to the 7 with a six-yard stretch and 13 more on this play; that drive ended in a touchdown.

*(I don't have good lingo for that. Basically, the outside receiver stands there.)