Picture Pages: More Throwing Rock

Submitted by Brian on November 18th, 2010 at 12:04 PM

[Sorry about the delay. Internet issues this morning.]

To continue a theme on Michigan's suddenly mediocre run game: dude, it was all Purdue's cover zero approach. Here's a play that's beautifully blocked all around and still ends up with meh results. It's Michigan's final drive of the first half; the Wolverines have the ball first and ten on their own 43.

Standard three wide from Michigan; Purdue moves their nickelback over the slot receiver and has their safeties in that no-mans-land between deep and shallow:


By the snap they're still in that shallow range; the deeper guy is only seven yards off the LOS—that's where WVU's stack keeps its middle linebacker. Michigan's going to run a stretch:


As usual the key block is the one in the center of the field, where Schilling and Molk are working to seal the playside DT. you can see above that the playside DE is not slanting inside this time and will get kicked out. Michigan is doing something weird, though: they are blocking the backside end. They've done this a lot this year but in almost all cases they've done it on inside zone plays where a cutback is one of the main ways to gain yards. On a stretch this guy is usually set free to fruitlessly chase.

At the mesh point Robinson gets contain from the safety no jk lol linebacker and hands off. Molk has already gotten across the playside DT, who is dead:


That is a dead DT. With Lewan getting a kickout Smith will have a hole to cut into. Schilling releases downfield and gets a good block on the playside LB; Koger heads outside and pulls the other safety no jk lol lb with him. Hurray yards?

Yes, but issue in the middle of the field wearing #45:


This linebacker is the guy Huyge would have released into if he wasn't blocking Kerrigan. He's totally unblocked and can run down the line as Smith zooms past dead DT and Omameh drives the backside guy yards downfield; Schilling and Koger have picked up eliminating blocks on the other LBs.


Through the hole, Smith is one on one with the LB…


…who tackles.


The end result is a play where all six Michigan offensive linemen get blocks between good and great… and Michigan gets six yards.


Object lesson type objects:

  • Generic stretch stuff. This is another example of how the stretch usually works when it works: Molk seals that DT, Lewan kicks the DE, Schilling releases into a linebacker, a lead blocker takes another one outside, and running back hits a big gap.
  • Cover zero problem reinforcement. In this particular instance blocking that backside end is a bad idea, but with eight guys in the box Michigan knows they'll leave contain to a safety and send Kerrigan tearing down the line. If Smith has to cut behind Molk he will be swallowed at the LOS. There's a nonzero chance Kerrigan manages to grab Smith from behind even if the blocking plays out like this. Michigan has a choice between leaving the MLB free or leaving a guy they know will crash down the LOS free. In this particular instance getting a block on the MLB, even a crappy-push-by-the-RB-forcing-a-cutback block, is a touchdown unless Smith gets run down from behind.

    The fundamental math is still the same: there is going to be an unblocked guy in the box and Purdue can slant and shift its defense in an effort to get the ballcarrier to an unblocked guy. On the previous example Purdue did this effectively; here they hang on by the skin of their teeth but do get it done.

  • Weather allows cover zero. BWS did a post on Michigan's only successful gotcha play, the fourth quarter completion to Kevin Koger that jump-started Michigan's final touchdown drive and was so wide open Denard could throw a wobbly underthrown duck and still have it easily complete. The pass on that play and about a dozen other hilariously misthrown balls by all four quarterbacks goes a long way towards justifying Michigan's resignation to pounding its head into the wall repeatedly. I'm sure Michigan won't do this again—not that they'll have an opportunity against Wisconsin and Ohio State, two teams that won't run cover zero much if at all.



November 18th, 2010 at 12:32 PM ^

So, spitballing here BUT -


Do we imagine that Michigan might have or be currently inserting an adjustment to this numbers game?  Immediately popping into my head is a combo of this play and our QB lead which I believe RR has mentioned as one of the staples of the offense in its current incarnation. 

Play starts the same, but after pulling the ball, Denard keeps and follows Smith.  QB/RB mesh point forces 35 to stay outside and contain, if even for a split second.  All blocking remains the same, except that Smith is a lead blocker on 45 instead of a ball carrier. 

Crease + Dilithium = Lots of cheering, even on rainy, blustery days.



November 18th, 2010 at 12:40 PM ^

This was exactly what I was thinking looking at the last picture.  If 45 is even momentarily occupied by Smith, the only thing between Dilithium and the Endzone is 57 yaards of slop.  I am curioous if the coaching staff didn't feel threatened by the Purdue offense, and were trying to limit Denard's carries (although the carries he did have seemed to require quick cuts, which seemed counterintuitive given the field conditions)

Blue in Seattle

November 18th, 2010 at 2:31 PM ^

I'm really am confused on why people don't understand this is a result of the lack of passing threat.  The illinois game was just the week prior, where they put 6 or 7 in the box and passing was open all freaking day.  And didn't depend on the QB at all, both Tate and Denard threw at will.

We already have an answer to 8 in the box.  It is a wide open receiver streaking to the end zone, just like Play #1 of the Illinois game.  A play call that is RPS +1000.

The biggest thing that helped both defenses was the weather making the play calling one dimensional.  This is also why have a two score + lead ends up with less aggressive blitzing and run stoppage 4-5 man lines, because you know the offense is going to throw.

And the biggest addition to the math is a mobile and quick QB, provided the threat to throw exists.  

Start praying for sunny dry conditions in Ann Arbor Saturday, cause we don't want to try and beat Wisconsin in a Rock throwing contest.

Blue Durham

November 18th, 2010 at 12:43 PM ^

and lineup changed when Forcier was in the game?  

Yeah, small sample size and all, but tt seems to be given that it seems Michigan is more likely to pass with him in the game rather than Denard? 


November 18th, 2010 at 2:58 PM ^

I think the point was there was perfect excution to get that 6 yards, hard to expect that on every play, and there wasn't and the result was a sloppy day with pretty poor results compared to what this offense is used to.  Brian excuses the play-calling because of the conditions compared it to what DeBord was running all the time.


November 18th, 2010 at 1:02 PM ^

Rod stayed in the 3WR set.  Conditions were such that passing wasn't much of a real threat - pulling a WR and adding a RB to the backfield for blocking would have made it much easier to run.

I want to suspect the reason for this is that the triple option with a pitchman will be a new package Rod's been working on for  Wisconsin and/or OSU, and he didn't want to tip his hand prematurely.  Perhaps not likely, but something I'll look for.


November 18th, 2010 at 1:24 PM ^

I can be on-board with this thought process.  RR and Magee have shown, repeatedly, that they're capable of making adjustments once an opponent's defense has "figured it out".  Although, some short passes into the flat would have been a nice counter, to keep the Purdue DBs honest (IME).  But, then again, what do I know?


November 18th, 2010 at 4:33 PM ^

Hey coach Rod, how about that Cam Newton?  Let's talk about Cam F***in' Newton for 3 minutes.  Oh what's that?  Oh you also coach Michigan and Denard Robinson plays for you?  You have one of the nation's best offenses?  Oh, you're playing Wisconsin this weekend?  I guess we can talk about that too.

I hate female sports reporters