Despite some post-burial kicking at the ceiling, Jake Rudock's pick six was the final nail in Michigan's coffin against Utah. It came on a route that I've called a "circle" for a bit now. The idea is that you run a slant, then abort that halfway through into an out route. Corner jumps the slant, you get some nice separation and hooray beer. Or you run an out, corner jumps the out, etc.
The general idea is that it is a horizontal double move. I've called it "circle" probably because NCAA football did back in the day; you can see that on a successful one the WR does tend to run in a little circle after his first break:
Both Utah and Michigan tried to run these routes on Thursday, with different results. Here are those plays… AT THE SAME TIME.
On the left will be a Utah throw on their first touchdown drive. It's second and six; Michigan is in the nickel they ran the whole day, showing press coverage on the outside.
On the right, Michigan attempts to convert a third and three halfway through the fourth quarter while down a touchdown.
As far as we're concerned these plays are completely identical to start: we are looking at the slot receiver to the bottom of the screen with a corner who is locked up in man coverage three yards off the line of scrimmage.
A couple moments after the snap both WRs have crossed the LOS; the only difference in the corners is that the Utah guy has taken a step forward, perhaps anticipating this route.
[After the JUMP: everything goes fine because HARBAUGH? Probably!]
Next, a crucial difference:
These guys didn't start at the same exact point on that down and distance effect; Perry started at the bottom and Utah's guy was a step further inside, so this looks more different than it actually is: it's still way different. Utah's WR has taken a step and turned his body, causing Peppers to react. Probably over-react since this slant is headed right into those linebackers.
Meanwhile Perry is offering a vague hint of a slant only. The cornerback is not reacting; Perry hasn't given him anything to react to.
By the point at which these guys stop to circle, Peppers has turned his hips to the inside; the Utah nickel has barely taken a step. Peppers has momentum he has to deal with. Perry's route has not done the same thing.
The difference here is a step, maybe two, from both defender and wide receiver.
On such steps empires rise and fall. DUN DUN DUN.
Fox also provided a replay of the second:
Things and stuff
Routes, man. UFR sucks at routes. I tried to branch into that last year but the primary limitation is that it's hard to see most of 'em. I ended up with a few minuses, the occasional plus, and nothing approximating a take on anyone's skills in that department that doesn't fall prey to Hitchens's Razor.
It bothers me even more since in this game we got assertions from Harbaugh that Jehu Chesson slowed up on the first deep ball that went just over his outstretched hand, and if you squint on a replay it certainly looks like he downshifts slightly once the corner bites on his out route.
I mean, probably. But probably he should do that since he's open by yards and he doesn't want to run out of real estate? I don't know; if WR and QB know what's going on with each other that is the TD is so badly wants to be.
Routes are a great hidden thing that only stick out when they are totally obvious, and about 80% of them never get tested. They are destined to be a feelingsball kind of thing.
HE STARED DOWN HIS GUY THE WHOLE TIME. Yeah. So did Travis Wilson.
This is a route against man coverage on which no fancy robber zone is ever going to impact you. The only guys looking at the QB have no shot at defending the pass. Stare away.
HE SHOULD HAVE USED THE INFORMATION FROM STARING. This I will go with. Rudock's presnap read was correct. A circle route that catches pure man coverage is a tough cover. Often you're going to get a safety matching up against a much quicker guy. It is one of those things that makes a HSP like Peppers exciting: he can and should cover that. (I mean, eventually, right?)
So there is a natural inclination to think the throw you are making is a good idea. It should be discarded when the receiver ends up with a gentleman in his breadbasket. Polished offenses don't ask their QB to make this decision much, if at all, because the guy is open; this is an offense in Hoke rehab.
FIRE GRANT PERRY. This goes back to FIRE BRADY HOKE, man. Hoke recruited zero slot receivers after Dennis Norfleet, and barely any receivers, period, after the Darboh/Chesson class. Thus your two slots in this game were both true freshmen.
Perry looked exactly like a promising freshman in this game, which is to say he looked pretty good when not making boggling errors. I do not know why Hoke thought he could create a football team that never needed a little receiver to pick up third and medium. You'll have to tune in to SiriusXM to find out.
/shorts SiriusXM stock
CAN WE GO BACK TO PEPPERS FOR A SECOND HERE. Okay.
I THOUGHT HE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE CHARLES WOODSON. Life as a nickel guy is tougher than life as a boundary corner, because as a boundary corner you can just line up and—if you are as athletic as Peppers is—put them in the, you know, boundary. Having to go both directions is more difficult, and Peppers could have done better with it in game one.
Also: game one. He'll get better. Probably with rapidity. Meanwhile, can I interest you in some screens?