From the Tuesday morning Senior Bowl practice report:
Speaking of Brewster, he got into a brief shoving match with Mike Martin (DT, Michigan) after Martin beat him on an inside move during position drills. Brewster and Martin are familiar foes, of course, because of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. "He's one of my best competitors," Brewster said after practice. "I love going against him."
I spent yesterday putting together a highlight video for the 2011 defense, because hot damn, defense as good as ours deserves it. This is my first highlight video, so let me know what you think. In full disclosure, you might get really pumped up and break anything red in your home. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRP2OCilnqk
And even if it is, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Ok? ... Ok.
There was something rather familiar about Saturdays' game against Purdue. For the first time in a long time, that felt like "Michigan fergodsakes!" There was just something about the way we dominated and put the game away. It brought back my idealized memories of how Michigan would roll over the rabble of the big ten in year's past.
I enrolled at Michigan in the fall of 1995, Lloyd Carr's first year. And of the 40 odd games that I've attended in person, all but 2 were under his direction.
This wasn't cupcake nonconference, this wasn't baby seal U, this wasn't even one of the worst Minnesota teams in the last half century. This was a normal, lower tier big ten team that was coming off a victory over a previously ranked team. And they had maybe 4 or 5 good plays against us all game. (the screen TD, Denard's INT, the transcontinental to Siller, and maybe you count the final TD and their QB scramble).
The game wasn't as close as the score. Take away their garbage time TD, and give us another 11 points if we execute a little better on the goal line and we're talking about a 40 point blow out.
But it's not just the score that made me reminisce on the Lloyd days. It was the way we did it; we just had better athletes. And we used that advantage to make the game boring. Even though the lead was only 3 possessions, by the middle of the 3rd quarter there was absolutely no drama left that we might blow the game. And it's been a long time since I've felt that way when we've played a bigten team. I guess the Minnesota game didn't make me feel that because they didn't feel like a bigten team, and we were still scoring points. By the time the 4th quarter started on Saturday, I was thinking we'd only get 2 more possessions since we were grinding the clock out so fast.
I actually fell asleep before the game finished, (granted that was about 4 am local time and my BAC was significant). When I woke up, I had the rest of the day to ponder, 'do I like boring old Michiganfergodsakes?'
Was it really so bad?
Towards the end of the Lloyd years, we had grown accustomed to 9 and 10 win seasons and a bowl loss. And frankly we were bored with them. We had become frustrated with having a roster full of NFL talent that would only call dive plays once we had a double digit lead. And then 7-5 came, and we called it "the year of infinite pain". Oh summer child, what did we know of pain? Little did we know that Richrod was coming.
After the Horror, it was pretty clear that Lloyd's retirement was somewhat of a mutual split between him and the fanbase. I freely admit that I was fed up, and wanted change. You can count me amongst those that wanted RR to succeed.
In a way, I loved Lloyd. I still think he's a great role model. If I ever have a son, I would point at Lloyd as someone he should look up to. But toward's the end, I thought that his risk aversion and gameday decision making was impairing our ability to win big games.
There's been a lot of harsh words directed at Lloyd in light of the revelations in John Bacon's book. I don't believe he acted maliciously. I hope not, anyway. I just think Lloyd was just being Lloyd. He never liked the spotlight, and he resented the media. This was apparent from his first news conference (which, if anyone has video of this, I'd love to see it again) in the wake of Moeller's firing.
I like to believe that he was just trying to be loyal to his players. From a program perspective, that might have been a mistake. Ok, it was definitely bad for the program. And the program needed someone to be like Bo, to be the face of the university, to force people to work things out. But that's not who Lloyd was, it just wasn't in his DNA.
The details seem to get lost in history. People forget that things started kinda shaky in '95 and '96. We lost 4 games both years (just one less than the 'year of infinite pain'). And then came the miracle year of 97, and Lloyd could never live up to that standard again. It's like when poor married couples go on an expensive, once in a lifetime honeymoon, all the sex after that just seems a little bit pale in comparison.
Do we really want to go down that road again?
I admit it, I wanted the hot young model. I think Jim Harbaugh would have been very successful as a head coach here. He would have been fiery, and dramatic, and when we finally score 48 points on OSU, he'd have gone for 2. But Harbaugh probably would have gotten bored with us and ran off to the pro's while he still had his looks. So maybe it's better this way. Maybe someday he'll get tired of that and be ready to settle into a comfy college job.
Until then we've got Hoke. Brady Hoke and his magical golden poop. (From top to bottom, I can't remember the bigten ever being weaker. Bigten teams are going to get smashed come bowl time.) Hoke fits like a comfortable old shoe. But he's not the old shoe. He's not kicking field goals on 4th and inches. He's like that old shoe, but back when it had fresh treads.
And then I realized, it's not about da shoes. The thing that changed was me. I'm ready to go back to 9-3 season's again. I'm willing to tolerate 8-4 years if they're balanced with 10-2. I might even be able to stomach the very infrequent 7-5 year if it's offset with a couple 11-1's and 12-0's. And I don't need last second comeback drives against Indiana to be entertained. Saturday's stomping of Purdue was boring, and entertaining, and filled with more satisfaction than I've felt in years.
Play it again, Sam.
So it's week 9, the 8th game of the year, and we're starting to develop some patterns. If you were to blindfold me and make me predict what's going to happen next week, I could just think about this week and rattle off:
Mike Martin makes a big play
Craig Roh makes a mistake, but then makes a big play
Kovacs makes a big play
Jake Ryan has a mental breakdown and loses contain
Jake Ryan blows someone up in the backfield
A CB misses a tackle
Molk makes a great block
Denard has a sweet run
Denard has a horrible interception
XXXX receiver fights for a jump ball or adjusts to the under thrown bomb
Vincent is wide open for a throwback screen.
The defense causes a couple of flukeyish takeaways.
And you could probably run that against most of our games this year and not be very far off. The lack of a Vincent screen and a successful jumpball against MSU could easily be blamed for the score deficit of two weeks ago.
The major differences this week were the reverses and the excellent production from the Tailback position.
Let's see that again.
Bad Roh, Good Roh
I've been bitching about our lack of a bubblescreen, because it's a simple fucking play, that works. Especially if you get a favorable matchup with personnel.
On Purdue's first drive, they've got Craig Roh lined up against the slot man. Even though he's into the boundary, he's not going to win a footrace to the sideline.
They only need 3 yards for the first down, and with the Corner playing 8 yards off, the bubble screen is a nearly automatic 5 yards unless the man in Roh's position has a lot more speed in space than Craig.
He's thinking about his flat responsibility in the zone, but what he should be thinking is that he's got to get out to that 2nd man and ignore the blocker.
JT Floyd, doesn't use his hands well enough and lets the blocker get into his body, Roh is almost in position to make a play, but he's taking a bad angle.
Defensive snapshots where more than one defender is on the ground and the ball carrier is hopping past them, are never good for the defense. Morgan is also taking a bad angle and is barely there in time to escort the WR out of bounds after a huge gain.
But when Purdue tried to come back to it on their next drive, we played it much better.
Here's our first appearance of golden poop. We're futzing around with flip-flopping the D-line and Roh is getting a late start. But because he's still running to get in position when the ball is snapped, he's got momentum built up and quickly gets out on the receivers.
This time Floyd does a better job of taking on the blocker and forcing the play back inside.
With Roh in position and Floyd not getting knocked on his ass, the pursuit closes off any cutbacks and the ballcarrier has no place to go.
Mike Martin : Bruce Banner mode
The difference between a good athlete and a great football player is understanding the game. Mike Martin destroys this outside zone read because he recognizes the blocking assignments.
If you haven't watched the excellent (if somewhat corny) video by fishduck, you should check it out. The RB is next to QB so this should be an outside zone play. The O-line all slant to the wideside of the field. If the RB can get to the corner, he should get about 7-10 yards with good blocking as everyone is accounted for except the deep safety. Martin has seen this in practice about a zillion times from the Richrod days and beats his man to the spot and gets penetration. For Oregon, this is no problem, because the cutback is just as good as the designed play.
But Martin sees the cutback and tosses his man to the side so he can come back underneath and make the tackle. Our LB's are actually a little slow to react and would have been in trouble if the RB had continued to bounce it outside.
If it weren't for Martin, this play has a decent design to pick up lots of yards. The guards are scraping off their initial reach blocks and releasing to the 2nd level. Roh is unblocked because it's expected that the QB fake will hold him in position. If the center and left tackle had gotten better blocks, this play gets an easy first down. But Heimerdinger beats his block too.
So the three of them converge to make the gang tackle.
Mike Martin: Getting Angry...
On the safety, Martin had to fight through a hold to get the sack. (and a bit of facemask)
Mike Martin: Hulk Smash! mode
Before we even get to halftime its apparent that the Boiler's can't block Martin one on one, so they keep in the RB to help out.
Martin uses his hands so well. He does an outside move on the left guard and gets by him easily.
The RB sees him come free and moves to pick him up.
When you're a little guy, trying to block a much bigger man, they teach you to go low.
Because this is what happens if you don't go low.
You get sent airborne.
and knocked back 4 yards, (or more if those other guys hadn't been there)
This other angle shows how badly off balance this guy gets knocked back.
Bad Tackling, Good Tackling
Late in the 4th quarter, both starting cornerbacks were in the game when most other starters had left the field. You gotta think that's partly because of a lack of depth at DB, and partly because they both weren't very great at run support or tackling.
On the long screen for a TD, Countess was the only man with a chance to make the play, and he missed.
But I don't really blame him. We got caught in a blitz. This play was always going to be a touchdown unless one of the blockers completely whiffed.
Which almost happened. Blake does a good job to slip the block.
But the blocker had gotten just enough of him to prevent him from making the shoestring tackle. They say football is a game of inches. There's about 6 inches standing between a 5 yard gain and a 50 yard TD.
There's better examples of DB's (mostly Floyd) not breaking down to make the tackle, or not coming up aggressively enough in run support. By I'd rather show them an example of what you're supposed to do.
On this kickoff, Morgan does a great job of taking on the blocker
And then he disengages to make the tackle.
He hits the ball carrier right in the midsection with perfect form and wraps up and holds on until help arrives.
I'll take "improved running game" for $100, Alex
So, it's just Purdue, but that's what I call manball. And it started with our first play from scrimmage.
Purdue has an alignment problem because they didn't pick up the unbalanced line. This might be the first time we've used it extensively this year.
The end is left unblocked because he has to respect Denard on the bootleg. This is fine as long as the guy isn't fast enough to tackle Denard before he can make the handoff (like what MSU did to TSIO). So we've got two pulling lineman and a fullback giving us a huge numbers advantage on the play side.
We get a good kickout block, and Molk does an excellent job of peeling back to get the linebacker. Hopkins is leading through the hole like any good fullback.
Fullback is a deceptively skilled position. You've got to be able to read the hole like a TB and then be both fast enough to get to the block, and big enough to make the block. Here, Hopkins has to choose which of the free men to block. If he picks the linebacker, that ensures a solid gain and puts Fitz one-on-one with the safety with room to make a move. If he thinks the LB won't make the play then he should block the safety which often leads to long TD runs.
He chooses to go after the safety, which I think is the right choice. But without eyes in the back of his head, he doesn't realize that Fitz is making a beeline towards the sideline.
So he ends up not blocking anybody.
And he knows he's got to hit SOMEBODY. That coulda been a TD.(probably not, as the WR didn't sustain his block).
To the house!
So, did Fitz and Shaw perform a Vulcan mind meld during the bye week? If so, it worked. Fitz was bouncing the play outside all day, and Shaw had what I think is his best run of the year by busting through the line. Someone mentioned that Purdue has a better than average interior D-line (i guess) which would explain some of the bouncing outside. But who told Shaw he could run through tackles?
On this Denard fake jetsweep counter pitch, the boilers are in good position to stop the play for a moderate gain. But they've got two guys who are jogging around waiting for the play to develop instead of attacking the LOS. *cough*JTFloyd*cough*. But look at Molk, He's not really designed to be in this play, he's just hustling to make a block.
Fitz is reading the play and sees the defenders over-run it, so he cuts back. . #3 is in pursuit and should close off the cutback. But Molk and now #75 are following the play.
Fitz sees the two unblocked defenders and breaks down to make a move.
It's just at that moment that Molk catches up and gets a twofer. Schofield is also making himself useful by getting in the way of the pursuit.
#2 is in good position to make the stop, but his momentum is in the wrong direction as Fitz is now running against the grain.
But here's the amazing part. When he sees the lane open up in the middle, he just turns on the jets.
This is the speed we haven't really seen from Fitz on the field. Maybe reports of him being dinged up were true and now he's finally healthy. (He should be after having 3 weeks off).
Shaw's TD came from some improvisation on a simple lead dive.
The boiler DT get's a good push up front to disrupt the play. Hopkins has to help block him instead of getting to the free linebacker. Odoms is coming around for the end around fake that will hold the unblocked end.
Shaw sees that the play side is clogged up, so he cuts back. So now he has to deal with an unblocked safety instead of an unblocked LB => more yards.
The right guard doesn't get the best of blocks and his man starts coming off of him to make the tackle. But Shaw sees just enough daylight to make him decide to accelerate through the hole.
Normally, this is where Shaw falls down for a minimal gain, but on this play he keeps his balance.
And he shows off a little leg strength to fight through the contact.
Then he does what he does best and shows off his top gear outracing the defender to the pylon.
I know I've been critical of him on this blog, but that's because he's very frustrating. Physically he's got all the tools to be a great back, ala Chris Perry. His vision might be half a notch down, and I haven't seen him much in the passing game. But he's got the speed, and if he learned how to harness his talents, he could be making runs like this on a regular basis. Anyway, this was a great run.
The defense is playing so much better than last year. But the last two games have seen waaaaaay too many arm tackles. I'm not liking that.
One game is not a season. Playcalling vs. Minnesota, Northwestern, and Purdue was great, creative, and effective. Playcalling vs. MSU, eh ... not so much. I hope this isn't establishing a trend where we have zany fun stuff against Iowa and Illinois and go into a shell against NE and TSIO.
Rocketman! I didn't notice the helmet on the low quality streams
The theme for homecoming was something about space, and the wavefield got some love on TV. That wavefield was like a 2nd home for me for 3 years.
The Wolverines defense may have been flimsy, but don't blame Martin. The 298-pounder, a guy who won a high school state wrestling title in his first season competing in the sport, is a freak. He's squatted over 700 pounds, power cleaned 430, hang cleaned 475 and bench pressed over 500. Oh, and he's also run in the 4.9s in the 40.
More positive press for our wolverines on the WWL today. And those are FREAK numbers.