That's my compilation of all the Zips passing plays and check-downs. What you saw:
- Lots of quick, dinky-dunky passes (not on the DL)
- A handful of screens the DL didn't chase
- Black consistently getting into the backfield but nobody else.
The first complaint of many from the near-disaster on Saturday was the front four's continued inability to get any pass rush, with the bonus problem this time of no contain. Many observers noted, and the coaches confirmed, that part of the problem was the pass rushers were often chasing the quarterback instead of keeping him boxed in so the rest of the rush could arrive. Other culprits mentioned: Akron was doing a lot of max protect, a lot of uncalled holding, and of course the biggie: our DL getting completely owned.
So let's look at some Akron passing plays and see who to blame:
While the Zips are mostly a dinky-dunk offense, when they do go long they tend to leave the running backs in to help with pass pro. Max protect is generally a win for the DL already since spending seven (or eight!) guys on four DL gives the DBs an easy time. You usually want to call it against blitzes, since defensive linemen who don't have to worry about the run will break through eventually. (Unless they don't).
They did this a lot in the first half. On Akron's first drive there were two long pass calls on 2nd and 10 and 3rd and 10 that give us a baseline.
Michigan was in their base 4-3 under and rushed four. Akron had the RB and both TEs both stay in to block. Both back and the TE to the strong side help the RT block Heitzman; he's not going anywhere. Washington gets off slowly and is doubled by the right guard and center; he gets no push on the center and the guard only has to help a little while watching to see if Bolden comes.
Clark is doubled by the weakside TE and the LT—he tried to bull rush the TE, got stood up, then ripped around him and was in the middle of trying to split the two when the pass got off. Black gets the only single-team, but he tried to go inside of the LG who ran him right into Washington's mess; Black tried the other side and got held but that wouldn't have mattered since the pass is already gone.
Blame: Knock QWash for not even moving his center, and Clark and Heitzman can't split their double-teams.
Clark Loses Contain The First
Very next play. Michigan has their nickel people in and not worried about rushing lanes on 3rd and long. The guys inside are stunting and the outside rushers are both going wide:
Aaand Akron is max protecting again—this time with both RBs staying in. They wipe out the outside rushers but Black's stunt got him into a LG he managed to spin off of and pressure the QB: bail! A quick yank…
…while Black was airborne prevented the sack and got Pohl away. Clark sees this and chases down the line until Countess comes up in support really fast to stop for no gain and kick the Zips off the field.
Blame: Well Wormley got stopped way too easily and Beyer and Clark were thoroughly erased by OT/RB combos. I thought Clark did a good job disengaging—his angle to the sideline would have prevented the first down. Black is penetrating.
Low Man Always Wins
Here's another max protect from the 2nd quarter:
Black is taking a breather but instead of his backup (Glasgow) Michigan put Pipkins in. It's 2nd and 5 so nothing cute:
(Beyer is actually on the weakside and Clark on the strong but nickel-whateva)
Pipkins got doubled and pretty blatantly held but he didn't do himself any favors by being very high when he impacted the OL. You know how coaches are always on about pad level? This is bad pad level:
Follow the plane of the guard's back versus that of Pipkins and imagine who is going to be the harder to move. Heitzman's rush is pretty awful: he stutter-stepped then ran right into the RG; he's stonewalled and done for the play. Clark and Beyer are both erased by OT/RB combos. Pohl has all day to throw, but of course he's got just three receivers out there versus seven guys in coverage (Wilson broke up the pass but shouldn't have let a guy get behind him).
A Blitz! A Blitz! Owait Nevermind Just a Zone Blitz
We're still in the 1st quarter on Akron's next drive and Michigan tries a zone blitz on 2nd and 6, but it can't arrive before Pohl gets the pass off.
Clark backed out into the zone; Ross is the extra attacker, and Godin and Black have to go around guys. Akron again is keeping an extra blocker in but they don't need him. Ross's blitz shows a little too early and he's stonewalled by the left guard. Beyer is run out by the LT, Godin is walled off by the RG and RT. Black had the center to beat and rips past him, but a final shove from that guy gives the QB a passing lane he takes. Money shot:
Blame: Beyer couldn't beat Akron's left tackle, Ross's blitz was ineffective, Godin didn't get into his guy, and Black got shoved just enough at the end. This is just guys getting owned by an OL that shouldn't be that good. At least Black is getting through eventually, and after the shove he's got a shot at the QB if the ball isn't already gone. This drive would end, by the way, on an empty backfield pass attempt that was nearly a sack.
They Tackled Mario
1st quarter, on a 3rd and 11 after Akron used a timeout when they didn't like Michigan's initial alignment and couldn't check in time. Again, there's a lot of guys in pass pro: the running back to Gordon's side is blocking all the way and the other back was on a delayed release. Michigan stunted Ojemudia, which meant Wormley was in charge of contain on the outside.
Black beat the guard with a quick move, but then has to face the center, whom he bulled backward. Gordon has two blockers on the backside who grabbed him easily. Wormley bull-rushed the tackle, preventing that RB from getting a good release into his pattern, then ripped past him. Ojemudia got past the guard, who then tackled him by the ankles. Black and his guy then fall over Ojemudia. Wormley disengages and starts to give chase but he's way too slow to catch up to Pohl and prevent a pass. That pass goes to the sideline well short of the sticks.
Blame: Live I thought this was one of those bad things by Wormley but what really got Pohl loose was the uncalled foul and the mess it created. The reason the slow guy had the outside was to get the faster guy in on a stunt. On the backside not-Ryan remains erasable.
All Too Easy
Finally they leave just five blockers in, and Ojemudia and Clark are both getting off their guys and threatening to sack if the first read isn't open (it is because I think Bolden didn't get depth). But this time the interior guys are nowhere near the QB.
Black got stood up by the guard and then worked his way around the center; he's too far away for his arm-wave to affect the pass. Godin was stood up even worse, and when he tried to swim around that he ran right into the center.
By the 4th quarter nothing has changed. Michigan is still rushing four guys and trying to stunt their best pass rusher, and Akron is max protecting and keeping Pohl clean:
You Left Lewis on an Island
This time they tried to get Black a shot against the outside and let Heitzman be the one to burrow into a billion dudes. By now Akron is used to this.
Beyer and Heitzman get squeezed, Clark tried to go inside the LT to make the running back's assisting block useless. Black got around the RT but the H-Back ("Z" above) is there to cut him.
And here's total fail:
On this one Heitzman was tackled but that didn't have anything to do with Ojemudia running right into Black or Clark trying to go inside when he 1) was responsible for contain, and 2) ended up running himself into Heitzman's mess. Stick around for the next play and you'll see all this same stuff again, and again on the play where everybody's buried and Pohl rolled out to turn a 2nd and 15 into 1st and 10 on the 10.1-yard line. I'm done showing; let's point the fingers and get out of here.
1. Guys not named Black or Ryan got zero push. Heitzman, Wormley, and Godin are admirable pluggers but the Heininger Certainty Principle does not cover pass rush.
2. Akron gameplan. Most of the time Akron got the ball out quickly. When they didn't they had a lot of extra blockers. They also lined up quickly and if Michigan showed blitz they'd check into something else; Michigan wouldn't.
3. Vanilla stuff. Michigan stunted a lot but rarely sent anybody but a DL at the quarterback; against Akron you figure that's all you should need but it would be nice to have that nickel threaten a blitz every here and now.
4. Poop-flavored whistles. Crying holding is always weak; there's holding on most plays and it only gets called (on non-Michigan players) when it's really really blatant, AND the ref sees it, AND the game situation makes it appropriate, AND you're not playing Notre Dame. I'm not bringing it up now to put what happened on the refs—that is all on Michigan's players and coaches—but to exonerate Black a little; when he wasn't bothering the QB or tripping over a teammate, OL were just jumping on his back and getting away with it:
What Michigan Could Have Done:
1. Man up and blitz the linebackers. On the long pass that Lewis did all he could on (except be faster than an Akron WR) Michigan got a 7-on-3 in pass defenders versus receivers, however the two LBs were rendered useless in short zones. Two WRs are still doubled but one of them ends up with a 1-on-1 with a true freshman cornerback. Michigan had a few playcalls that would have done just that, but when they showed blitz early Akron checked out of it or called timeout.
2. Have some counter checks. This will be important against Ohio State especially but after seeing ND and Akron try it successfully I wouldn't be surprised if even MSU was coming to the line early and letting the Wolverines show what they brought. When the opponent checks, the defense has to be ready to as well.
3. Be done with Countess at nickel. There's one more game and then it's Big Ten. Dymonte Thomas ought to be ready soon, and Michigan could use him because he brings something Countess doesn't: a blitz threat from the guy replacing the nose tackle. That also puts your best cornerback in the most likely 1-on-1 situations, and the nature of the nickel is you have help over the top. Another option might be to make Avery the free safety on nickel packages and bring either Jarrod Wilson or Thomas Gordon (which is where he started his career, at Spur, wearing #15, a lifetime ago) back down to that spot, which might be where the coaches are going with this.
4. Be done with pulling the NT. Even on the screen Pipkins was better at reading and getting back. You don't get pass rush from the SDE types so playing them in the nickel doesn't accomplish anything. If that guy is going to just bull into a wad of bodies so you can Black a one-on-one matchup with a guard, make that guy someone who's effective at bulling into a wad of bodies, ie a nose tackle.