Michigan's Defense vs. Ohio State--2nd Half (Bah Humbug Edition)

Submitted by DoubleB on December 25th, 2018 at 12:00 PM

In case you didn't get enough coal in your stocking this year:

                       Backfield      Motion      Formation             R/P                Play                 Gain

1  0-10  -25     Gun Wk                        Slot Twins L        Pass            3 Verts                   0

OSU starts the half with a play action pass similar to the 31 yard TD in the first half. Michigan is running their confusing coverage that leaves the middle of the field open. Single WR is manned up. Metullus comes down to play the boundary flats. The field corner and safety are playing Cover 2. So what you essentially have is Cover 2 deep to the Field, Cover 3 underneath, and man on the lone WR. The middle of the field is wide open. What saves Michigan is the half ass fake toss. Bush is able to get back to the middle to get involved in the play and Haskins throws it high. OSU is doing a nice job of letting the ends go with play action pass and pulling the center for them. The down blocks by the tackle are freezing them and slowing them down. Winovich beats the center pulling for him, but the ball is out.

2  2-10  -25     Gun Stg       Y Mo         Unb Trey R        Run             Split OZ                 -1

Michigan is in essentially Cover 0. Michigan brings Hudson off the strong edge and slants down. Gary is unblocked and misses the tackle, but makes the play as pursuit gets to him. That being said, Ross vastly overruns the play and there’s a nice seam through the BS A gap that Weber just can’t get to before Gary gets him from behind.

3  3-11  -24      Gun Stg       Y Mo         Bunch R            Pass             Drive                     18

OSU motions to a bunch set and runs a Drive concept (Shallow and Dig from the same side). # 3 runs the Shallow, #2 a vertical, and #1 the Dig that he sits down in a wide open zone. Haskins finds him at the 1st down marker and he runs for another 7. NFL Front (2 3-Techs) gets little pressure. Paye nearly gets home, but ball is out. Coverage is, I think, essentially Invert 3 with man on the single WR, Watson has the strong flat and the 3 safeties roughly take the deep 3rds. The problem with playing coverages you don’t run much is exactly this--Bush goes far too wide to the flat areas in response to a Flare by the back when he doesn’t need to with a CB over there handling that job. It might be complete anyway (this coverage is weak in the Hook/Curl zones) but this throw is as easy as it gets.

4  1-10  -42     Gun Stg     Z Orbit        Pro Twins R       Run              Pin&Pull                 -1

OSU runs Pin & Pull back to where the motioning WR is coming from, but Winovich has time to check Haskins, have a cup of tea, and make the TFL. Play just takes too long to develop and get started with where the RB is. Even without Winovich, the pulling center trips and Michigan has this pretty well gapped up. Would guess coverage is the same as play 1 of this half.

5  2-11  -41     Gun Stg     F Mo           Pro Twins L       Pass             Cross                       0

OSU motions 14 and puts the Twins in the boundary. At the snap 14 runs an immediate Shallow with the TE running his Box Curl route. Michigan is in Cover 1, but now on the Shallow route, Metullus comes down from his FS spot and plays 14 and Kinnel drops back to the deep middle. Metullus is able to make the hit and break up the play. Michigan runs 4 to a side and doesn’t finish although Ross comes through late.

6  3-11  -41     Gun Wk                        Deuce               Pass             Snag / Slants            0

OSU runs Slants at the top and a Snag concept to the boundary. Cover 1 with a low hole player and a FS. Metullus and Hill seem to be playing a little more off than in the first half expecting more inside help. Haskins thinks it’s generic Cover 1 with a blitz (good disguises by Michigan and throws the inside slant 5 yard before the marker. Kinnel is the low hole player and gets in on the play. The throw is too low anyway and falls incomplete. Quick throw leaves no time for pressure to get home although Winovich gets around his OT.

7  0-10 -42     Gun Wk                         Slot Trey R       Run               IZ Split                      2

Split zone with Michigan in their 3 man front bringing Kinnel and Gil off the weak edge and slanting the line to the Field. Dobbins attempts to cut back and Gil stones the TE coming across and makes the play along with Kinnel. Cover 2 look in the secondary.

8  2-8 -  44     Gun Wk                         Slot Twins L      Run               IZ Split                      9

Same play in the other direction and Michigan isn’t remotely lined up when the ball is snap. Dobbins takes it right out the FS B Gap for 9 after Bush doesn’t quite finish the play before the marker. Looks like Cover 1.

9  1-10 +47    Gun Wk                         Unb Trey R       Run               IZ                              2

Fox misses the beginning of the clip. The TE attempts to block Gary who sheds him easily and makes the play for 2. Michigan is in Cover 1 and looks gapped up.

10  2-8 +45    Gun Stg    Y Return      Unb Quads R    Run               Trap                          9

Can’t remember the last time I saw influence trap. Michigan is an Over Front. The RG and RT block man on the 3 and 5 Techs respectively. The LT and center immediately release for the LBs closest to them. The TE trap blocks the 1-Tech and the LG sells pass for a split second before blocking out on Winovich. Winovich doesn’t get blocked out but everyone else blocks perfectly and Dobbins runs for 9 right up the middle. Michigan is in zone coverage.

11  1-10 +36  Gun Wk                         Deuce R           Pass              Cross                        31

#2 runs a Shallow to the Field and the Field #2 runs his Box Curl. The RB runs a quick Flare now meaning he’s not in the protection. Michigan’s Cover 1 is now a low hole player to help on these underneath routes and true FS as opposed to rushing 5 (which wasn’t getting home anyway). However, Metullus blows the coverage. Instead of looking at his WR he peaks Haskins who just gives a quick ball fake like he’s throwing to the back and stops. Meanwhile 14 is running across the formation alone. Haskins drops, sits, waits and delivers the ball. 14 catches the ball past Bush (the low hole player) and just runs away from him for 31. Haskins ball fake also has the benefit of stopping Dwumfour and Winovich’s pass rush (Dwumfour has leverage, but stops--Winovich actually turns around to pursue) buying him even more time. Adding to this debacle, Bush is helped off the field after the play.

12  1-G  +5    Gun             F Jet       TE Slot Empty L   Run             Q IZ Split                     0

Martell is in the game and Michigan’s defense is confused. Michigan has 5 down lineman and playing Cover 0 so someone should be a free player in the box as a LB type. Metullus and Woods don’t seem to know who that should be. Fortunately it doesn’t matter. Michigan’s Bear front (all OL covered) gets penetration, especially Dwumfour, and makes the play for no gain.

13  2-G  +5   Gun Stg       F Mo          Pro Slot R         Run              IZ Read                       3

Martell still in the game. Basic IZ Read. The RG and RT get great push, But Gary (being read) is able to get in on the play along with Mone playing 0 Tech.

14  3-G +2    Gun Stg       F Mo          Pro Slot R         Run              IZ Read                      -1

The exact same play as before. This time Kemp gets great penetration and stops Dobbins before he gets back to the LOS. The cavalry arrives to finish the play. As good as Ohio State’s offense is overall, inside the 5 it’s a complete clusterfuck. Michigan holds them to a FG.

15  0-10 +22 Gun Wk       F Mo          Pro Twins L      Pass              Mesh Return              20

The wheels have fallen off as when OSU gets the ball back now they are up 15 and with good field position just off the Patterson pick. And they go for the jugular right away. Same mesh routes as the first half, but not instead of crossing those guys (TE / #2 WR) return with a flat path. Michigan is in Cover 1 with the same defense as Play 5 above (have the FS take the crosser and the man on the crosser drop deep). Only now with the return route, 14 is wide open as Kinnel has dropped deep and Hill has to chase him down across the field. Great answer by OSU although it would help if Kinnel recognized this sooner. Michigan rushes 5 and Uche nearly gets to Dobbins off the edge, but not quite. Nobody else is really close.

16  1-G +2  Gun Stg        F Mo          Pro Slot R         Run                Speed Option             2

Same formation as the previous goalline plays, but now OSU runs outside and Weber walks into the EZ. I’m not sure how Michigan is playing this. If it’s true Cover 0, Ross should have the RB man but he’s not lined up like he would be covering him and buries himself in the A Gap. In any case, Haskins reads Furbush, pitches to Weber and that’s that.

17  0-10 -22  Gun Wk      F Jet          Unb Trey L       Run                 Sweep                       78

From bad to worse. Michigan is now in Zone and they have the bodies (more than enough) to handle the quick handoff to Campbell. But Metullus takes a false step and slows down as the RT is blocking Hudson in front of him and Campbell hits the gap and is off and running. Kinnel being completely fooled on the play turns a 30-40 yard gain into a 78 yard TD as he’s nowhere to be seen until it is too late. It’s a well blocked play, but terribly defended by Michigan’s safeties.

18  0-10 -25 Gun Wk      Y Mo           Pro Twins L     Pass                Boot Hide                  10

OSU ran this in the first half on a 3rd and short. Michigan is in the hybrid zone stuff that leaves the middle of the field open. Haskins fakes, boots out and hits the TE real quick who passed by Gary. As I said before it’s a nice, yet common, wrinkle to all the split zone run game. The #2 WR pins Hudson and the TE gets outside, makes Hill miss and gains 10.

19  1-10 -35  Gun Stg                        Slot Trey L      Pass                 Mesh                         11

OSU is in condensed splits which has signaled mesh routes in this game. Michigan is in their hybrid zone again and covers the routes nicely. This time Haskins is able to avoid Kemp who beats his guy but creates a large seam and runs for the first down.

20  1-10 -46  Gun Stg                        Slot Trey L      Run                  IZ                               29

Straight IZ with the TE blocking down. Michigan in a 5 man front with Hudson as a DE and Gary pushed inside. Gary gets doubled back and inside and essentially into Gil who while relatively gap sound is slow getting up to the LOS. The Gary double team slows Gil down from making the play at about 3-4 yards and Weber shoots through the gap for 29. Cover 1 leaves a lack of run support as well. Penalty moves the ball to the 13.

21  1-10 +13  Gun Stg                       Unb Quads R  Run                 Trap                            8

Same trap play as before. And pretty much the same result. Ross beats his block, but Weber cuts back before falling for a gain of 8. Michigan is back in the hybrid zone.

22  2-2    +5  Gun Stg        F Jet       Pro Twins R     Run                  OZ Read                    4

Haskins reads Paye. Kemp gets reached by the tackle (in a Tite 3!) allowing a cut back for Weber. Paye makes the play before the goalline. Cover 0.

23  1-G   +1  Gun Stg        F Mo       Pro Slot R       Pass                 Boot Hide                   1

The boot play again with a tighter formation. Metullus gets blatantly picked but it’s a legal play as the ball is thrown behind the LOS. Easy walk-in TD.

24  0-10 +19  Gun Stg                      Unb Quads R  Run                  IZ Read                      1

OSU gets good field position after the Milton pick. Michigan in a 3 man front but jumps Ross to the LOS before the snap. Haskins reads Ross, keeps it, but Ross makes the play anyway. Haskins has a play if he can get by him. Michigan looks to be in the hybrid zone stuff.

25  2-9  +18  Gun Wk       Y Mo        Slot Twins L    Run                  OZ Read                     2

OZ is well played. Ross runs Dobbins out of bounds for a gain of 2. Michigan back to their base game plan from the start of the 1st half: 2 off the edge (scrape exchange blitz) and Cover 1.

26  3-7 +16  Gun Stg                        Trips Closed R  Pass              Snag Switch              16

OSU clusters the 3 WRs on the hash with the TE backside by himself. OSU max protects with 7. Michigan is Cover 1 with a man on the point (#2 WR), an outside player (Metullus), and an inside player (Watson). Unfortunately nobody goes inside. Campbell stems Watson inside before running a corner route. Watson has no chance as he has bad leverage to start. He stumbles, but it doesn’t matter--this route will be open. The other 2 WRs run hitch routes to hold their DBs. The DL stunts to the field and gets nowhere yet again. Hudson half heartedly rushes the passer from the edge.


I passed on doing the last drive.

I don’t have a whole lot to add to what I’ve already commented on in individual plays. Michigan did make adjustments in coverage as early as the first quarter. They didn’t seem to run the adjustments very well in my opinion and also looked confused far too often. When Michigan went back to man coverage, Ohio State just hammered them in the pass game. A lot of short passes that became much longer gains.

As bad as the secondary looked, the biggest disappointment has to be the DL and the complete lack of pressure on Haskins. Michigan mixed up its fronts, blitzes, stunts. Twice they forced Haskins from the pocket and both times he just ran for 8+ yards. He may have been knocked down once in the entire game.

Ohio State had a good plan, but these aren’t new special routes against man coverage nobody has run before. They are fairly typical man beaters. What they did do early in the game is not waste their time trying to run the ball too much. After the first two runs which at least established that Haskins might run it, they threw about 70% of the time the rest of the half. Enough run to keep Michigan honest, but they wanted to attack the pass defense.




December 25th, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

Attacked us like I thought teams should have all year. Stay at the quick short pass and stay after our weak links in single coverage. They had the players to make it work to devastating effect. Coupled with no meaningful pass rush.

And like you alluded to in the prior diary, they left points on the field (even excluding the merciful final possession). 

I have nothing to add.

Guess I take pleasure in writing about it again and again. Like sharing in the misery on some level. As if that kind of lessens my shock at the defense' play.

Thank you for doing this. Learned a lot. 


December 25th, 2018 at 3:36 PM ^

"As if that kind of lessens my shock at the defense' play."

I've never been one to put much into esoteric "feelings ball" but I think EVERYONE was shocked by what was happening, especially the players. Watching pre-snap the amount of late communication and, to me, confusion on what should be pretty generic formations to line up to says as much. As things spiraled out of control, the defense seemed to get worse culminating in a 78 yard run around the end when the runner is not even TOUCHED. 

As in the first diary, this didn't really prove to be cathartic. The coaches didn't help the cause, but the entire defense just played awful and seemed to actually get worse as the game went on.


December 25th, 2018 at 9:40 PM ^

You saw the same thing I did.  There was no pass rush, especially from the interior.

Michigan seemed confused in the hybrid zone stuff and in general.  They were often late lining up.

I would bet that Ohio State's OL had their best game of the year.

You Only Live Twice

December 26th, 2018 at 12:25 AM ^

Stayed off the board today and had a nice Christmas with family, upon logging in, here is the second half diary.  Very nice work.  I do not pretend to understand all of it, but then I also don't understand really how Beethoven wrote his symphonies.  Appreciate this look at the complete musical score. 

I take a pretty simplistic view. No blaming language.  I think that good coaches prep their teams to the best of their ability, (Michigan has excellent coaches) and I think further that coaches know their players in a way that fans never will, and they plan around strengths and weaknesses, which can encompass a variety of causes.


BG Wolverine

December 26th, 2018 at 9:14 AM ^

Thanks for your effort on these diaries.  I think the poor defensive play begins and ends with the lack of DL pressure all game.  That component is in my opinion what makes Michigan's defense great and dominant.  Once the QB starts getting hit and sacked, he starts looking down at the line instead of downfield, feels pressure where there is none, and gets happy feet, all leading to missed reads, poor throws, and being quick to bail out.  Haskins is no different as he showed in other games when facing tough pressure.  it was like a damn 7 on 7 drill for him.  I will give the OSU line credit (ugh, threw up in my mouth a bit) in that they heard for a long time how bad they were and how we were going to feast on them.  They cinched up their nut sacks and played their best game of the year.  Of course they did....


December 26th, 2018 at 6:47 PM ^

The Ohio State OL was excellent in this game across the board. OSU had a plan to chip with the TE and keep the RB in early in the game on certain situations, but I'm not sure they did it after the middle of the 2nd quarter. They realized they could even free release the RB and block 5 on 5 pretty consistently. They exchanged the stunts (which Michigan abandoned after the 1st half), they easily handled the 4 to a side pressures and any other blitzes Michigan attempted. The pass protection was a clinic. I recall one hit on Haskins the entire game.

They were pretty solid in the run game as well. They moved people on double teams and rarely got cleanly beat. One of the sidelights I got out of this was how average OSU's RBs are in terms of their vision. They left yards on the table at various points of the game. I sense OSU's run game issues this year weren't just on the OL.


December 26th, 2018 at 7:01 PM ^

They should of brought the house every play and drilled Haskins in the chest on every quick throw.  They were getting no pressure and were getting torched anyways.


December 27th, 2018 at 3:58 AM ^

Thanks for putting in the work on this (and bringing your football knowledge to the discussion).  I don't have the football experience to make any conclusions on this side of the game -- e.g., can Brown adapt like he apparently did to the PSU game plan that decimated us last year?  (Moorhead and Barkley leaving also helped, admittedly.)  How much of this comes down to Jimmy's and Joe's?  (OSU recruited on an Alabama-level during Meyer's run, and has 4.3 speed guys that OSU knows how to use in space.)  How much of it was confidence and momentum?  (E.g., a few early hits on their QB might have knocked him off his game.)  I don't know the answers, but I appreciate reading you and others dissect the issues.  I can see us getting better on offense if Harbaugh embraces a modern, college football offense (one that uses tempo, can catch defenses off-guard, etc.), but I think our defensive coaching staff is likely the best we can reasonably hope for (and is fantastic).  So I wonder how much of the defensive shortcoming can be attributed to talent, scheme, injury, momentum, or other factors.  


December 27th, 2018 at 8:45 AM ^

I think a combination of factors. This OSU team with Haskins was uniquely prepared to attack Michigan. The OSU OL played out of their minds as well.

Despite all of that I also think it's more of a one off meaning, despite it being THE GAME, I don't think it should be judged as where the program currently stands.

I will mention that I do think man coverage has a tendency to increase the variance of games. If you can get pressure and cover you can dominate games and look amazing (think Michigan State in particular or half dozen other games this year). If you can't, well we just saw what happens. Go back to the SMU game which was semi-competitive for 3 quarters. That bad SMU team was more competitive than just about any Big Ten team Michigan played this year. A few PIs and a few big plays kept them around. Man coverage tends to increase the variance of what MIGHT happen in a football game.


December 27th, 2018 at 2:04 PM ^

"I think our defensive coaching staff is likely the best we can reasonably hope for (and is fantastic)"

I don't know how anybody can look at the OSU game and come away thinking our defensive coaching staff is "fantastic." 

If it's the best we can reasonably hope for, then winning conference championships is going to depend on Ryan Day being significantly worse than Urban Meyer.


December 27th, 2018 at 3:04 PM ^

It is only in the context of the past three years that I think our defensive coaching staff is fantastic.   By S&P+, we were 2nd, 10th, and 5th in the country.  I do not judge them by one game alone, although I definitely have concerns, which I think I mentioned.  If you just looked at the OSU game against MSU where Urban Meyer forget he could run Ezekiel Elliot, you would think he was not a fantastic offensive coach.  He is.  Anomalies happen.