NOTE: UFR will be later than usual today, because of Dos A Cero IV. Lo siento.
BONUS: Soon to be number one in Google for highly competitive search term "mesh goofball punish." Dolla dolla bill y'all. See you on my yacht.
Michigan had seen enough of Notre Dame's maniac linebackers by the second quarter to expose their aggression. On their drive after ND had kicked a field goal to make it 17-13, M opened with four straight runs.
The one tailback touch in there was a one-yard loss on power. A Notre Dame linebacker shot the gap, meeting Kyle Kalis two yards in the backfield, and Toussaint bounced it outside without having any hope of doing something out there. The other three plays all worked because they used Devin Gardner's legs to punish the overcommitting Notre Dame defense. Each of these plays could have been a 35-yarder.
- Michigan fakes inside zone, has Gardner run for 7.
- A false zone read keeper breaks outside for 35.
- Toussaint stuffed for loss of one on power, holding on Houma.
- Inverted veer keeper for nine, phantom holding on Miller.
One of them did go for 35. We discussed the veer keeper a bit in the last picture pages post: it sucked a Notre Dame linebacker well into the backfield and may have been a touchdown if Funchess didn't spin around.
The opener is an interesting play; it follows.
Michigan has it first and ten from their 37 and comes out in a pistol 3-wide formation. Notre Dame goes with their 3-4. (I swear ND was mostly a 4-3 team in this game.) Shembo is tight to the LOS over the tight end with Day next to him. ND has two deep safeties and Jaylon Smith in the grey area over the slot.
Michigan will show inside zone, with quickly aborted doubles on Nix and Tuitt forced by the usual hard reaction by the ND linebackers.
Michigan has a blocker for every guy in the box, which means they have one extra gap than the defenders have players… unless Smith gets involved, which he will if ND can fill right. Notre Dame is trying to fill every gap to the boundary and rely on Smith to clean up anything that bounces to the wide side of the field.
Mesh point time, and you can see that Toussaint is already heading to the back side of the play.
Now, I don't think this is a read.
I think the read is still part of the playbook, as earlier in the game Michigan had run an old Rodriguez staple: belly, where you run what looks like inside zone but is really a north-south attack on the rear of the line. That would have worked out just fine except that Gardner saw this…
30 is running real fast at Toussaint
…and handed off. If he kept this is a monster gain.
But this one isn't a read. There's no one to read, and Michigan's using Toussaint as a lead blocker. Remember that old botched Scheelhaase run that turned into a nine-yard gain as Scheelhaase just said "screw it, he's a lead blocker?" Al Borges has taken a liking to something like that. When Michigan went pistol diamond last year, their favorite play was a sweep that kind of looked like inverted veer but had only a token mesh point and used that back as a lead blocker. You know, this:
This play does the same thing, and boy does it work. By the time the mesh point is past, ND's linebackers have buried themselves in the line:
and the second level sings: "ain't nobody here but us chickens"
Unfortunately, Michigan's blocking on the edge here is poor. Funchess just kind of put his shoulder into Shembo and Lewan's lost Day to the outside. Michigan has to spend Toussaint to pop Shembo and get Gardner the edge:
Still, that's a lot of room out there…
…as long as Jeremy Jackson gets a finger on the cornerback. Doh.
Shembo comes off his second block of the play and makes a tackle, but it's still seven yards.
Items of Interest
The next play was even simpler. They didn't use Toussaint as a lead blocker, blocked the backside end, and just had Gardner take off:
The linebackers were gone as soon as the run action happened and the safety trying to fill was late because Gardner was raining hot death upon them; he got picked off by Dileo anyway, leaving Jaylon Smith on the edge, who'd chased Dileo in coverage. Gardner just sped past him. Devin Gardner is fast.
Wide receiver blocking isn't about blowing people up, it's about vaguely getting in the way. A lot of people noticed Jeremy Jackson putting a Notre Dame defensive back on his back on Gallon's drag route touchdown, and we have of course lionized Jehu Chesson with nicknames and gifs. But most wide receiver blocking is an uninspiring compromise: the defensive back maintains contain and the wide receiver makes sure he can't constrict all of the space by holding him at the numbers.
So all Jackson has to do on the one is make the defensive back run around him and that's probably enough to get Gardner the extra yard of space he needs to run past Shembo and test the safeties on a big gain. That he doesn't is pretty bad.
He does get a block on the 35-yarder, and that's a help when Gardner's trying to outrun pursuit from the inside:
Jackson also had an opportunity to seal the edge defender on the counter pitch to Norfleet and couldn't do it; he had a poor day as a blocker.
This drive was going to be a touchdown as Borges gutted the ND linebackers, but fate intervened. Borges went back to a traditional run play after these two, just in case the Irish linebackers were chagrined. They were not, and Toussaint made a bad decision to bounce when Notre Dame had set the edge. That resulted in a loss and a holding call. On the next play, Michigan actually options a guy on the inverted veer and shoulda/coulda had a touchdown if Funchess would just climb to the safety; this comes back with another holding call.
The first hold was weak, the second nonexistent, but then Michigan's in first and 30 and starts throwing it around. The ball clangs off Jeremy Gallon's hands in the endzone on third and ten, and ND can regroup a bit.
I should note that Borges had been screwing with the ND linebackers for chunks of the game before. The Norfleet counter pitch saw virtually no one within 15 yards of him; there was a reverse; Gardner probably had a read on that belly play above that would have been a big gain. Michigan just didn't execute until this drive.
These are a quintessential rock-paper-scissors plays. There are four relevant blocks on the first play, one of which (Toussaint's) gets executed at all. Michigan still gets seven yards because of the playcall against Notre Dame's aggression. If one more gets executed, Gardner may still be running.
The 35-yarder has… one block? I think there's one relevant block, Jackson's. Funchess is vaguely harassing Tuitt, but Tuitt runs himself out of the play, as do the linebackers. Dileo's guy can't get there. So, yeah, one block for 35 yards. RPS +3.