Analysis of Michigan's RZ (+ RZ-ish) plays against Air Force

Analysis of Michigan's RZ (+ RZ-ish) plays against Air Force

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on September 18th, 2017 at 3:24 PM

I made two separate posts on the board with analysis based on my mini UFR of the first and second half RZ area plays.

I've decided to combine them and update my reads based on the feedback I received on those posts. I've also added some picture break downs from a couple plays where I dinged Speight for a missed read or throw.

Here is the tl;dr which is still too long:

The biggest issue moving forward is clearly the offensive line. People like me can knock Speight all we want, and even if his culpability is closer to my hot take than those with cooler heads, at the end of the day, there's only so much he can do when the OL is a sieve. My biggest worry is that, if the OL doesn't improve fast, Speight is going to regress into Poor Damn Devin Gardner mode. In fact, my new wild conspiracy theory is that Speight's seeming regression is stemming from practice, where he has to go against our terrifying defensive line with only this year's OL sieve, which is creating and worsening this PDDG process. Hopefully it isn't affecting the progression of Peters, either.

IMO, most deficiencies in play calling ultimately comes down to the OL. What are the coaches supposed to call if the OL can't execute basic rush blocking schemes in the redzone? What are the coaches supposed to call if the OL can't block when they have more blockers than pass rushers? We all want to see more TE routes, but Air Force was getting pressure while leaving a guy dedicated to any TE leaks. One thing of note, I don't think TE or RB screens would have worked in this game, since Air Force got pressure while still leaving 1-2 guys spying the backfield on each play. I do hope to see some quicker passes moving forward. With Black gone for at least 6-8 weeks, I'm expecting to see Perry become a stronger and stronger safety blanket. He reminds me of Gallon. The guy gets open on almost every play.

All this being said, I'm pretty torn on whether or not I believe we're holding back the playbook. Maybe those easy short throw dunkers are coming. It's hard for me to believe that Perry doesn't understand the playbook enough to feature him in those plays. But it's also very easy to believe that our OL and other young receivers are struggling so much executing the basic plays we called in this game for us to move forward with other plays. We shall see in the coming weeks.

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First, a quick film session: these are two plays that should have been either a TD or long gain.

#1. Failed McDoom sweep. Watching live, I rolled my eyes at the play call for being too predictable. On a rewatch, this was a perfect play call and is an easy TD if Bunting correctly IDs his assignment.

From the snap, it's clear that there are only 3 defenders that have any leverage to make a tackle on a sweep. I can't read their numbers but they are the corner and the two DBs at the far left on the screen. And Lo, we have 3 blockers to neutralize them all: Cole, Bunting, and Mckeon.

Unfortunately, Bunting fails to ID his assignment and doubles the corner with Mckeon, leaving Cole in no-man's land to decide between taking Bunting's man or getting upfield to get to his own assignment.

Cole doesn't really have any chance at getting to Bunting's assignment, so he goes towards his man. Bunting comes off his first erroneous block, and is still in position to at least bother his man. Unfortunately, he makes a second mistake by choosin instead to go towards Cole's blocking assignment.

And the play is doomed.

This is almost assuredly a TD if Bunting correctly IDs his blocking assignment. Perfect play call to neutralize the Air Force blitz. Unfortunately, a mental error ruins it.

#2: Crawford/Perry Hi-Lo that Speight fails to read.

Pre-snap, Air Force shows a blitz from the corner covering Perry. The safety responsible for Perry is 12 yards away.

Air Force DBs are in man coverage, with a corner + LB blitz and 2 LBs dropping into zone coverage. Michigan is running a Hi-Lo on the left side, with Crawford running a fly route and Perry an out. There is only 1 corner in the area, with the safety, again, 12 yards away.

The LB fails to drop deep enough in his zone to cover the area vacated by the blitzing corner (-1 for McCray). This leaves Speight with a simple read on the corner covering Crawford. If the corner bites on the short route to Perry, he throws to Crawford. The safety is too far away to make a play on the long pass, especially considering his eyes are on Perry. If the corner sticks with Crawford (which I'm almost 100% does on this play), you throw to Perry, who breaks open with at least 6 yards of separation. This is 11 yards in the air and likely goes for more after the catch.

Instead, Speight chooses against this read in favor of going towards DPJ's drag over the middle. It is possible that this was the designed play, as there doesn't appear to be anybody over the middle to cover him if he can beat his corner. However, he is bracketed by the two LBs that dropped into zone coverage, and the passing window is not open.

Speight misses his window of opportunity, and is forced to scramble. He then fails to throw OOB and scrambles for a loss of 4 that is luckily only marked for a loss of 1. This could have been important for the FG attempt, considering he loses an additional chunk of yards on his sack + fumble the next play.

This is another great play call that gives Speight a quick and easy read and results in a wide open receiver. Speight fails to make the read, and Michigan misses out on another potential TD.

Onto the play-by-play.

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Redzone #1 (11:40 in the 1st quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 18: Air Force only rushes 4—and never shows blitz—but we leave Gentry and Isaac in for pass pro (woof). Protection is thankfully great given it’s 7v4. Perry runs a great sloping out route that shreds their zone D, gets open by a couple steps, but Speight misses the somewhat lengthy throw wide. This is a relatively tough throw, but Speight completes the same pass under extreme duress in the second half, so he is more than capable of making it. FWIW, there is an easier pass open over the middle of the field.

-1 Speight: missed throw

Play calling: +1. We have two receivers open on this play despite only running 3 routes and Air Force only rushing 4.

2nd & 10 @ the 18: Air Force has 7 in the box, we have 6 blockers. Shotgun inside hand-off to Higdon, Mckeon pulls to block inside (which looks by design), leaving an unblocked edge DE who makes the tackle after a 1-yard gain.

-1 Speight/press box: needed to audible out of that run call

Play calling: -1. See above.

3rd & 9 @ the 17: We have 5 wide w/ 5 blockers. Air Force shows 6 rushers but drops the D tackle and one LB into underneath coverage after only mini rushes. This leaves Bredneson blocking air as the edge LB gets a free rush onto Speight from the blind side, hitting Speight as he throws. Speight misses a pretty well-covered Perry too high by a half-foot on a go route in the end zone.

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

Play calling: Push. There aren't a lot of good options to go to on 3rd & long, and if Speight has more time to make a better pass, I think Perry can make that catch despite the good coverage. But it would have been nice to see a play that gets quicker/easier separation for the receivers.

Summary:

Air Force won the RPS battle on each play, and shredded our OL on 2/3 plays. The first down route by Perry was still excellent and Speight flat missed him, which was a total drive-changer. The second down play was never going to work because it left DE unblocked, which was clear before the snap, so either Speight or the press-box needed to audible there. The third down play call was fine—if Speight has more time to throw that ball better, I think Perry can make that catch even though it was covered well. Air Force just had a great disguised blitz called and our OL didn’t pick it up.

Play-calling: 1-2/3

Redzone #2 (12:40 in the 2st quarter)

1st & goal @ the 9: Air Force has 7 in the box. We run-fake out of the gun to Higdon and leave in Gentry and Higdon to block. Air Force brings only 6 (but has 1 LB taken out by play fake/covering Higdon). However, Ulizio and Gentry both block the DE, leaving an unblocked rusher who gets into Speight’s face in a hurry, as the play-fake has taken Higdon to the opposite side of the line. Speight sails a fade to totally covered Crawford out the back of the endzone, which is understandable considering he's got a free rusher right in his face.

OL: -1 blitz pick-up

Play calling: +1. Can't fault the play call for giving up pressure given there are more blockers than pass rushers. If Speight is given time to make a progression, he has Tarik Black 1-on-1 on the opposite side of the field, who gained inside leverage on a slant route.

2nd & goal @ the 9: McDoom sweep that gets blown up for no gain. This should have been a TD. We have 3 blockers for the 3 edge Air Force defenders who can possibly make this tackle. Bunting completely blows it here by not identifying who he is supposed to block as he inexplicably doubles the corner that McKeon is easily blocking, leaving Cole in no-man’s land to either fight a losing battle to block Bunting’s LB or get out to the safety. Cole chooses the safety (still not his fault, he couldn’t have made the block), leaving the LB free to get the stop for no gain. Very frustrating.

OL: -1 for Bunting run block

Play calling: +1. This was an excellent RPS and perfect call against the Air Force blitz. We just failed to execute

3rd & goal @ the 9: Michigan is in the gun with Isaac. Air Force initially shows 5 rushers but then brings the corner and LB from the strong side late, dropping the weakside LB into coverage to make it 6v6. But our OL gets absolutely crushed. Cole blocks nobody as he was expecting the weakside LB blitz. Onwenu can’t decide which of 3 rushers to block and ultimately doesn’t block anyone. Speight does an incredible job of rolling out and getting free. He then looks like he's going to tuck and run, but at the last second can't decide between that or throwing to Crawford. Neither decision is likely to get into the endzone, but running would have made us a lot closer.

Speight: +1 for roll out, -0.5 for run/pass indecision

OL: -1 blitz pick-up

Play calling: +1. This call gets Perry wide open on a corner route that will be a TD if the OL gives Speight any time to throw.

Summary:

Each of these plays could have been TDs if our blocking executes. On the first, Speight doesn't have time to make a more accurate throw to Crawford or progress on his read to see Black getting separation inside. On the second, Bunting makes a terrible mental mistake and misses his blocking assignment, turning a probably TD into no gain. On the third, Perry gets open in a hurry but the OL fails to give Speight even a fraction of second before the blitz hits home.

On both pass plays, the Air Force blitzes were as impressively designed as the blocking was atrocious. Still, the TDs were there for the taking.

Play-calling: 3/3

Not technically redzone but close enough #3 (2:12 in the 2nd quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 24: This is the play diagrammed above.

Speight: -1 missed read

OL: +1 pass protection

Play call: +1. This is a very simple read that RPS's the corner blitz perfectly.

2nd & 14 11 @ the 25: Pass out of the gun as we leave Eubanks and Isaac in again for pass pro. Air Force threatens 7 but only sends 6 (with one guy neutralized b/c he’s playing man on Isaac who doesn’t run a route), so it’s 6v7. Ulizio doesn’t identify whom to block and misses his blitzing LB assignment. The LB has a free run at Speight for the sack. Speight doesn’t have time for for the play to develop, which showed promise, as Crawford was breaking free down the middle for a solid chunk play, and Perry also looked like he was again going to get open. As Speight is getting sacked, he makes the most inexcusable decision of the game of trying to throw it away while going to the ground. His arm hits Ulizio as he’s doing this and he fumbles. The ball miraculously falls in front of Eubanks who makes a heady play to snag it, but after losing 3 additional yards.

OL: -1 blitz pick-up

Speight: -1 terrible fumble

Play call: +1. Perry looks like he's going to get open again if the OL does their job

3rd & 21 @ the 35: Isaac draw play for 4 yards to make the FG easier. Hard to fault the play call given the poor play from the OL and Speight up to that point. Also lucky for Ace that the ref missed those 3 yards from Speight’s scramble to make it a 49 yarder rather than 52 yarder (because we all know MVP Wild Thin’ Quinn Nordin woulda knocked that baby in from 60.)

Play call: +1. Needed to gain a couple sure yards to make the FG more manageable.

Summary:

Speight made his first bonafide bad passing read, failing to pull the trigger to a wide-open Perry for a bare minimum 11 yarder that easily could have scored. He followed that up with his worst basic mental error by not taking the sack and almost costing us 3 points. Pass pro finally picked up a disguised blitz, only to follow it up with the worst blow of the game on a 6v7 rush as Ulizio failed to identiy his assignment.

Play-calling: 3/3

Redzone #4 (5:15 in the 3rd quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 21: Speight makes a crazy impressive throw. Another play where we keep in the TE (Mckeon) and RB (Higdon) for pass pro. Air Force brings the house and its 7v7 for the first time. But Ulizio and Mckeon block the same guy so Air Force has an extra rusher. Luckily, the pass pro is otherwise solid, so the free rusher takes quite some time to get there. This gives Perry enough time to do his thing, getting open on a slow developing out route. Speight does a great job to stay in the pocket (especially given the pressure he’s previously faced), and makes a crazy throw that I don’t really understand the physics (looks like he throws sideways) that hits Perry in stride for 13 yards. Really amazing throw.

Speight: +3. Amazing throw.

OL: -0.5 for leaving free rusher but still gives exactly enough time for Speight to make the throw

Play-calling: Push. This was a very slow developing pass, which doesn’t really make sense given the pressure that was getting there all day. I guess they were betting on their OL to do its job for the first time, which is either stubbornness or luckiness depending on the shade of your glasses. IMO, it isn’t a great adjustment from the first half, but it worked, so que sera, sera.

1st & goal @ the 8: We have 3 TEs and a FB in for the first rush on first down from the redzone. I think the trio of TEs are Gentry on the rush side and Bunting + Mckeon on the weakside (but can’t really see clearly). Tl;dr, the blocking on this was bad, but I’ll wait for Brian to tell me who to blame. This is a stretch play with Higdon. My take: the inside TE (either Bunting or Mckeon) on the weakside misses his block, Ulizio misses his, and Onwenu and Krugler and up both slip upfield to block the same LB. Overall, not good, Bob. Higdon gets stuffed for a half-yard gain.

OL: -1 run blocking

Play calling: +1. Have to expect your OL to be able to block this basic play.

2nd & goal @ the 7.5: This was a fantastic play call by the Air Force D. They have 6 in the box and show all as blitzing. This is the first time nobody actually blitzes. Michigan keeps the TE and RB in the backfield once again for pass pro, leaving us at 7v4. Air Force +++. We make a play call that expects the blitz, a short flat route to Perry that still requires a relatively impressive play from the Air Force corner to stuff for no gain.

Speight: Push. This was a designed play and there’s nothing else there.

OL: Push. At least they didn’t get beat on 7v4.

Play calling: Push. Air Force just made a better call on this play. This play call made sense, but, as Harbaugh said in the presser, Air Force guessed right that it was coming. I think he was really referring on the second half play calls by Air Force, and this one especially.

3rd & goal @ the 8: The Isaac draw play. This play was never going to work and, like in the first half run, either Speight or the booth failed for not changing it based on the pre-snap blitz. We had 5 blockers for 7 rushers, that was never never never going to work.

Speight: -1 for not calling an audible.

OL: Push. Put in a position to fail.

Play calling: -1 for not calling an audible or time out. This was never going to work.

Summary:

Speight made the best throw from the redzone(-ish) area and then the play calling was outdone by Air Force. The 3rd & goal play call was the only inexcusable one. The others were just failed execution and/or Air Force making the right call.

Not technically yet the Redzone #5 (00:37 in the 3rd quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 29: Corner is giving Black 6 yards of cushion and Speight zings it over for an easy 8 yards.

Speight: Good throw.

Play calling: +1. This was frustrating to watch live because it seemed like it was begging to be called earlier in the game. But, better late than never.

2nd & 3 @ the 21.5: Sweep play to Higdon. Onwenu pulls and blocks nobody until going to the second level. Higdon does a good job to battle for 2 yards and the refs reward him with an extra yard on the marking to give us the first down.

OL: -1 on Onwenu blocking air.

RB: Higdon +1 for grinding out yards.

Refs: +1 for extra yard given.

Play calling: +1. The call made sense. Again, it wasn’t executed well.

1st @ 10 @ the 19: Air Force has 7 in the box and brings an 8th prior to the snap. Michigan leaves the TE and RB in once again, this time on a play fake. Air Force only brings 5 but is still confusingly leaving 2 players to spy the TE and RB, neutralizing them on the play. The OL does serviceable in a 7v5 situation, but there is some push up the middle, which seemingly spooks Speight. Speight lets it go half a second too early and throws off his back foot, even though he does have room to step into the throw. This causes the throw to go a step past McDoom, who breaks free in the endzone at the last second on a solid post route.

Speight: -1. He has a Poor Damn Devin Gardner moment and gets spooked by the pass rush despite adequate protection, and releases the ball a second too early + off his back foot, failing to give McDoom a chance on the ball.

OL: -0.25 for ceding too a little too much ground given the 7v5 blocking advantage. Still did enough to get the job done.

Play calling: Push. Again, hard to say this slow developing play makes 100% sense given the OL struggles. Would have liked to see a quicker pass. But, the play succeeded to get a player open as called, the OL did hold up enough, Speight just didn’t deliver.

2nd & 10 @ the 19: Counter run play that fails miserably. Again, I’m not too great at understanding run blocking schemes, but Gentry blocks air, which gets a Not Good, Bob. Onwenu releases to the second level to block an LB, which leaves Ulizio in a tough position to make a block on the DE who already has inside leverage. Ulizio cannot make the block, and the DE swallows Higdon for no gain.

OL: -2 for Gentry blocking air and the right side doing inexperienced right side things.

Play calling: I mean, what are they supposed to do when the OL can’t pass protect or run block?

3rd & 10 @ the 19: Michigan again keeps the TE and RB in for pass protection. Air Force brings 6 and it’s 7v6. Pass protection holds up. Routes are a fly by Crawford, an in by Perry, and a hitch by DPJ. Perry is bracketed and not open for the first time all day, DPJ’s hitch would take a perfectly timed pass and could easily be intercepted if thrown, and Speight goes with the what looks like the primary read which is Crawford’s fly route. This is a very low percentage throw and very difficult pass. Speight doesn’t keep it in bounds to give Crawford a chance.

Speight: -0.25 for not keeping the ball in bounds. But, this is a very low probability play anyways.

OL: +1 for solid blitz pick up.

Play calling: -1. Not a lot of good options on 3rd and long when the OL hasn’t been great at pass blocking. An incredibly tough fly fade is not a good option.

Summary:

An offense isn’t going to do well in the redzone when it can’t run block down there. Speight throwing off his back foot to miss a TD doesn’t put warm, fuzzy feelings in your belly, but by that point, the pass protection had to be giving him a little bit of Devin Gardner syndrome. Otherwise, uninspiring play calls.

Best and Worst: Air Force

Best and Worst: Air Force

Submitted by bronxblue on September 18th, 2017 at 6:59 AM

Worst: I'm Sorry Dave, I'm Afraid We Won't Do That Again

As you all know, this was Dave Brandon's lasting legacy at Michigan, these weird OOC games where Michigan has to dedicate a week of the season to defending an offense they will almost assuredly never see again this year (unless Georgia Tech has one of those seasons where they keep rolling 7's and 11's and get to a BCS bowl). There's little to be gained and much to be lost, from potential knee injuries to, you know, football games. Win and congrats, you beat a bunch of undersized servicemen who are about as close to "student-athletes" as you can get in college football; lose and you'll get sent a bunch of Top Gun references from other fanbases because it's a great movie AND sweaty beach volleyball exists. It's like scheduling App St. as a "revenge" game, a macabre attempt to paper over 2007 with a soul-less thumping that just helped to remind everyone that, oh yeah, history was made the last time these two teams played.

So I've been writing this column for a long time, but I didn't remember whether or not I had written a column specifically for the Air Force game in 2012. So I went back through the archives and found out...yeah, I sorta lumped them into an OOC write-up and that was it. The general takeaway, for those uninterested in reading a discussion of an Al Borges offense or a weird eulogy about Denard Robinson that also points out how Michigan fans have always weirdly deified their QBs until the moment they struggle and then people are fighting over the last shovel to bury them with, is that playing a service academy is that it's "refreshing to watch a mid-sized David battle a slightly-larger Goliath for an afternoon, provided that Goliath doesn't, you know, lose." And in broad strokes, that same story played out in this game, though the margin was wider and Michigan was never in much actual danger of losing. Unlike in 2012, when Michigan barely outgained the Falcons (422 to 417), Air Force was rarely allowed to get into an offensive rhythm (359 to 232 yards), and as a result they had 2 drives of 12+ plays...and 7 that were 4 plays or less. Michigan was the much better team and played like it until they got into the red zone, which allowed the contest to appear closer than it was. I know I said this last week, but this is not 2013 all over again. Michigan is thoroughly outclassing these teams, but they're making just enough mistakes and having just enough bad luck that they look worse on paper. Case in point: Michigan scored on 7 of their 11 drives, but one was a TD on a punt return and the other a somewhat-meaningless TD to end the game. The rest of the time, they mostly moved into the redzone with few issues but then had to settle for chip-shot FGs (35, 26, 29, and 36 mixed with a 49-yarder just to keep everyone on their toes). Connect on a pass that's a little long or catch Air Force slanting at the right moment and this game looks and feels demonstrably different.

The defense remained stout throughout. Yes, there was that drive where Air Force was gashing Michigan on the edges and probably should have scored but for a missed FG. And yes, there was the one 64-yard completion for a TD where Kinnel just got lost. But that happens in games like this against the service academies; it's why they tend to have some of the nation's best rushing offenses as well as highly-rated passing attacks. You see a team run the ball 49 times, you're likely to bite once or twice on a fake. But still, Air Force finished the day averaging 3.4 ypc, a rate they haven't been held below by a non-Navy team since 2014, and that one completion was all they could muster in 9 attempts. And you know how I mentioned that Navy had 2 12+ play drives? Well, one was a 12 play, 24 yard(!!) slog after an Evans fumble that ended in a FG. Michigan struggled on the offensive side of the ball at times in this game, but let it be said that the defense dominated yet again. Claims of "serious concerns about the defense" shall be met with the following.

So yeah, I'm not even sure I'd call it an ugly game. Ugly games are

Denard vs. Notre Dame in 2012, or OOC games in 2013, or, well, the entire 2014 season. Those were ugly. This was just boring, a game where Michigan was better but never could put the hammer down, so everybody got to watch 48 minutes of a team trying to play an NFL-style offense poorly vs. a team running a really precise HS offense well. But now it's over, and may we never speak of it again. Oh wait...

 

Worst: Speight - Still Not a Scapegoat

Apparently I will be that guy this season, but this was another perfectly fine week by Wilton Speight. It wasn't great, it wasn't terrible, it was a workmanlike 61%, 7.4 ypa performance, with a couple of drops thrown in there to depress some of the top line numbers. Just like last week, it was a B/B+ performance in a game that Michigan again struggled to run the ball outside of Ty Isaac. If you throw out Isaac's 89 carries on 16 yards, this team rushed for 101 yards on 22 carries, a 4.6 ypc average. Of course, that includes that 36-yard Higdon run at the ass end of the 4th quarter, when Air Force and Michigan both knew the game was over but the strictures of the sport require people to ram into each other for a couple more minutes. Subtract that, and we're at 65 yards on 21 carries, a ghastly 3.1 ypc and a fumble against a defensive front that, while feisty and disciplined, was outweighed by about 50 lbs a person compared to the Michigan's offensive line. And this has been the case for the entire year; both Higdon and Evans averaged under 4 ypc coming into the game on 38 combined carries; that's about half of the total carries on the year up to that point. Sure, if you gave one of them 30 carries a game I'm sure they'd break a couple of long runs, but Evans's ypc has been halved (7.0 to 3.4) and Higdon's isn't much better (5.9 to 3.7) from last year, and neither has provided much else in terms of receiving or pass blocking (through credit to Higdon for taking out 2 guys on pass pro to give Speight time for a third-down conversion). Isaac left this game with an apparent "internal injury"; hopefully it doesn't keep him out of action heading to Purdue, since right now I'm honestly not sure this team can crack 4.0 ypc to carry without him. But that's for a later section; let's keep the focus on the QB.

What has gotten me about the Speight criticism isn't that it isn't at least partially correct. He has absolutely looked rattled out there at times, and his mechanics suffer. A handful of times a game, he doesn't get set properly and the ball can then sail on him. Beyond that, his timing seems off with his receivers and his touch can be insistent, leading to situations like his endzone lobs to Black and Crawford that were either too high or out of bounds. He has made some questionable decisions at times as well: he nearly fumbled the ball when he tried to flick it toward Isaac (?) as he was being tackled, he missed a wide-open Isaac on the ball he tried to inside-shoulder throw to Black on the sideline, he probably should have tried to run the ball in on the goalline instead of flick it Crawford. He has left points on that field, and since he provides virtually no additional offense beyond his arm, he needs to be better throwing the ball. These are all real complaints, real negatives to point out about his game and how it has helped to stymie what looks (on paper) to be a pretty good offense.

But what happens is that lots of people stop their analysis there. It becomes a "replace the QB, save the season", as if the guy who touches the ball every snap is somehow responsible for what the other 10 guys on the field do as well. What needs to follow is "And the offensive line can't seem to consistently provide pass protection or pick up a blitz. And the receivers seem unable to consistently get separation from defensive backs you'd charitably describe as 'short' and 'future pilots or pilot-related people'. And then drop a number of balls that do manage to get them. And the play calling has led to downs being set on fire to put the fear of a 2-yard jet sweep on tape, or throwing short slants 8 yards short of the endzone and expecting a receiver to make 3 guys miss, or try to establish the run inside despite ample evidence that isn't a strength." But that never happens. It's always that Speight is barely qualified to handle the water bottle that is given to the third-string QB in between the halves. And so you get the same refrains as always, that Brandon Peters or John O'Korn should replace Speight despite ample evidence neither is an improvement, just so that a team that has won every game this year by double digits wins by more than that. And in particular, I see people clamoring for Peters based on, I guess, some spring game tape and the idea that this is a "lost season" because, again, Michigan is only winning games by 16 points and not 40.

Worst: Third and Too Damn Long

A couple of years ago The Mathlete wrote a really interesting diary about 3rd-down conversions and how distance affects it. The average 3rd-down position to go was 6.5 yards; a good offense usually is a bit below that, and more times than not converts on 1st or 2nd down a good clip. A basic takeaway (and I really encourage you to read it) is that 3rd downs tell you more about how an offense performs in its "optimal" situation than necessarily how good they are on late-drive conversions; if you are an efficient offense, you don't get into 3rd down all that often and, when you do, you have advantageous positioning (a couple yards to go). Manageable yardage lets you keep your whole playbook available, it makes the defense a bit more guarded about pinning their ears back, and means you are (likely) limiting TFLs.

So I've been keeping account of Michigan's 3rd-down positioning thus far. Last year's Michigan team was a little above average; they converted around 43% on their 185 attempts; the national averages are 40% on 183. But this year they are down at 34%, 102nd in the country. And a big reason is they are facing pretty long odds; their average 3rd-down position is 7.4 yards; against Air Force it was 7.8. And yes, that 7.8 is goosed by a 3rd-and-21; you zero that out and they are around 6.3. But this remains a consistent problem for this offense; they can't seem to get on track consistently on 1st and 2nd down, so they're walking into these long conversion attempts with few options. Against Florida they were able to catch the Gators sleeping and convert on a couple nice Isaac runs on long 3rd downs. But that's not something you can rely on and, with the exception of Higdon's TD late on 3rd down, it really hasn't been replicated in the last two games. When you're staring down 3rd-and 8+ multiple times on a drive, the expected value from that drive is going to be low. Thus far Michigan has survived being behind the sticks because of the defense and opportunistic offensive output, but that's not going to continue forever. People will say that's on Speight, and some of it is in terms of the general struggles throwing the ball, but the offensive play calling at times has left the team in low-percentage plays that feel like burned downs, such as the multiple McDoom sweeps in the red zone. 7.4 yards feels abnormal and should settle a bit down as Michigan stops getting dumb penalties (they average 7 a game for 65 yards compared to 4.8 for 45 last year) and (one hopes) gets more into a rhythm earlier in the drive. But for this team to be successful offensively, they need to stop putting themselves in bad spots.

Worst: Ballin'

As noted above, Michigan can't seem the run the ball with any consistency. I saw people say "Air Force sells out against the run", which is a totally valid statement and was true in this game. But here's the thing - every team tries to stop the run. If the reason a team can't successfully move the ball on the ground beyond one player is "because the other team is trying to stop them", then stop playing football. It's Mike DeBord being surprised teams look different on film than in the game. Michigan should have been able to run the ball consistently against Cincy and Air Force despite them trying to doing what they can to slow down the Wolverines, and yet here we stand, 3 weeks into the season and your 2nd- and 3rd-leading rushers have a combined 135 yards on 38 carries. As a team they have 2 rushing touchdowns, which is the same number of rushing TDs as Brian Lewerke. I can go on, but you've got the point.

I want to believe this is just a series of bad luck, of guys missing a cut here, a free hitter there, and the law of large numbers holds up and Evans and Higdon start busting huge runs. That final TD by Higdon, for example, was Michigan catching Air Force guessing wrong and springing for a long run; repeat that in non-garbage time and we're cooking.

But then you see plays like that one near the goalline with Isaac, where a whole flight crew met him in the backfield so viciously that Speight just threw his arms up in shock and disbelief. It wasn't quite this bad, but it was close.

And with Ty Isaac possibly injured with various guts and bones moved around in unnatural ways, this team may well have to figure out their issues without the one consistent ground performer.

On the day, Air Force finished with 8 TFLs for 22 yards; they had another half-dozen stops for 0 or 1 yards. I know Air Force's defensive brand is disruption and getting past your line before it's set, but Michigan has given up an average of 8 TFLs a game this year, which is nearly 2 per game more than last season. And we're supposedly in the "easy" part of the schedule save for the Florida game; Michigan was averaging under 6 a game until OSU and FSU got them for 20. It's only going to get tougher going forward, and for all the coach speak and the semi-positive UFR scores, I still see a line that gets surprised by twists and blitzes, consistently lets a free runner to get the QB (Speight's long completion to Gentry, for example, required him to take a pretty big shot by a blitzing linebacker), and is generally playing below last year's level. Yes, Cole has been solid as ever at tackle, and Bredeson looks like a future all-conference player at either guard or tackle, but I'm starting to believe the ceiling for the running game (and the offensive line generally) is "a bit worse than last season". .

 

Worst: I Need a Hero

The other big takeaway from this game is that this team is still figuring out the WR position after Grant Perry. Speight tried to get the ball to Crawford a couple of times to little success; they had a badly-thrown ball in the endzone, that scramble-and-toss near the goalline that was well-defended, and just a bad drop on 3rd down that would have extended a 4th-quarter drive, another in a series of drops this year. Crawford also made some questionable decisions on kick returns (returning one pretty deep in the endzone out to the 15), and had a bad penalty that negated much of a long Isaac run. I feel like the staff is trying to force him into being a #1 receiver, but I really do think he's better as a complimentary player, especially on downfield routes.

McDoom was given some run in the second half, including a couple of short throws, and his incompletion in the endzone in the 4th felt like him and Speight just being a bit off on timing but was a good playcall nonetheless (Speight had the ball out before McDoom had fully broken inside, but it seemed like Eddie slowed down a bit as well). Black was starting to get into the game a bit more before his injury, which has reported as ranging from "slight sprain" to "broken foot". DPJ remains fast but raw; he's going to be a star one day but you can tell he's still a bit of a work in progress. Gentry had the customary "long completion to a tight end that they never go back to", and Perry again did Perry things.

But overall, it's another day where nobody really stood out. It was troubling to again see the announcers comment that the Michigan receivers couldn't seem to shake coverage. I don't have the endzone view so it's hard to tell on a given play if someone is realistically open (being 45 yards downfield may technically be "open", but not always relevant), but last year you saw Michigan try to air it down the field more than they have thus far, and it would have been nice for the past couple of weeks to see that become more a part of the offense. I am also somewhat puzzled by elements of the passing game that seem to rely on short completions and YAC; against both Cincy and Air Force, the one thing you don't want to do is get into sideline sprints with small guys running on constant motors. And yet, multiple times guys like McDoom, Perry, and Black were the first read on passes that ended almost immediately with a tackle for minimal gain. Speight had issues throwing jump balls in this game, but it would have been nice to see the team try more downfield throws and let their significantly taller athletes go up and get them.

Best: Sleepover

People (read: old newspaper writers and rival fans) made fun of Jim Harbaugh for his "sleepover" during Quinn Nordin's recruitment. Why spend that time and make such a show for a kicker? Well, Nordin is the third-leading scorer in the country and crushed another kick that would have been good from 55. You can tell the coaching staff realizes what they have in him, and while it may have made them slightly more conservative on 4th down, it has allowed the sputtering offense to come away with points more times than not. As the weather gets colder and less predictable I'm guessing they'll be some consternation on some long bombs, but Nordin gives this team some certainty on offense that they've lacked otherwise.

 

Best: The Defense, again

Every one of these posts has featured 5,000 words about the offense and then some hand-waving about "the defense looked really good". But honestly, they've been steadily dominant all year. As noted earlier, Air Force averaged 3.4 yards per carry on 49 attempts, for a total of 168 yards. Last year they averaged 320 yards per game. They had a handful of long-ish runs, but for the most part Michigan limited Air Force to single-digit rushes and racked up 9 TFLs for 49(!) yards, including 3 sacks for 27(!!) yards. Chase Winovich was a man possessed on the afternoon; after a particularly thunderous hit he popped up bleeding from his mouth and looking like an angry Viking who needs to taste blood to feel alive. Air Force, unsurprisingly, couldn't stay in front of anyone on the defensive line, and Gary and co. consistently held the edge and limited runs up the middle. Both McCray and Bush finished with a team-leading 11 tackles, and Bush in particular was consistently the first to make contact on runs. Kinnel was beaten on the one long TD, but otherwise Michigan's secondary was boring and helped to clean up plays that got past the front line. I want to say more, but watching Michigan's defense in this game reminded me of rock-paper-scissors where the offense likes to call rock a bunch and once the defense figures that out, it's a whole lot of paper. Yes, Air Force had that one nice drive in the second half where they were consistently gashing the edges of the defense; that's going to happen sometimes. In particular, you could tell Michigan had some troubles substituting guys in and out when tired/injured, and Air Force took advantage. And there were times when Michigan put 3 guys on the line when Air Force only needed a couple to convert, and yes that worked out exactly how you'd assume, but these are minor quibbles. A must truer test will be next week, when Purdue will try to test the team vertically like they haven't remotely thus far. My only caution is that Purdue has put the screws to a mediocre MAC outfit in Ohio and maybe the worst defense in college football in Mizzou. When the Boilermakers faced Louisville (themselves a pretty meh outfit), they averaged 4.5 yards per play and struggled to get much of anything going on the ground. Yes, Purdue will get some big plays against this defense, and my guess is I'll have more detailed observations about the secondary afterwards. But Purdue is a high-volume, moderately-efficient offense against anyone other than Ohio; that's not a recipe for success against a Michigan defense that kicks you off the field quickly.

Quick Hits

  • I am not a particularly old Michigan fan; I'm 36 but really only started to "care" about Michigan football when I was a freshman, and even then it took me a couple of years to actually get excited beyond the school spirit-level of excitement. But what I've seen over the years, especially when Michigan entered the Upside Down with RR and Hoke, has been this fanbase's primal desire to eat its own at the hint of trouble. Stevie Brown used to get it, then Tate Forcier, then Denard Robinson, then Devin Funchess, then Taylor Lewan, then Devin Gardner, and on and on. That's not to say players are above criticism, but there's this rabid, "All Takes Matter" contingent that wraps itself in the "Those Who Stay Will be Champions" trope and believe it grants them authority to pass judgment on players and their worthiness. And it's bullshit, and it'll never change.
  • Holding happens on basically every play in college football; I understand that refs can't call it every down. But good lord is it getting annoying to go 2 straight games and see, I think, one offensive holding by the other team. I guess I shouldn't be surprised with an option team, but Michigan is getting dinged for questionable calls all the time (there was another unnecessary roughness penalty on Bush, for example) while the opposition can basically bear-hug people.
  • DPJ finally broke one on the punt return after a couple of close ones earlier. He runs with that loping gait I remember Vince Young having in college; he seems like he's barely moving and then he's 10 yards past you. He also had a great run after a short pass to flip the field, again showing a rare combination of speed and elusiveness. I do wonder how long until he winds up as the kick returner; Crawford isn't very dynamic back there and it's rarely more than 4-5 additional touches a game. As he becomes more integrated into the offense, getting the ball in Peoples-Jones's hands in space is always a good idea

Bring on Purdue

This will be a game unlike any Michigan has played thus far this year. Purdue will play with tempo, they'll force Michigan's linebackers to cover in space, it will be a game where you will see a ball sail down the screen and hope someone in maize and blue is nearby. And on paper, Purdue's defense looks pretty good, at least compared to past seasons; they are about the national average on ypp, and the advanced stats are a bit more down but still a marked improvement over last year. But this will be a major test for them, because while Louisville has a dynamic offense, they also fumbled the ball 3 times and generally looked out of sorts independent of what Purdue was doing. But this is going to be Purdue's biggest home game of the year, and I fully expect them to put in a big effort. Michigan should still win, and I wouldn't be surprised if the offense broke out a bit, but my hope for a laid-back viewing experience is probably for naught.

Analysis of first half redzone attempts versus Air Force

Analysis of first half redzone attempts versus Air Force

Submitted by taistreetsmyhero on September 17th, 2017 at 7:53 PM

I’m feeling super hermit crabby today and I’m too impatient to wait for Brian’s UFR so I decided to use WD’s highlights (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7xNoJwnGkVk) to break down where the redzone drives went wrong. Mods feel free to move this to the Diary section or delete it if it is stepping too hard on Brian’s toes, whatever you see fit. Also, I set out to do the whole game but got too tired/frustrated and only did the first half. If the response is positive I’ll do the second half tonight.

 

I don’t want to put the tl;dr here because I fear nobody will actually read the rest and blow this off as a hot take (and I’m acknowledging right now the out huuuuge sample size asterisk), but, here it is:

-  The play-calling was very solid except for maybe one or two exceptions. Specifically, I thought the calls were good on 7.5/9 plays.

- Perry is a fantastic route runner and got open on almost every play.

- The pass protection was as bad as they looked live. Air Force called some great disguised blitzes that will probably make Don Brown nod in respect during film sessions, and our OL was devastated even though we had equal or sometimes more blockers than rushers on every play.

- We left a TE and RB on pass pro on 4/6 throws, but they still got pressure on 2 of those plays. Woof.

- The run blocking on the McDoom sweep cost us a TD.

- Speight was terrible. Yes, this is a teensy tiny sample size. Yes, the OL was relatively more terrible. But watching it live, I thought that the OL was so bad that it gave Speight no chance to make any plays. And it almost was. But on 6 pass plays, he missed a huge pass or read on 4/5 throws, and had 1 inexcusable fumble that almost cost us 3 points.

 

Redzone #1 (11:40 in the 1st quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 18: Air Force only rushes 4—and never shows blitz—but we leave Gentry and Isaac in for pass pro (woof). Protection is thankfully great given it’s 7v4. Perry runs a great sloping out route that shreds their zone D, gets open by a couple steps, but Speight misses the somewhat lengthy throw wide.

-1 Speight: missed throw

2nd & 10 @ the 18: Air Force has 7 in the box, we have 6 blockers. Shotgun inside hand-off to Higdon, Mckeon pulls to block inside (which looks by design), leaving an unblocked edge DE who makes the tackle after a 1-yard gain.

-1 Speight or coaching: needed to audible out of that run call

3rd & 9 @ the 17: We have 5 wide w/ 5 blockers. Air Force shows 6 rushers but drops the D tackle and one LB into underneath coverage after only mini rushes. This leaves Bredneson blocking air as the edge LB gets a free rush onto Speight from the blind side, hitting Speight as he throws. Speight misses a pretty well-covered Perry too high by a half-foot on a go route in the end zone.

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

Summary:

Air Force won the RPS battle on each play, and shredded our OL on 2/3 plays. The first down route by Perry was still excellent and Speight flat missed him, which was a total drive-changer. The second down play was never going to work because it left DE unblocked, which was clear before the snap, so either Speight or the press-box needed to audible there. The third down play call was fine—if Speight has more time to throw that ball better, I think Perry can make that catch even though it was covered well. Air Force just had a great disguised blitz called and our OL didn’t pick it up.

Play-calling: 2/3

 

Redzone #2 (12:40 in the 2st quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 9: Air Force has 7 in the box. We run-fake out of the gun to Higdon and leave in Gentry and Higdon to block. Air Force brings only 6 (but has 1 LB taken out by play fake/covering Higdon). However, Ulizio and Gentry both block the DE, leaving an unblocked rusher who gets into Speight’s face in a hurry. Speight sails a fade to totally covered Crawford out the back of the endzone. Speight is locked into Crawford the whole way, and while he doesn’t have any time to get through his progression given the free rusher, he has Tarik Black 1-on-1 on the opposite side of the field. If Speight reads this pre-snap, it’s an easy TD as Black easily gets inside leverage on his slant route.

-0.5 Speight: missed read

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

2nd & 10 @ the 9: McDoom sweep that gets blown up for no gain. This should have been a TD. We have 3 blockers for the 3 edge Air Force defenders who can possibly make this tackle. Bunting completely blows it here by not identifying who he is supposed to block as he inexplicably doubles the corner that McKeon is easily blocking, leaving Cole in no-man’s land to either fight a losing battle to block Bunting’s LB or get out to the safety. Cole chooses the safety (still not his fault, he couldn’t have made the block), leaving the LB free to get the stop for no gain. Very frustrating.

-1 Bunting run block

3rd & 10 @ the 9: Michigan is in the gun with Isaac. Air Force initially shows 5 rushers but then brings the corner and LB from the strong side late, dropping the weakside LB into coverage to make it 6v6. But our OL gets absolutely crushed. Cole blocks nobody as he was expecting the weakside LB blitz. Onwenu can’t decide which of 3 rushers to block and ultimately doesn’t block anyone. Speight does an incredible job of rolling out and getting free. Unfortunately, he is locked on Crawford because he has Perry breaking wiiiiiiiiiiiiiide open on a devastatingly beautiful post route in the back corner of the endzone and there is nobody even close to him. Easy, easy, easy TD if he sees him. Instead, he can’t decide between running or throwing to a completely covered Crawford and chooses to patty cake pass it for an incompletion.

-1 Speight: missed read

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

Summary:

Each of these plays could have been TDs if our guys make plays. On the first, Speight missed a read on having Black with 1-on-1 who runs a great route to get separation inside. On the second, Bunting makes a terrible mental mistake and misses his blocking assignment, turning a probably TD into no gain. On the third, Speight makes a fantastic play to roll out of pressure but doesn’t keep his eyes downfield and misses Perry, who ran a beautiful route to get utterly wide open. This is even less excusable because Perry is clearly the #1 WR given that Speight is looking at him before the pocket collapses.

On both pass plays, the Air Force blitzes were as impressively designed as the blocking was atrocious. Still, the TDs were there for the taking.

Play-calling: 2.5/3

 

Not technically redzone but close enough #3 (2:12 in the 2nd quarter)

1st & 10 @ the 24: I’m running out of steam and getting more frustrated. Perry is wide open on yet another great corner route which would have gone for ~11 yards in the air and, with a decent throw, he had enough separation to likely get in the endzone. Air Force has 7 in the box, but the corner on Perry shows blitz well before the snap, ends up being the only rusher as they send 5. We again leave Gentry and Isaac in for protection, and finally pick it up. Speight is looking towards the left at either Crawford or Perry (I’m praying it’s Crawford), and doesn’t see that Perry is wide wide wide wide open, and holds onto the ball until the pocket collapses and he scrambles out of bounds (rather than throw the ball away) for a loss of 4 yards that the ref bafflingly marks as only a loss of 1.

-1 Speight: missed read

2nd & 14 11 @ the 25: Pass out of the gun as we leave Eubanks and Isaac in again for pass pro. Air Force threatens 7 but only sends 6 (with one guy neutralized b/c he’s playing man on Isaac who doesn’t run a route), so it’s 6v7. Ulizio doesn’t identify whom to block and misses his blitzing LB assignment. The LB has a free run at Speight for the sack. Speight doesn’t have time for for the play to develop, which showed promise, as Crawford was breaking free down the middle for a solid chunk play, and Perry also looked like he was again going to get open. As Speight is getting sacked, he makes the most inexcusable decision of the game of trying to throw it away while going to the ground. His arm hits Ulizio as he’s doing this and he fumbles. The ball miraculously falls in front of Eubanks who makes a heady play to snag it, but after losing 3 additional yards.

-1 OL: blitz pick-up

-1 Speight: terrible fumble

3rd & 21 @ the 35: Isaac draw play for 4 yards to make the FG easier. Hard to fault the play call given the poor play from the OL and Speight up to that point. Also lucky for Ace that the ref missed those 3 yards from Speight’s scramble to make it a 49 yarder rather than 52 yarder (because we all know MVP Wild Thin’ Quinn Nordin woulda knocked that baby in from 60.)

Summary:

Speight again missed a wide-open Perry for a bare minimum 11 yarder that easily could have scored. He followed that up with his worst basic mental error by not taking the sack and almost costing us 3 points. Pass pro finally picked up a disguised blitz, only to follow it up with the worst blow of the game on a 6v7 rush as Ulizio failed to identiy his assignment.

Play-calling: 3/3

OT: Air Force to wear Sweet New F-35A Helmets?

OT: Air Force to wear Sweet New F-35A Helmets?

Submitted by Ecky Pting on September 12th, 2017 at 2:12 PM

So the Air Force Falcons may be rolling with their stylin' new headgear on Saturday. Here are a couple of quick primers so you'll know the back stories:

Air Force's Sweet New Football Helmets

So what's the big deal about an F-35A helmet, you ask? Well, at $400k a pop, quite a lot it appears:

 

 

Give me your AFA snowflakes

Give me your AFA snowflakes

Submitted by 1464 on September 9th, 2012 at 8:22 AM

So I'm aware of the new rule, but I also wanted to gauge everyones reactions to the game now that they've come back off the ledge or sobered up.  Hopefully, after sleeping on it, everyone will have more insight on the matter.  I won't give my opinions in the OP, as to not anger the mods for creating an 'I think...' thread.  I do like hearing some of the more informed opinions on the game after we have had time to digest.

Maybe this will help mitigate the risk of 19 million threads today about nuances of the game that probably don't require posts.

Inside the Boxscore - Team 133, Game 2

Inside the Boxscore - Team 133, Game 2

Submitted by ST3 on September 9th, 2012 at 1:05 AM

    I am subdued. I am lethargy, personified. I died the death of 1000 cuts in the form of 71 carries, all of which went for exactly 4.1 yards, except I survived. Arkansas didn’t. Wisconsin didn’t. That’s worth remembering. I’m not sure what more I can add to Ace’s game recap. This game was one giant serving of déjà vu. Replace Air Force with Indiana and a ball control running game with a ball control passing game and we’ve been here before.

Link: http://www.mgoblue.com/sports/m-footbl/stats/090812aaa.html

Deja Link: http://scores.espn.go.com/ncf/boxscore?gameId=302750084

Burst of Impetus

  • Air Force didn’t turn the ball over, but they only went 2 for 5 on fourth down. They missed a field goal, and were stopped on a fake field goal. That’s six points. That’s the margin of victory. Ugh.
  • Denard threw an interception that once again deflected off a receiver’s hands. AF turned that into 7 points.
  • The key sequence of the game to me was the start of the third quarter. Denard ran for a TD to put us up 21-10. We followed that up with a nice kickoff and a derpity return from AF. They were starting at their own 11. If we hold them there, get the ball back and score, game almost over, right? Instead, they ran for 20 and picked up another 10 on a defensive holding call (discussed below). All of a sudden, they’re at midfield. They eventually punched it in after moving 88 yards in 14 plays and we’ve got a ballgame on our hands.

_____________

  • That’s not a misprint. That’s this blogger’s way of saying our defense does not have an identity. Last year’s unit was an aggressive, attacking, sometimes reckless, blitzing group, that was lead by trash cans full of dirt Martin, Van Bergen, and Heininger. Additionally, we had Kovacs eliminating the long gains from the Gerg years, and Thomas Gordon creating turnovers, again and again. Kovacs and Gordon are still around, but the turnovers have disappeared. Regression to the mean sucks.
  • What do we have this year? Some experienced, but limited seniors, and some talented, but inexperienced freshman. In addition to tackles, the defensive stats are: FF FR-Yd Intc BrUp Blkd Sack/Yds QH. Look down those columns. Go ahead, I’ll wait. This is what you see. “ . . . .“ Lots and lots of dots. There were two pass breakups by Jake Ryan in the last three defensive plays of the game, and one by Frank Clark. That’s it. That’s to be expected somewhat since Air Force mostly ran the ball, but even the TFLs were limited. We had 7 TFLs for a grand, stinking total of 9 yards. Where is the aggressive, attacking unit of 2011? Yeah, I know Martin and Van Bergen are no longer around, but where are the run blitzes from the safeties and corners? Why weren’t we attacking the edge instead of letting Air Force continually get to the boundary?
  • Seven of the 22 players in the defensive stats are freshmen or redshirt freshmen. I get the feeling Mattison is trying to develop some depth for the conference schedule. Compare this to Air Force, who only had 12 players register a defensive stat. Time of possession is meaningless, but total plays matter. It looks like Air Force was able to play their first string defense for the entire game.

Ermahgerd Dehrnerd

  • Wow, wasn’t Denard’s first TD run exciting (and reminiscent of the 2010 IU game?) Oh, who am I kidding, my power went out for the first quarter and I missed it. It reminded me of last year’s home opener where I missed the fourth quarter, because they didn’t play it. For next year’s home opener, I will be occupying a bunker in an undisclosed location.
  • Denard has 200/200 vision. 200+ yards running and passing. As someone commented after the game, he had 101% of our total offense, because the -11 yards he accrued for the end of game kneel downs go as “TEAM” yards.

Zonkeys

  • The home plate umpire in the Tiger-Angel game took a foul ball off the face mask and had to leave the game. That’s a suitable reminder that the men who officiate our games have a difficult job, so I’ll make the annual disclaimer that I don’t really think the refs are zonkeys.
  • The thing that stood out to me was that Air Force got 4 first downs from penalties. We were having enough trouble stopping them, giving them four more first downs with penalties is inexcusable. Two of our defensive penalties were holding calls on Will Campbell. Since that is such a rarely called penalty, I watched those plays several times in slow-motion. On both, the center engages with Campbell, and the guard comes over to double team. This causes Campbell to get pancaked. As he’s falling, he grabs the center’s shoulder pad with one hand, to break his fall. On the first one, the guard hits him low and this should have been called an offensive penalty for a chop block. While both were technically holding, they were no different than almost any other play, and both Air Force runs went to the sideline. Campbell’s holds were half a field away from the action and had zero impact on the play.
  • On Air Force’s first TD, they broke out a play from the CFL playbook, as the flanker (A-back?) stepped back, turned around, and had a running start forward as the ball was snapped. The fact that it happened right in front of the line judge only further boggles my mind. How is that call missed?

Passing Game Stuff

  • Funchess gets my brother’s stamp of approval. Mine too, but I will not compare him to Antonio Gates to avoid getting negged by Magnus. (My first ever neg was from Magnus for comparing Cam Gordon to Ronnie Lott. You never forget your first time. When I screw up, I really screw up.) Funchess caught four balls for 106 yards and 1 TD. I’m sure you’ve seen the Jerame Tuman comparison by now.
  • Gardner looked more like a WR, probably because he wasn’t being defended by Milliner, but also because his routes were more precise and shorter. There was none of that looking over both shoulders stuff from a week ago. He caught 5 balls for 63 yards with a long of 20 and a TD.
  • Jeremy Jackson looked like a nice big target to me. Roundtree still doesn’t look 100%. When you can’t get separation from an Air Force DB, something’s wrong.

Hexadecimal Points

  • Michigan wore traditional jerseys with maize block Ms on their socks. I liked it.
  • Air Force apparently only recruits guys named “Freedom” and “Service.” I think all the odd numbered guys had “Service” and all the even numbered guys had “Freedom.” I hope that didn’t give Brandon any ideas. (Leaders/Legends? No, don’t go there, please, no.)
  • Royce Jenkins-Stone is our 2ndhexadecimalist of the year, showing up as 5B.
  • Jake Ryan wore the #47 Bennie Oosterbaan jersey. My brother requested that I research Oosterbaan and provide some interesting connection between Jake and Bennie. I reminded him I’m not getting paid for this. I do remember J.P. Oosterbaan, but I’m afraid Bennie was before my time.

Announcers’ Derpity Derp

  • The announcers were Bob Wischusen and Danny Kanell. Like I said, I missed the 1stquarter due to the power outage, and spent the 2ndquarter talking to my brother, which was weird because he DVR’d the game and was 20 minutes behind me, so I couldn’t tell him how great Funchess was doing.
  • After the game, Danny Kanell said something about Michigan fans being anxious about the game “if you just read the boxscore.” As your resident boxscorologist, it is my job to assuage your anxiety. Sorry, I got nothin’ for you this week.
  • I got a light blue screen of death with 2+ minutes left in the fourth quarter. Fortunately, they got the game back on in time for us to see Jake Ryan take over. I know we’re supposed to avoid politics on the blog, but I watched major portions of both conventions and I don’t recall hearing one speaker discuss our nation’s most pressing issue – that being technical difficulties disrupting college football games.

I’ll Take Bullets for a Thousand, Alex

  • Did someone forget to tell Fitz Toussaint that his suspension was over? Maybe we didn’t miss him that much against Alabama.
  • Total plays: M 56, AF 90. Total first downs: M: 19, AF: 26.
  • Look at the 2010 Indiana boxscore, total first downs: M: 15, IU: 35. Ace, things aren't that bad.
  • Air Force gained 417 yards. Last week, Alabama got 431 yards of total offense. I said I would be happy if we held the rest of our opponents under this total. I lied.
  • Our opponent’s bullets are real bullets. I wish all those guys nice, long careers in peace time.

Norfleet, Wile

  • Toward the end of last season, I made the audacious claim that “we haz special teams.” Norfleet and Wile are doing well, and Gibbons made a field goal. The net yards per punt was only 31.3 yards. Part of that is a reflection of where we were punting from, but we also lost 20 yards of gross yardage due to a touchback.
  • Air Force’s average yards per punt was 53.5 yards, with a net of 53.0. What happened to Gallon’s ~10 yards per return average? It’s still early in the season, but punt coverage and punt returns need some work.

Game Soundtrack

  • Last week, I discussed “Sweet Home Alabama.” Earlier this year, I reviewed last season with Iron Maiden songs. This blog celebrates with Muppets and drowns sorrows with Morrissey. So I’m going to try adding this section to the diary. Last week, my Johnny Cash Pandora station played, “Sunshine on my Shoulder,” by John Denver. Growing up, my family had John Denver sings with the Muppets on 8-track tape. We wore that thing out. Denver is in Colorado, Air Force is in Colorado, and the home opener was just around the corner. This line from the song took me back to those home openers I used to enjoy so much with Dad, in Section 11, Row 74, seats 5 and 6: “Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy.” It seemed like every home opener was sunny and warm, and the day ended with half my face sunburned and a victory, because Bo always won those home openers. The next line is, “Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry.” What made me cry was the cigar smoke from the guys in Row 73, seats 5 and 6. Sometimes, déjà vu’s not such a bad thing.