Picture Pages: Exploiting The Lack Of A Scrape Exchange

Submitted by Brian on October 15th, 2010 at 10:54 AM

In the offensive UFR I mentioned State's Denard containment strategy: they sat a defensive end out on the zone read and forced gives, causing Michigan to go away from the read in the second half. But in the first half they had some success with their tailbacks. Also scrape exchange link.

The setup: Michigan is on its first drive of the day. It's second and two near the 50. They come out in a trips formation:


They're going to run a zone read but here they'll do something a little different. Instead of looking to seal a guy they'll double team both defensive tackles and blast them back. The handoff:


Denard sees the DE keeping contain and hands it off.


As Smith nears the line the doubles start to take effect. Both DTs are getting shoved yards downfield:


Both linebackers suck up into the hole in the interior; Smith can bounce it out either way. He goes to the backside, where the containing defensive end cannot get back in time to tackle. The doubles have driven the DTs back so far that the linebackers cannot get outside:


By the time the backside DT does grab smith he's five yards past the LOS:


…and ends up with eight.



Object lessons:

  • In this trips formation you have a pretty good idea who the contain guy is. With the linebackers shaded to the receiver-heavy side of the field asking the WLB to scrape is a somewhat taller task. By alignment you're likely to read the DE unless a safety walks down.
  • A DE containing the zone read means cutbacks are more viable; this play is designed to cut back. Michigan showed little interest in  blocking the linebackers on this play because they assumed doubling the DTs would open up two large holes. One is between Lewan and the doubled DT on the frontside, the other between the two DTs. Linebackers have to fill those holes, leaving Michigan room on the backside of the play to pick up a nice chunk of yards since the only person covering the cutback lane is a otherwise-occupied defensive end. Here the driving double-team on the backside DE effectively blocks both linebackers on the cutback.
  • MSU adjusted to this and blew it up a few times. Later in the game MSU would slant that backside DT around the double and blitz linebackers into the A gaps, which stuffed Michigan on a couple of third and shorts. I didn't clip any of those but I did clip this Shaw run on which MSU runs the same blitz and gets burned:

  • MSU was probably okay with this. They bled a lot of yards early in the game and coulda/shoulda given up a lot of early points but the long drives gave them time to adjust. Michigan had to go away from this later, but not  before they saw a couple drives end when they went to the well one too many times with the 5'6" Smith.



October 15th, 2010 at 11:44 AM ^

Glad you covered this Brian.  The thought of what the offense should/would/is doing when the opposing defense contains Denard all day has been lingering in the back of my mind all week.

One thing, why didn't we use a tight end at H-back to block the defensive end more often and force the read off of the OLB?


October 15th, 2010 at 11:07 AM ^

Thanks for this.  Reinforces the fact that the game plans are good, and are working.  Just can't afford to blow the scoring opportunities.  Very optimistic for tomorrow.

Yard Dog

October 15th, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

into something bigger next year. 

Also, saw WVU run the midline several times last night.  The DT for USF was just running around lost when WVU ran it.  To echo earlier sentiments from others, I'd love to see us run this too.


October 15th, 2010 at 11:19 AM ^

to MSU's adjustment (or Iowa's if we assume they adopt MSU's approach)

MSU adjusted to this and blew it up a few times. Later in the game MSU would slant that backside DT around the double and blitz linebackers into the A gaps, which stuffed Michigan on a couple of third and shorts.

Is this where the PA slant or bubble screen come into play as the LB's are now fully sucked into the line.  That would leave the outside more free, right?




October 15th, 2010 at 11:23 AM ^

A quick question with respect to running the zone read against an alignment that includes a DE staying home in containment . . . Is there any reason to run the zone read against this defensive alignment given Denard's ability to juke out of tackles?  Maybe its wishful thinking on my part but I hate to think that MSU was able to throw Michigan off their plan.

Captain Obvious

October 15th, 2010 at 11:24 AM ^

in picture 4 it's 2 on 1, Denard and Smith (with the ball) vs. MSU DE.  What if Denard handed off to Smith, then Smith gets the DE (the contain guy) to commit to him, then Smith flips it to Denard coming around the outside?

I'm not RR so there is probably something terribly wrong with this idea.  I just can't help but notice the contain guy crashing on Smith and Denard running around him on the outside with no one out there except a CB that is being blocked by the WR.


October 15th, 2010 at 11:52 AM ^

... granted i don't really know all that much about offensive schemes, etc., was thinking that it'd be sweet if the tailback (smith) ran the option and pitched to Denard...

To me it also seems like we ran the Zone Read a lot more this game than in previous games?  Did MSU show something that made us steer away more from designed Denard runs?


October 15th, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

To me, that sounds like a terrible idea.  There's no need for crazy trick plays that have a bigger chance of failing that succeeding when the offense is grinding out 8 yards per carry.  Everyone is complaining about Smith, but if he is averaging 4.9 yards per carry like he did against MSU that correlates to nearly a first down every two carries.  Maybe I'm old fashioned, but I'll take that every day!


October 15th, 2010 at 12:01 PM ^

The DE would be in a pretty good position to bat down a pitch and force a fumble, since to sell the play Smith would have to come pretty hard at the line of scrimmage (since that's what he would usually do on this play). Normally on a pitch play it seems like the guy making the pitch is running east/west, not north/south. So unless Smith is going to run parallel to the LOS, the pitch angle would be terrible. But if Smith takes it outside, it would be difficult to get enough spacing between him and Denard to run a pitch play where the defender would be forced to make a decision who to take.

Also, RBs are not really used to pitching the ball, and QBs not used to catching a pitch.


October 15th, 2010 at 11:27 AM ^

wouldn't this have been a bigger gainer if he took it to the strong side instead of cutting back?  the three receiver set allows for a potential block on the safety.

El Jeffe

October 15th, 2010 at 11:51 AM ^

I thought the same thing, but that makes me wonder whether Smith is reading the playside LB. If you notice in picture 2, that LB is shading into the hole between Lewan and Schilling/Molk's double team:

Then, after Smith starts to cut back to the backside, he and the other LB fill the hole between the two DTs (note: it's not just Obi and Jonas that both fill the same hole!!!).

At this point, if Smith had again cut back to the playside, I bet he would have had a lot of yards, but instead he continued his cut to the backside for a gain of 8. Which makes me think (1) I'll take an 8-yard gain, and (2) holy hell will it be fun to see Dee Hart (or even Shaw) make the backside DE look silly...


October 15th, 2010 at 11:34 AM ^

I certainly recall the infamous 3rd and 1 that got stuffed in the first half, but I actually really dont remeber any other third and shorts that were stopped. Am I forgetting one?

I remember a third and medium that Denard was stopped on a QB draw in the 3rd Qtr. but I think everything else was a TO until throw every down time.


October 15th, 2010 at 11:36 AM ^

Nice breakdown.  I actually think MSU was caught off guard by the runs initially because they figured Denard would keep the ball more, and really should have suffered by more than 3 points as a result.  I will believe forever that if UM turned those first two drives into 10-14 points, that game is completely different.

Bronco Joe

October 15th, 2010 at 12:57 PM ^

I will believe forever that if UM turned those first two drives into 10-14 points, that game is completely different.

Totally different game if those first two drives result in TDs around the first stop by the defense. This has tormented me since watching the game - I continue to believe we missed a chance to win a big game and silence some of the critics.

Here's hoping tomorrow those TDs are converted and that Denard and the team show everyone that the real Iowa is the one that played Arizona.


October 15th, 2010 at 11:48 AM ^

" Michigan had to go away from this later, but not  before they saw a couple drives end when they went to the well one too many times with the 5'6" Smith."

To me, this is the one aspect of the offense that keeps bothering me.  Smith is obviously not getting it done (not criticizimg his effort, and I recognize that he may not be 100% recovered from the ACL - just stating a fact), but we keep going to him.   I can't understand this when we have Hopkins, who as Brian pointed out in the offensive UFR looked good on his limited touches, sitting on the bench.

Kilgore Trout

October 15th, 2010 at 11:57 AM ^

I was all ready to comment about how this wasn't doubles on the tackles and that Dorrenstein was one on one with the tacke.  Looking back though, if Molk and Schilling are on one tackle, Omameh must be in there.  I just thought it was funny that you literally can't see him at all in any of the shots, but he must be there. 

Number 7

October 15th, 2010 at 11:58 AM ^

As I was scrolling through the picture pages on the Smith run, I couldn't help but notice the huge hole to the left, between Schilling and Lewan.   Smith got most of the eight yards he did by being slippery, as initial contact was 2 yards past the LOS.  If he cuts left, I wonder if initial contact doesn't happen until anoth 5 yards downfield.

Lo and behold, on the Shaw run -- pretty much Shaw's only run of the day that went for anything -- Shaw bounces through the hole between Schilling and Lewan, and goes for 20 yards.

There are a lot of hypotheticals there, but I'm wondering why Smith didn't go left.  the obvious answer is that the game is played much faster than the speed at which I read picture pages, but the other possibilities are intriguing as well.

  • Maybe Smith doesn't yet trust his knee enough to make a hard cut.
  • Maybe Smith has inherited Carols Brown's (limited) vision) just as Shaw has inherited Minor's injury bug.
  • Maybe the speed of the play at the point of the handoff means that the play is essentially committed to go straight forward. (Late read effect?)
  • Maybe the short yardage m.o. is to get the first, and eschew higher risk/high reward cutbacks.



October 15th, 2010 at 12:41 PM ^

Cox? ? ? ?

And--nonexpert question--someone above mentions Smith's "slipperiness" helping obtain several extra yards on the diagrammed play. But does Shaw's "explosiveness" net us 20?


October 15th, 2010 at 1:13 PM ^

You have the fastest, shiftiest runner in college football...

and you don't even TRY to see if that gumpy DE can make the solo tackle in open space????


Rich HAS to tell Denard to KEEP that ball and challenge the DE.

MSU did not have Dwight-frickin-Freeny out there.

There is no excuse for our run game to bog down like it did.


And don't tell me we had to start passing when we got down in the game.  With our jet tempo, M scores by runnng it just as fast as any pro-style 2-minute drill in the country!

It's these little coaching failures along the way (and he's had a few now, such as getting outcoached by the ZOOKER of all people!) that could add up to RR getting the axe if he isn't careful.

C'mon Rich, I really am pulling for you. But jeez.


October 15th, 2010 at 2:35 PM ^

The role of denard is to give the ball in the zone read when the de stays home and plays contain. To say "why doesn't he just tell him to keep it anyways" is retarded.
<br>That's called a qb draw and we did that in the game.
<br>If you want to bitch about not having a counter for the contain de that's fine but caup was completely out of line with his "just let him take on that de". That's not the fucking scheme so why the hell would you do it incorrectly and get bad habits?
<br>Practice makes permanent not perfect.


October 15th, 2010 at 2:50 PM ^

go back and rewatch the ND game. Denard kept the ball numerous times and juked the ND DE out of his jock and picked up huge chunks of yards.

The objective is to move the FUCKING BALL not blindly adhere to what a play design dictates.

If the QB is so good that he demonstrates the DE can't contain him THEN YOU EXPLOIT THAT WEAKNESS.

You are a fucking asshole.


October 15th, 2010 at 4:32 PM ^

Look at the picture pages above.

#91 is trying to have his cake and eat it, too.

His positioning isn't wide enough.  He actually IS giving up outside contain, especially to a speedster like Denard.

This is proven by #91 being positioned inside enough to actually MAKE THE TACKLE on the RB!  Sorry, Tyler Hoover isn't Jevon Kearse.  He doesn't have anywhere near the speed to cover both options.

If Big White Guy is truly maintaining outside contain on Denard Robinson he would NEVER be close enough to even touch the RB.

So when Denard sees the DE cheating in like this he needs to keep it, kick in the dilithium, and zoom around that big white gump, jockstrap tumbling in his vapor trail.

This is a bad read by Denard, and the coaches should've told him that.

I rest my case.

Space Coyote

October 15th, 2010 at 6:20 PM ^

And I pray, for the sake of the scheme, the team, Denard, and the coaches that they are not telling him to keep the ball here.  Basically what you're asking is for Denard to keep the ball, be forced to beat a man who has position on him (even if he is lined up slightly inside he still would have a better angle, probably forcing Denard back inside), instead of handing to the RB like he is coached and supposed to do and gaining 7-8 yards.

It's great that you think Denard just keeps the ball, screws the scheme, and magically scores touchdowns all by himself, but that's not the way it works.  Denard has made a ton of great plays this year, but his best plays are the ones that he has stayed inside the system and then made a man miss at the appropriate time.  

There have been times where Michigan has had an HB kick out that DE and had Denard keep it on that similar type situation, that is a counter to the zone read that Michigan has used, but to say that the coaches should talk to Denard because he is giving the ball to someone who doesn't have to take on a man in a gap rather than keeping the ball and taking on a man that is focusing on him is stupid.  I hate to say it but bouje is right... that even feels bad coming off the fingers, but it's true in this case.  Your insistence otherwise is completely off base and you sound like Lionel Hutz when you rest your case.


October 15th, 2010 at 7:05 PM ^

When the DE is NOT taking a correct contain position the QB absolutely has the option to keep it and go outside.

You make it sound like I'm advising him to defy the design of the play.


The design of the read option here absolutely allows the QB to burn that DE if he is cheating too far inside.

My argument is that the DE is indeed cheating too far inside SO BURN HIM.

In fact, you SHOULD make that DE pay for blowing outside contain so that next time he immediately takes a wider position and has NO SHOT at future RB gives.


Space Coyote

October 15th, 2010 at 9:24 PM ^

Denard is 4 yards deeper than the DE and the DE is about 3 yards outside of him.  That means that the DE at and is on the hash.  That means the DE would only have to run about 16 yards for 20 yards for Denard if the DE took a straight line directly toward the side line.  Denard is fast, but that isn't a way out of position spot for the DE.


October 15th, 2010 at 9:53 PM ^

But we're talking about the fastest kid in college football.

If Denard darts outside, I'm convinced the DE is too far inside because although he has a decent angle, he would have to turn and start hauling his big gumpy white ass outside with a lot of effort to cut Denard off.  And yes, that DE "might" beat Denard to that outside spot, but since the DE is having to move so fast to the outside Denard already has him screwed.  Denard can just WOOP inside of him now because the DE did not establish proper outside leverage.

Proper outside leverage on someone WAY faster than you involves never having to move outside so hard that you are susceptible to the inside cut.

But hey, the play worked fine the way it was run, so I overreacted in my earlier posts.  But if you listen to Ferentz this week even he is concerned that his DEs might not be able to contain Denard because they might miscalculate their positioning.  That's what Denard causes. He's so freaking fast that he makes people miss who would otherwise be in proper position on just about anyone else in college football.


October 15th, 2010 at 1:34 PM ^

the point in the game where the run game bogged down.  Seemed like we were gashing them regularly in the first half, but not converting points out of it.  We certainly got away from the run in the late 3rd and 4th quarters, but I think that was somewhat necessary with the score.


October 15th, 2010 at 1:37 PM ^

make this DE commit more to the RB?  I remember Juice Williams just killing us with his fantasic ball fakes and seamless mesh-point by pulling the ball out at THE VERY LAST second.  He was the master at getting that DE to take just one small step toward the RB and then he was around the end and into the open field.  

Or, was the Sparty DE coached to ignore the RB and focus on Denard no matter what?

Just curious - Great stuff as always! 


October 15th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

I like how their LBs read run and then attack the LOS (since I never get to see this from our team).  We should anticipate similar well coached assignment football.  Here's to hoping Denard makes assignment football look silly when he makes defenders miss as he gets to the second level.