Picture Pages: Ending It, Part III Comment Count

Brian November 14th, 2012 at 12:15 PM

So. Michigan got a nice play from Will Campbell to turn second and three into third and one despite kind of conceding the first down, then saw Kenny Demens blow upfield as soon as he saw Venric Mark block a blitzing James Ross. He hewed down a Colter scramble in the backfield. Now it's fourth and two, and all the timeouts have been taken.

Michigan comes out in… this. I guess. Whatever this is. Weird is what it is.


3-3-5 WTF

Please note that Northwestern has also brought their share of weird to the party. They're in a two back set with all three WRs to the field, which means one of those slots is covered up. Michigan is seven on eight in the box, with a safety—Gordon—hanging out deep. If Northwestern can get guys blocked they should have a guy running free. As we'll see, they don't.

This has been mentioned before, but Michigan came out in this weird formation on fourth and two in an attempt to bait Northwestern into a handoff up the middle, which they successfully did.

As a bonus, the bait here is compounded by Northwestern confusion.  It does not matter what Colter does here. They're dead.

Part The First: Black Surge

Jibreel Black is shaded playside of the center above and immediately shoots upfield of said center.


This is easy for him. Just go straight upfield. It does two things:

  1. Invites Colter to hand off. That looks dangerous to him because if he's forced to pitch early by a Black surge then Roh is likely to contain the back.
  2. Forces the dive back to the backside of the play, where there are two Northwestern OL and three Michigan defenders.

In the wider view you can see three Northwestern OL releasing, with the fourth dealing with Clark.


Part The Second: Handoff Away From Strength

That looks un-promising. But here's what they'll do:


The option provides blocking strength to the front side of the play because you're letting the end go to option him; on the backside you're blocking him. Here Northwestern burns that strength as two confused guys go after Ross. A third has to cut Ryan, and there's no one for three separate Michigan defenders.


At the mesh point Colter is looking at Roh on the edge and Black surging through, which seemingly puts acres of space between the NT and backside DE. There are acres, in fact.

Part The Third: Free Train With Purchase Of Handoff




Everyone run around and do things! Be happy! And then play the dog groomers song and kill everyone's buzz. But those first 5 seconds were rad.


Things And Stuff

This was dead in every way. If Colter decides to keep he is probably going to get pushed wide by Black, maybe even have a pitched forced by him a la Mike Martin last year. If he does not…


…it's Mike Trumpy in space against Jordan Kovacs with Roh pursuing from the inside-out. We've seen how that story ends, against this team even.

That was forth and inches, this is fourth and two. I'll take my chances there.

This play seems specifically designed to defeat the option. The Black surge is going to do one of two things. One option is what it did. The other is for the playside G to block Black, likely with help from the center, and leave one guy for Ross. If those guys can combo Black a keep meets the same fate you see in the frame on the last bullet. If those guys can combo Black and the C manages a release to the second level, then you are possibly in business as you hypothetically have enough guys to block the LBs.

I don't see how that happens though given what Black does here. No one is coming off that guy fast enough to be useful. The only option that gets yards is a check.

Nothing else? Just a check? The only other way in which this might eke out the first down is by letting the backside end go, too, and having that tackle hit Demens. This may or may not work and exposes the back to Clark coming down the line; at least if he's hit by Clark it's from behind. Really, though, there's nothing.

Demens! This isn't the hardest play in the world for a linebacker but even so you can't do it any better. There's no drama after this:


No spinning out or grinding forward or sliding off. The guy just goes down, backwards, game over. That's one of them form tackles.

Cat and mouse. This play followed a series of timeouts. Michigan showed the formation they ran before the first one:


Northwestern called TO, and came out with their covered slot formation. Michigan again showed the 3-3-5 alignment…


…until everyone in the front seven yelled at Ryan to get on the LOS…


Roh had to do a ton of pointing and talking to get this to happen

…and then Michigan called timeout before a false start. As a bonus, unless the slot receiver moved after the camera took him out of the picture, Northwestern only had six on the line of scrimmage and would have been hit with an illegal formation.

So they went to it, got a TO, showed it, got rid of it, called a TO, and then ran it. The dance of doom.

A gimmick defense for gimmick times. Yeah this could get gashed by stuff other than what Northwestern ran; Michigan knew their comfort zone and had a plan to blow it up. They had plenty of problems in this game, and I think Mattison is going to have to make some adjustments to slow the Wildcats down in future years, but at the end it was Michigan who got the last stab in after a knock-down, drag-out fight.



November 14th, 2012 at 12:31 PM ^

This three-part series has been awesome to read.  I understand that three consecutive plays in a game rarely have such an impact on the outcome, but if they do in the future, I'd love to see these "sequence" picture pages return.


November 14th, 2012 at 12:35 PM ^

How do you see this play working if they ran to the field side instead of the boundary? That's a much easier block for the center (even without the slant) and then you have two lineman blocking downfield on the linebackers. The backside LBs could still make the play, but they have ot get throuhg a ton of traffic to do so, plus the RB probably wouldn't be cutting back that way to make it easier?


November 14th, 2012 at 12:54 PM ^

Mattison had the mindset of an offensive coach on this play. It's OT. You're protecting a lead, at worst you go to another OT. Run an all-or-nothing play that could win you the game.

And it did.


November 14th, 2012 at 12:56 PM ^

Is if the G chose to let JMFR go free and block Demens instead. The play might work if the G blocked Demens which causes pick to cut Ryan off from being able to make a play. Even if Ryan gets there, he is most likely tackling from the side/back, and the RB has the chance to fall forward. Then again, Mattison lining up JMFR and Demens like he did may have forced the G hand (pretty much Ryan is lead blocking Demens to the hole), and the defensive play design might have been set up to where the moment one of the two LB eats a guard, the other fills.


November 14th, 2012 at 1:39 PM ^

That's exactly my thought. Ryan would have had to circle around the pile of carnage that was the LG-Demens cut block and turn his hips to make the tackle. That would have likely gotten the first down.

I wonder what would happen if Mattison had stacked JMFR behind Demens, let Demens eat the block, and then JMFR has a free hit either way. Might eliminate a possible source of variance. Although, given the gimmicky nature of the play anyway, that probably wasn't necessary.


November 14th, 2012 at 1:52 PM ^

In the play, the three releasing lineman only hit two guys. Whether it was a miscommunication or whatever, the RG hits no one. If they each hit a guy, then either Demens or Kovacs are blocked, and Colter just has to guess properly on which one it will be and give or pitch accordingly.

It's a great play in that it forces the o-line to be perfect in figuring out their assignments, still leaves guys to make a play on each part of the option,  and forces Colter to make a decision before he can probably figure out the defense, but it was really helped by a NW o-lineman doing nothing on the play.

SC Wolverine

November 14th, 2012 at 1:02 PM ^

What an awesome series of posts these have been about an awesome performance by our great DC and his players.  No other sport has this level of intrigue to go along with the intensity.

I intend to show my linebacker son this Demens tackle as a thing of beauty.  Earlier this fall, I showed him Desmond Morgan's beautiful contain on the goal line against Sparty only to see it mimicked perfectly by my son during a key series on the high school field.  It's so great to have so many models of preparation, technique, and execution by the Michigan defense.  I look forward to pure joy in the years to come.


November 14th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

But Bo's best staff might have been in the early 80's.


Michigan's assistant coaches in 1980 included six individuals who went on to success as head coaches -- Les Miles (who won the 2007 National Championship with LSU), Lloyd Carr (who won the 1997 National Championship with Michigan), Bill McCartney (who led Colorado to a No. 2 ranking in 1990 and later founded Promise Keepers), Ron Vanderlinden (head coach at Maryland for four years), Gary Moeller (who led Michigan to three Big Ten championships and a No. 5 ranking in 1992), and Paul Schudel (head coach at Ball State from 1985–1994). The coaching staff also included Tirrel Burton, Tim Davis, Jerry Hanlon, Jerry Meter, Bob Thornbladh, Milan Vooletich.


And wiki isn't even giving McCartney credit for winning the National Title in 1990 in the AP. Must have been done by a Georgia Tech fan.  (And not even really mentioning how great some of them were as just assistants....Hanlon might be the best O-Line coach ever).


November 14th, 2012 at 1:16 PM ^

The fact that this entire post went through the coaches heads in about 2 seconds and that the players all performed correctly is mind-boggling to me.  Football is incredibly complex.


November 14th, 2012 at 1:20 PM ^

But every time I see that formation I think it's some weirdness a video game player would come up with to stymie some bad computer AI.  Three down linemen, and let's adjust them to spread out....then, not only have our LBs bunch in...but I'm going to  move them all practically on top of each other by hand by switching which guy I'm controlling rapidly. And then the blocking all goes wonky. Except this is all real football.

Blue boy johnson

November 14th, 2012 at 1:34 PM ^

Mattison is just saving face. the players said fuck all this technique and lining up properly bull shit, "we're goin' freestyle". It was all Q Wash's idea and it may have revolutionized football as we know it.


November 14th, 2012 at 1:38 PM ^

I agree with your suggestion that Northwestern knew its strength (the option) and they were almost certainly going to run it at this critical juncture.  Michigan knew that, too, and they knew that the Wildcats weren't powerful enough to do much up the middle.  Mattison split his defensive ends out wide, took the QB keep out of the equation, and left it to a) a handoff to the backup RB or b) a pitch to the FB.  Mattison wasn't going to let Colter beat him on this play.

I still think the best play for Colter to make on this was to pitch to Trumpy.  I don't think Roh would have been much of an issue for Trumpy, so it's just a matter of Trumpy beating Kovacs on the edge.  Of course, Kovacs is pretty good and Trumpy isn't fast, but I'll take a one-on-one matchup in space over a one-on-one matchup inside.  Jones didn't have a shot; Trumpy would have had a small chance of gaining 2 yards.

Blue in Seattle

November 14th, 2012 at 1:54 PM ^

schematically this play is set to defend the option and make sure that option isn't Colter. The execution of Black defeating his double team alters the equation.  I think the "baiting" part that Hoke refers to is that the QB is making his decision based on looking at the OL blocking and doesn't have the time to scan out to the LB's.  Basically things look really rosy on the backside because it appears to be so open, exactly at the point the hand off decision needs to be made.

And while I agree with the "the option was the better choice", even if Black just stalemates his double team, Roh is going to force the pitch pretty early, meaning that fullback is starting 5 yards behind the line of scrimage.  so yes one on one with Kovacs, but still far enough from the LOS that there is at least a delay while the calvary comes up, and since there were only 3 DL on the LOS, there is plenty of calvary.

All scheming aside, Demens executing the perfect tackle is what earns him the "Conan the Destroyer" moniker for this week.

I think i can still hear the lamentation of their women.


November 14th, 2012 at 2:38 PM ^

Both outside guys were on the line of scrimmage. I noticed it on tv right before the timeout. I thought it strange they would have an ineligible man split out. I guess they hardly threw the ball so there wasn't going to be anyone down field illegally though.

Number 7

November 14th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

Looks to me like Ross managed to shed both of the blockers who ended up keying on him, or at least he would have but for a hold that conceivably would have been flagged had the ballcarrier run past him while the OL maintained a grip on his (Ross's) biceps.


November 14th, 2012 at 4:33 PM ^

Everything makes sense to me in this picture pages except I have one question regarding the video of the Kovacs stop on the option from last year.  Did he switch to 32 for that game only?  I have always thought of him as number 11 and he was wearing 32 in last years Northwestern game.  Did anyone else notice that?