Upon Further Review 2012: Offense vs MSU

Submitted by Brian on October 25th, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Formation notes: MSU's defense is very simple, with few substitutions or wacky formations. They spent most of the game in a 4-3 even with linebackers shaded to the slot. Like so:


Shotgun 2TE twins for M

They would go into an okie package with two deep safeties on passing downs:


Shotgun 3-wide for M

When Michigan split their WRs this was the preferred look:


Also shotgun 3-wide

MSU screwed their corners down into press man and walked their safeties up to about nine yards deep, ready to roar downhill at any run action. You won't get any bubble complaints from me in this game—it wasn't there.

This is "Ace Triple Stack" as a reminder:


Yes, throwback screen obvs.

Substitution notes: Few surprises here. Line all starters; TE rotation about as it has been. No RBs other than Toussaint and Smith made appearances; Gardner was not announced as a starter and got a lot fewer snaps than he has previously. Speculation is he's carrying some sort of injury. Joe Reynolds got his first snaps in a heated situation—all were runs. More about that later.

Shew shew.

[……IS BEHIND THE JUMP! There are lot of embeds this week and I've gotten some complaints that UFRs bog people's browsers down—hmmm wonder why—so taking most of the junk off the front page should help in that regard.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR DForm Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB sweep Robinson 0 – 9 Pen
Funchess(-2) stacked behind Gallon to the boundary. He's supposed to crack down on Gholston; Gholston is slanting behind as soon as he sees the pull and gets between the two pulling linemen. He picks off Mealer; Funchess does not abort and slams into Schofield. No lead blockers left save Toussaint, free run for Bullough. RPS -1; attempt to be clever with this run pattern just ended up having two Michigan players thwock into each other and let Gholston shoot a gap. Lewan(hypothetical -2) picks up a dumb personal foul the refs probably let go if this game didn't feature thugtastic MSU play last year.
M9 2 19 Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 1
Gallon comes in to take an end around fake; likely not a read. Barnum(-2) dominated by the NT. Lewan(-1) whiffs a free release block on Bullough; slot LB is crashing hard so Funchess can't do anything about it. Omameh(+1) has to set up in the backfield to deal with that LB and chucks him past the play, giving Denard what would be a crease if not for the playside OL not being able to block anyone. Almost another RPS -1 but they at least had guys who could block enough people here to get some kind of gain.
M10 3 18 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Run Inverted veer give Toussaint 10
Three man front with linebackers in the gaps and safeties playing back. Ends up being no contain for the handoff, so it's handed off. A give up and punt, though, so no pluses handed out when the opposition doesn't even care.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 10 min 1st Q. Michigan at least picks up 17 yards on the exchange of punts.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M19 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
No MSU player deeper than nine yards. LBs charging at snap; Norman meets Toussaint(-1) two yards in the backfield and Fitz gets clocked. Safety filling hard forces Denard away from space, safety still tackles at the LOS. RPS -2, safety tackles at LOS and linebacker makes contact with slight RB in backfield. Omameh(+1) and Schofield(+1) had blown up a playside DT and walled off Bullough; Kwiatkowski(+0.5) kicked the other DT. Nice hole, well blocked, no chance. Picture paged by BWS.
M19 2 10 Ace triple stack TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Gallon 22
Jackson motions away from the stack before the snap. When that happens the safety backs out and Norman scoots over to give MSU two on two near the LOS, and then MSU busts something. Gholston chases the lame handoff fake; Norman is charging inside and upfield, which is weird because what is he going to do? He runs himself out of the play to such a huge extent that two offensive linemen run by him before his lightbulb goes off. Schofield(+0.5) misses a running lunge at an MSU safety but did so in a position that gives Gallon(+1) an interior lane as Omameh(+0.5) got the easy seal on Norman. Roundtree(+1) has locked up the CB. Fuggin' Bullough manages to track it down twenty yards downfield as Gallon attempts to cut it back outside Roundtree. Jebus. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
M41 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run End around Gallon 3
Funchess(-1) in the slot; he cracks down on nobody, letting Norman fly by. Omameh can't get outside on him anyway and probably isn't supposed to since on a pull he would need to kick it out. Playside DE flares to contain. Toussaint blocks him, S attacks hard and comes inside to tackle at the sticks. RPS -1, safety tackle at LOS.
M44 2 7 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 1
MSU tips double A gap, M runs into it. Like, directly into it. Kwiatkowski eats Norman a yard in the backfield and Denard has to cut behind. Barnum(+1) buries the backside DT; Kerridge can't cut Gholston as he redirects back inside—he's blocking him as if Toussaint has the ball. Robinson can dance for a yard or two. I do not know if this is a read or not, but I have to assume it is. Denard (-1); hand off after they tip they're blitzing into your face. Lewan(+1) had a badass block on the backside DT, which helped this get across the LOS.
M45 3 6 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass TE out Kwiatkowski 10
For whatever reason MSU's coverage here is very soft on the edge versus the two TE setup. Funchess hits the LB, then releases into an out; Kwiatkowski just runs an out and turns it up for a first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 under Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson -3
Reynolds in. Run. Look at this formation for MSU! There is one guy anywhere near the two receivers, a smash combo or curl/flat is guaranteed yards. They're treating Reynolds like he can't go downfield. MSU blitzes six guys. Michigan has a veer variant on where they're reading someone to the interior and blocking the end. I don't know what Denard's(-3) looking at, but whoever he is looking at is inside and he should hand, because it's that safety versus a Kerridge block and Toussaint.
O48 2 13 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Screen Toussaint -2
M catches a double A gap. Robinson has to throw the ball over the DL; it's high and tough for Toussaint but soft and still caught. MSU safety splits Mealer(-1) and Omameh(-1) when those guys can double team the guy and Toussaint is gone to the safety level. (MA, 2, screen, RPS +2)
50 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Cross Gardner 8
Stunt gets NT instantly past Mealer and in Robinson's face as Mealer(-1) and Barnum(-1) miscommunicate and get split. Barnum does realize it in time to push the guy past Robinson, who steps into the pocket nicely as Mealer engages a stunting Gholston, who slips to the ground. DEs now coming down as the movement has robbed the tackles of blocking angles; Denard's got no place to run, must throw. Deepest route currently 12 yards downfield on third and fifteen, Robinson gets what he can. (CA, 3, protection 0/2, Mealer -1, Barnum -1). RPS -1... no routes past sticks and play picks up eight useless yards when you're just going to punt it into the endzone from here anyway.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 4 min 1st Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M16 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 4
Allen moves to the LOS as Gallon goes in motion, MSU blitzes off the corner. Corner blitz is the contain, Allen goes at the pull. Toussaint(+1) adjusts and slashes him to the ground impressively. Lewan(+2) shoves a slanting Gholston past the POA and ends up pancaking him. Barnum(+0.5) locks out NT White, but he was slating anyway and that's easy. Now just Denard versus unblocked MLB; he can slide inside thanks to the Lewan block. RPS -1; took two great blocks to gain four yards against unblocked MLB.
M20 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 0
Double A gap blitz. Funchess(-1) gets shed by Allen; Mealer(+1) picked up Bullough pretty well; Omameh smoked by a DL going upfield but given the play he can't do anything about it so not sure that's so bad. Ditto Lewan; Gholston waved an arm at Denard's legs as he went hard upfield. RPS -1.
M20 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Seam Dileo 22
MSU sends six. M just about picks it up. Schofield(-1) beat by Rush one on one, who gets slightly delayed edge pressure. Robinson finds Dileo going vertical past the first layer in the zone. His throw is a bit high but okay; Dileo makes a nice catch and holds on as a safety bangs him to the ground. (CA, 2, protection 2/3, Schofield -1)
M42 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass Skinny post Roundtree Inc
Michigan runs play action for the first first down pass of the game and MSU doesn't even bite a little. Something is tipping this for the Spartans, and that thing is not pulling an OL. Robinson gets time, throws terrible pass that is deflected and could have been intercepted by two different Spartans. (BRX, 0, protection 2/2) Nobody open, but should have run it.
M42 2 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass Throwback screen Smith -1
MSU has this scouted, I'm guessing, since I form with Vincent Smith in the backfield is this play a lot. S sets up at the line, moves to LOS on snap, fends off Gallon. Not really Gallon's fault. Mealer(-1) peels off to try get this guy and still can't. That's still a two for one there and the corner is now totally unmolested. Safety has split the blocking quickly enough to make a tackle on the catch anyway. (CA, 3, screen) RPS -1; MSU clearly waiting for this.
M41 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie two Pass Dig Dileo 15
Dileo gets chucked by Allen; he manages to get into his route; Denard throws this as Dileo is breaking inside, which means it's there before the safety is or Allen can recover from the chuck. (DO, 3, protection 2/2)
O44 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 38
Reynolds in, run. MSU brings a run blitz to the boundary, where there are no M blockers—the TE is covered up and cannot go downfield—and relies on a playside slant to cover for the two guys crashing on the backside. Michigan wins everything. Schofield(+2) takes a DT moving across his face on, seems to lose it, and then shuffles around him to finally cut him off from the hole. Tough, tough block, Omameh(+0.5) kicks the end. Kerridge(+1) thumps Norman at the POA; Toussaint(+2) reads all this and shoots the small gap provided. Mealer(+1) got White. Williams released to the second level immediately and walled off Bullough(+0.5); Reynolds(+2) initially cracks down on Norman but when he sees he can't get him he releases downfield and chops the filling safety out of his pants. NO PANTS. Toussaint into the secondary, getting an extra plus for fending off Lewis for 10-15 yards and running through an ankle tackle. RPS +2.
O6 1 G Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint -6
This isn't on Borges or Denard, IME. It is Kerridge(-2) running by the containing DE, who isn't containing all that well and should be sealed on the handoff. Denard's give looks correct. Once Kerridge goes past Toussaint's got no shot because he's on the edge and the safety is charging. Toussaint gives up a couple more yards but it's not really his fault. If Denard keeps he's got a blitzer in his face. 
O12 2 G Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 5
MSU's DTs do a good job of not getting split here. Robinson has gaps between them and the ends but he has to go somewhere other than directly upfield, which takes away the second level blocks. Omameh(-1) could have helped by not giving as much ground but this is kind of a tip your hat kind of thing.
O7 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Throwaway N/A Inc
Double A gap. Toussaint whiffs his block—why is he even in the game when you have Smith—and Denard gets instant presure from Allen. He backfoots one well away from receivers and defenders alike. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Toussaint -2)
Drive Notes: FG(24), 3-0, 10 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB sweep Robinson 4
Funchess(+0.5) gets a seal on the playside end but can't really anchor and ends up giving a lot of ground; Denard has to continue outside. Mealer(+1) and Omameh(+0.5) blow up the playside DT. Barnum(-1) releases downfield but is too vertical and ends up allowing Allen to run past him. When Denard finally cuts upfield around the numbers, Allen is there to meet him. Schofield was looking for someone to block but asking him essentially turn around and get Allen is asking a lot. Allen's ability to get to the hole from the backside of the play is impressive.
M25 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over Run Zone read keeper Robinson -3
Barnum(-2) busts as the line tries to run an inside zone. He whacks the backside DT, who Lewan is trying to whack, as Mealer steps past the NT, and the NT gets a free run up the middle. Denard pulls, which is probably not right since Rush is containing but since the DT is right in the middle of where Toussaint's supposed to run, I get it. Unfortunately, Mealer recovered enough to shove the NT past the play and Toussaint would have been able to get a few yards. Denard is now up against the containing end and Taiwan Jones, who blew past Jackson since he gets to attack up the middle.
M28 3 9 Shotgun 4-wide 1 0 4 Okie two Run QB draw Robinson 2
Barnum(-1) reads a stunt late and lets Gholston through; Smith just latches onto him as he comes through and Denard has to step up, through the outside of the pocket away from blockers. Omameh(-1) never bothered to release downfield. RPS -1, stunt blew this up and send Denard into an unblocked MSU LB.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-0, 3 min 2nd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M30 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass PA quick post Dileo 35
Michigan sends Funchess inside up the middle of the field as Smith comes for a mesh point, and the two interior OL combo the NT out to Allen; one M lineman is two yards downfield, which is in the zone where they don't normally call an illegal man. They don't here. The run action is successful at pulling up both interior LBs; Jones freezes, too, as do both safeties. Dileo hits a crease between those two guys, Denard nails him, big YAC before Dileo is run down from behind. (CA+, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +3)
O35 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 4
Double A gap. Mealer(+1) has his head up and sees it coming and thus can take Bullough. Smith(+2) hits the right spot and puts his head into Allen's midsection, clearing the way up the middle of the field since the DTs shoot outside on this blitz to maintain gap integrity. The safety is sitting on this, though, and Roundtree can't get to him before he shoots up and tackles Robinson. Tough blocks, four yards.
O31 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Slant Roundtree Inc
This is open; Allen just manages to deflect it with an outstretched finger. Not much you can do about this as an offense. (BA, 0, protection 1/1)
O31 3 6 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 4-3 over Pass Fly Gardner Inc
Robinson has time, and throws it at a well, well covered Gardner, whose crappy route failed to get him over the top of a DB in nose to nose press coverage. Should have checked down to Smith. (BR, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: FG(48), 6-0, 1 min 2nd Q. Hail Mary at end of half not charted.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 8
Barnum(+1) buries Kittredge, the playside DE. Rush is containing. Kwiatkowski(-1) whiffs on an aggressive Bullough but Omameh(+1) can come around and kick him out. Mealer(+1) sealed off the other DT so there is a lane inside. Lewan(+0.5) gets an easy hop out on Allen; Norman and White converge some yards downfield. Safeties not actually at LOS!
M33 2 2 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inside zone Toussaint 5
MSU shows the double outside run blitz. M runs pretty much at it. Mealer(+1) pushes the slanting DT to Barnum(+1), who kicks the guy and seals him. Omameh(+1) gets movement on Gholston and when he tries to shed to the outside he has vacated his gap and Toussaint(+0.5) niftily cuts behind that block. He trips on Mealer's legs just as he's about to contact the safeties.
M38 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even press Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 14
MSU shows press man on the WRs and slides the LBs away from the WR side. LBs flow hard but it looks like there's a gap as Barnum(+1) seals Kittredge again and Kwiatkowski(+1) gets his Bullough block this time; Lewan is moving out to Allen but too much traffic to get there. This would be a nice gain; instead it's a very nice gain because Gholston(mental -3) goes nuts, shoots five yards upfield, get pushed past the play by Schofield(+1), and Denard (+2) reads the massive cutback lane provided and takes it. Bullough almost comes through but cannot make the ankle tackle. Denard WOOPS Lewis and is a step from touchdown time when Allen makes a last-ditch tackle. Stupid fast Denicos Allen mutter mutter. MSU's CB(!) is offsides; declined.
O48 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inside zone Toussaint 3
They go at White this time and things go less well. He stands up to the momentary double; Mealer(-1) does not step around him when given the chance and Omameh has to peel quickly since Allen is coming downhill fast. Toussaint(+1) runs through White's arm tackle. Schofield(+0.5) and Williams(+0.5) have doubled Gholston and blasted him three yards downfield, so Toussaint can burrow for a few. He might have been able to bounce outside that block if he wasn't busy not getting tackled by a 330 pound guy.
O45 2 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Toussaint -3
Gah, they leave Gholston unblocked and he splits the mesh point with his hugeness and athleticism. Mental +2; reminder that leaving him unblocked is a bad idea. Mealer(-2) lost White on a stunt and Denard is going to eat a TFL if he keeps, so he gives in case Toussaint may not. Toussaint gets around Gholston; Gholston slows him. He then cuts back behind Allen; Bullough took a should-have-been sealing block from Schofield(-1) and came under it and now tackles for loss.
O48 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Pass Slant Roundtree Inc
Rush package in with six in the box; S Lewis shows blitz then backs out into a deep zone presnap. Double A gap blitz gets through; Mealer(-1) gets smoked by Bullough and while blocking him wouldn't have prevented the pressure it would have bought Denard another beat or two. M has a couple routes under it that are now open and 50-50 for the first down depending on safety tackling; Denard turfs a slant. (IN, 0, protection 0/2, Mealer –1, team -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-0, 12 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even Run Iso Toussaint 0
Kerridge(-1) whiffs on Bullough. Mealer(-0.5) and Omameh(-0.5) cannot get control of Kittredge. Barnum(-0.5) does an eh job with White; no one really gets out on Allen because of the messed up frontside double and Toussaint eats both LBs essentially unblocked.
M33 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even Pass PA quick post Dileo Inc
MSU adjusts to this after one attempt, possibly keying on Funchess being in the game. Two LBs are focused on leaping for this pass; Bullough gets it. (BA, 0, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
M33 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Post Roundtree Inc
Another stunt. Barnum latches on to Gholston in a disadvantageous position; Smith(-1) runs by it instead of helping out. Barnum does a good job to keep pushing, which allows Robinson to step up in the pocket after Gholston tries a diving tackle attempt. Robinson now has to get rid of the ball because he knows Gholston's about to get up behind him, so he just fires it. It's a hard throw at a blanketed Roundtree that... wow. Is just off Roundtree's fingers. Anything not off Roundtree's fingers is a PBU for Dennard (not that Denard). So... yeah. (CA+, 0, protection ½, Smith -1.)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 6 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M28 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass PA hitch Gallon Inc
Gallon beats a falling DB; at the last second White surges into the throwing lane and gets a finger on it. (BA, 0, protection 2/2)
M28 2 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even press Run Down G Toussaint -6
Michigan blows something here, taking both guys lined up over the playside DT and pulling them. Unblocked guy is unblocked, tackles; no read here. Lewan -3. Must be. Everyone else is blocking for Down G.
M22 3 16 Shotgun 4-wide tight 1 0 4 Okie two Pass Post Jackson Inc
Gholston times the snap and gets a good speed rush on Schofield(-1). Schofield does do an okay job to go with him and not make it horrendous. Robinson has to step up but can. He's now rolling to one side of the field, short Roundtree route covered. He could run for a few and probably should—Allen will track him down and force a punt—but instead just bombs it deep to a bracketed Jackson. Given the situation, whatever. An INT here is a punt; Michigan is punting on an incompletion anyway. Um. I guess this is (IN, 0, protection ½, Schofield -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-7, 3 min 3rd Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M43 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even Run Inverted veer keeper Robinson 12
Allen blitzes straight upfield, shooting the backside gap. Barnum(+2) does a great job to realize it, peel off his frontside block, and engage Allen. It's barely from the side, a lot from behind, but they never call that in the tackle box. Denard(+1) manages to cut behind the falling Allen. That's not what MSU expected and Bullough has to redirect. This gives Denard a window. He runs through two ankle tackles from unblocked guys, gets a block from Mealer(+1), and trips as the ankle tackles take effect at the same time he decides he wants to cut. RPS -1; took a miracle to get yards here.
O45 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Pass Out and up Gardner Inc
PA fake does nothing as line pass blocks all the way. Doesn't matter as Gardner's out and up gets him open forty yards downfield. He starts running backwards(?) as Denard throws it to him; he has to leap to bring it in but maybe you shouldn't be running backwards, mmm? It's in his hands 40 yards downfield, CB impacts, ball comes out. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
O45 2 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 over Pass Flare Toussaint 5
Little flare thing on which M starts blocking the playside LB right away. Denard's throw holds Toussaint up a bit, robbing him of his momentum. He stops, goes inside of the pursuing defender, and picks up a few. (MA, 3, protection 1/1)
O40 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Cross Roundtree 15
A cover four beater where Gardner takes the corner deep and a slot from the other side drags across the field to come open underneath it. Robinson reads it and soft-tosses it out to Roundtree. Throw is a little low and outside,borderline CA/MA, but does keep Roundtree on his feet. (CA, 2, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB iso Robinson 2
No funny business, just the pure old iso. Omameh(+1) and Schofield(+1) club Kittredge and engulf Bullough. Smith(-1) gets clocked by Allen in the backfield and goes backwards; Robinson(-1) goes outside of that block instead of remaining vertical and probably gives up a few yards.
O23 2 8 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even Pass PA wheel Funchess 13
Again not very effective PA but also a cover four beater as Gardner takes away the corner with a deep post and neither the playside LB or safety can get over to the quick wheel route in time to defend it. Robinson rifles it to Funchess in stride; he's cut down by the safety. (DO, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +1)
O10 1 G Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 7
Different scheme for M on the run here; I think this is what they were trying to do on the -6 yarder above. Lewan(+1) buries the playside end as Kwiatkowski(+1) releases into Bullough and controls him. Barnum(+1) pulls around and bangs the playside DE back, nice hole for Toussaint. He hits it; Norman and the backside DE flow down to tackle as he nears the goal line.
O3 2 G Ace 1 3 1 Goal line Pass Fade Funchess Inc
Goal line set with a late move of Funchess out to WR and Incredibly Surprising Funchess Fade debuts. This one's a bit short and broken up. Not awful, good D, could have been better. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)
O3 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 2 2 4-4 even Pass Slant Gallon Inc
Funchess starts in the backfield and goes on a wheel route that draws two defenders, wide open Gallon, ball hammered in behind Gallon and dropped. I get the ref/LB arguments but Gallon's so open that you just need to flick it to him gently. RUTHLESSNESS (IN, 1, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
Drive Notes: FG(20), 9-7, 13 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Shotgun 2TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even press Pass Comeback Gardner Inc
M pulls Barnum on their PA fake, which draws the LBs up... and they release no one downfield, leaving just the two WRs. Pocket's good, but there's no one open, no running lane, no leaking for a dumpoff. Coverage good everywhere, Denard eventually throws at a covered Gardner; meh throw since it should be outside, Gardner bumped off it, PBU. Victim of no-check since this is plain dumb to run against obvious man D. (MA, 1, protection 2/2, RPS -1)
M25 2 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 44
Kittredge shoots out of the hole on the snap. Barnum(+1) did get a pretty good shove. All other DL eliminate themselves. Denard to second level with Toussaint as a lead blocker. Toussaint(+1) bangs Allen effectively. Dileo(+0.5) gets a shove on Bullough; Denard(+3) cuts behind those two blocks, then cuts outside a safety. Jackson(+1) gets a block on Norman to provide the edge. Roundtree(+0.5) gets an easy block downfield and Denard is jetting for six. Lewis and fuggin Bullough have the speed to cut off the angle. Denard could get another five or six but steps out. RPS +2, easy hit.
O31 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run Down G Toussaint 6
Lewan(+1) blocks down on the playside DT and blows him out. Barnum(+1) pulls around and kicks out Rush well. Big gap. Kwiatkowski(+0.5) gets out on the MLB. Kerridge(+1) plows Norman and moves him back, eliminating him one on one. Roundtree(+1) does crack down on hyperaggressive safety this time. Corner dragged to the hole makes the tackle.
O25 2 4 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson -3
The worrrrst substitution tip ever. WRs are Reynolds and Jackson and Gallon on the outside. MSU runs a double A gap at a QB iso, which doesn't work so good. Gholston left unblocked(!) as Kwiatkowski moves to the second level to block no one since both LBs have blitzed. Toussaint tries to pick him up, Denard cuts behind, unblocked blitzing Allen tackles as Denard moves EW. RPS -3; blocking was as good as possible and M still lost a ton of yards and Michigan tipped this HARD.
O28 3 7 Shotgun trips stack TE 1 1 3 4-3 even Penalty False start Roundtree -5
O33 3 12 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 nickel Pass Post Roundtree Inc (Pen -10)
Schofield(-2) blown by, holds, legit call. Denard moves up in the pocket, but again knows his timer is expiring. He again has no one open at all and just chucks it deep because why the hell not. There is no running lane here, if you're interested. Pressure induced throw with absolutely no one open, best case scenario here. (PR, 0, protection 0/2, Schofield -2, RPS -1). MSU takes the holding call.
O43 3 22 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 nickel Pass Fly Jackson Inc
MSU with three guys way deep at the snap. Allen stunts and gets under the guards. Smith manages to get a shove on him and Denard steps up past five guys into a big pocket. He's got no one in front of him and can take off, instead he chucks a ball to Jeremy Jackson. Sort of. It's way, way too long. (IN, 0, protection ½, team -1). If he takes off he almost certainly gets in FG range. Meanwhile, ugh Jeremy Jackson on a deep route.
Drive Notes: Punt, 9-10, 3 min 4th Q
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 4-3 even Run Inverted veer give Smith 12
Somewhat reminiscent of a play Illinois ran last year where Scheelhaase kept unwisely and then just followed the RB to pick up a nice gain. On this one, Denard(-2) gives for no earthly reason; Smith(+1) cuts inside into a gaping hole and actually picks Denard up as a (not good) lead blocker. Lewan(+1) blew up Kittredge and Omameh(+1) kicked Bullough; Allen had flown into the other gap as MSU blitzes. RPS +2; if Denard actually keeps here this is one on one with a safety for all the points. Man, when MSU is not hyper aggressive they are not able to deal with the ground game. Also Norman gets sucked outside the hash because of the trips setup. Gallon(+0.5) and Dileo(+0.5) combined to take out a safety. Picture-paged.
50 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB draw Robinson 0
Barnum(-2) is not covered up and doesn't get anyone coming to him, so he just stands there. At some point he's got to either help Mealer(-1) with White, who chucks Mealer and gets into the gap straight upfield, or go block Allen. Instead he stands at the LOS. When Robinson cuts outside thanks to the White play, Allen shoots up into him; Robinson cuts backupfield directly into the stationary Barnum. Extremely frustrating since Gholston had shot way way upfield and if Barnum gets even a crappy block on Allen this is as big, big gain. RPS +1.
50 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Pass Scramble Robinson 0 (Pen +5)
Gholston jumps offside. M rolls away from that and tries to use a smash concept to get either Dileo or Gallon open; MSU covers it. Denard runs OOB at the sticks. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2, RPS -1, no open receivers in two man route)
O45 2 5 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Dumpoff Smith 3
Double A gap sort of picked up; Toussaint(-1) attempts a cut block that Allen leaps over. He's got no momentum, giving Denard a brief window to throw but now he's just got to get rid of it. Smith is the checkdown, ball is deflected by the DT but still caught. Smith may have been able to turn up for the first down or get OOB without the deflection. Given the negative outcome of the play I'll file this as batted despite the completion. (BA, 2, protection 2/3, Toussaint -1)
O42 3 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even Run QB power Robinson 2
Oy. Omameh(+1) and Mealer(+1) blow up and pancake Kittredge, the playside DT. Funchess(-2) is blown back by the DE—both DEs are backups—and that guy is two-gapping him a yard in the backfield. Bullough hits the gap fast and Norman is coming down too hard for Dileo to do anything about. Denard(+1) doesn't like the frontside gap and cuts behind. Safety charges up and is dodged; Allen gets Denard; Denard manages to lay on bodies and extend for the first down. Denard's knee does look down for what would have been fourth and one, but they uphold the initial ruling.
O40 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 4-3 even Pass Flare Toussaint -1
Gardner double covered deep; Roundtree runs a fly on the other side, Dileo just kind of stops. Dink flare the only thing open, and it's not open. Toussaint should at least get a couple yards and OOB but the pass is again deflected. Toussaint catches the ball anyway, losing a yard and staying in bounds, oy. (BA, 3 I guess, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
O41 2 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Okie two Pass Angle Dileo 20
MSU stunts Allen inside; Michigan picks it up but Allen is driving past Barnum into the heart of the pocket. Denard starts a roll, then stops, finding Dileo as a window opens up since one of MSU's linebackers stopped when Denard did and the other did not. Denard moves up in the pocket and fires a dart that hits Dileo in the chest 20 yards downfield. (DO, 3, protection 2/2) HEYYYYY SEXY LADY
O21 1 10 Spike 1 1 3 4-3 even N/A Spike N/A N/A
Ball to turf.
Drive Notes: FG(38), 12-10, EOG



I mean…




But they won.

Mos def.

Ford Prefect?



I feel like we've gotten too deep in this UFR without complaining about Borges.

I was just going to say that.

But they won, I mean.


So. It's tough to judge Michigan's offense so far because there's been little middle ground. They've obliterated the #53, #72, #84, and PROVISIONAL BUT AWFUL defenses (in total yardage terms) of Illinois, Purdue, Air Force, and UMass. They've struggled—to say the least—against the #1, #5, and #6 defenses of Alabama, MSU, and Notre Dame*.

Just eyeballing it, though, Michigan's played three of the best defenses in the country and no one else worth a damn except sort of Purdue. It's similarly hard to judge MSU's defense. They've kept everyone they've played around 300 yards save OSU and their 380, but the offenses they've played have all been weak save OSU (40th yardage) and Indiana (25th, still Indiana).

So… I don't know man. No one has really done better than M, so there's that. OSU's 383 yards were offset by a –1 in the interception battle… but Denard tossed one directly at a linebacker, so that could be even.

It did seem like OSU had a more replicable way of matriculating down the field. They racked up 5.4 yards a carry with a long of 20; whatever they were doing it was more consistent at bashing out a few yards here and there than Michigan's TFL explosion of a day. So… for whatever reason, Michigan has a worse offense than OSU. Probably.

I'm still not hearing any complaints.

Okay… man, that thing about "not getting into a chess match at the line of scrimmage" is a depressing thing to hear. It's hard to believe Michigan walked into a game against a high profile defense and just decided they were going to run into whatever they called. You're not in a chess game because you tipped your king over before the play. A couple of basic checks to quick pass plays that MSU is not aligned to would back them off, force them to change up their defense, etc. Maybe Denard just can't handle it—Rodriguez was the guy checking at the line in 2010. If he can't that's another obvious transition cost from trying to jam him into a square peg.

Even setting aside the audibles, Michigan did few new things. There was a veer variant discussed below. They broke out a slight variation on their outside sweep play (they pulled a playside guard (down G) for a quick hitter) to get Toussaint his 38-yarder and some smaller chunks late. That was about it.

I mean, you know Michigan State is spending a crap ton of time scouting you. I get frustrated when Michigan goes run run run run against super aggressive safeties and then pulls out the world's most half-ass play action on their first first-down pass of the game. Run something that looks like QB power and then back out of it and I guarantee you won't find Denard chucking a BRX into two defenders, because they won't be there. When Michigan did go to authentic-looking play action they hit a big play that would have been a touchdown if Dileo was a little bit faster.

The gameplan, to me, was a little too Carr. Carr tipped plays with WR substitutions. Carr kept doing boring things in the teeth of stacked defenses to make the above plays more likely to be safe and successful; RR and pre-ND Borges mixed stuff in more frequently in an effort to keep the defense off balance. Carr wanted them leaning forward at all times, it seemed.

I get it. I mean, first time Denard has a chance to throw a horrible horrible interception on the half-ass play action he tries to throw the horrible horrible interception, and Carr won a lot of games. I'm just hoping they let out the sails a little more against teams who can put up points.

ALL THAT SAID, Michigan's RPS metric in this game was dead even. 18 up, 18 down, zero. Michigan put together its field goal drives late by taking the edges of the field on cover-four beaters, like this Funchess wheel route:

That's what I was talking about when I was like we need to test the outside of the field. That area is going to be open when you've got aggressive man coverage  on the outside and linebackers preoccupied with the run. Borges did get around to exploiting it, and then got Denard an easy touchdown when MSU overreacted to that exact route from Funchess on the Gallon miss. And at this point we don't now what the head guy has said to Borges, who for all his coachspeak is a guy who knows chicks dig the long ball.

I'll take even RPS and run given Spartan Overpreparation. What about the next guy?

*[I'm not going to bother looking up the advanced stats here because right now they're pretty ludicrous—Michigan has a top ten offense in S&P+ largely because it has played Alabama, which is why Arkansas is second, Ole Miss eighth. Maybe they'll pass a basic sanity check by the end of the year; right now no sale.]

Denard: good bad what I don't know tell me?

He had a tough day, though one significantly aided by the MSU D.

[Hennechart legend is updated. Hover over column headers for quick explanations]

2011 through MSU 13 66(12) 11(1) 34(1) 17 2 3 10 4 55%
2011 after MSU 9 77(9) 7 17 9 6(1) 5(2) 9 5 69%
Alabama 4 15(2) 1 4 3* - - 3(1) 1 71%
Air Force 1 14 3 2 1 - 2 1 - 75%
UMass 1 16(4) - 4 - 1 1 1 3 68%
Notre Dame 4 10(1) 2 4(1)* 2** 1 1 3 1 65%
Purdue 3 7(2) - 1(1) - 1 2 - - 73%
Illinois 3 6(2) - - 2 - - - - 78%
MSU 4 9(2) 3(1) 4 2* 1 5 2 - 48%

[I'm putting little asterisks in for BRX or INX plays now. One per.]

Oof on that DSR. I'm not sure how much of that is Denard and how much is MSU, though. Two of the INs were deep bombs to Jeremy Jackson on third and forever as Denard was getting moderate pressure; he probably should have taken off on the second. The first was a whatever kind of thing because he wasn't getting yards on the ground and had no one open.  One of the BRs was a deep throw to Gardner on which the corner had dominated the route. And the BAs are bad things to happen that also happen to be almost entirely out of the QB's control.

While you'd like to see Denard be able to adjust and turn some of those negative plays into scrambles or dumpoffs, the fact that Michigan receivers not named Dileo couldn't get an inch of separation all day mitigates the numbers above. Denard hasn't been particularly vulnerable to batted passes—he's never had more than a couple in a game before—so a lot of this can just be chalked up to one of those days against one of those defenses.


Denard's reads were terrible!

Yes and no. A number of plays that looked like bad reads were probably not reads at all given how fast the mesh point comes and goes. Michigan ran a play that looked a lot like the veer in the first half, handing it to Gallon on a jet sweep action, but on that play Toussaint blocked the containing end, allowing Gallon to cut inside of that guy (and get like three yards when a plunging safety redirected to tackle.) Michigan doesn't usually do that on the veer.

Others were damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situations where MSU had blitzed or Michigan's OL had busted and both options were bad. For example, he pulled on a negative-three yard run despite the contain being there because Michigan had let a nose tackle shoot upfield without blocking him. A couple drives later he gave to Toussaint despite Gholston containing because a DT had stunted past Mealer and was going to blow him up.

But you know that Reynolds play highlighted in the Picture Pages? It was either going to be a six-yard loss or a huge gain if Denard handed off instead of keeping:

Either the safety gets upfield in time or not, and he's flying directly upfield on the snap. Kerridge is there to block him and Toussaint will have to pick a side. If it's the outside, he's sailing a long way. Denard is not reading the end, he's reading someone inside, and whoever it is in no position to defend Toussaint.

SCREWED UP ZONE READ IDENTIFICATION PROTIP: one second after the guy with the ball gets it he starts following the guy without the ball.

On the flipside, after seeing it live I tweeted out that Denard had to keep on the six-yard loss that turned first and goal from the six into a field goal, but now I think that was the right read.  The goal line play again saw the end blocked… or he was at least supposed to be blocked.

Denard appears to be reading the safety. Meanwhile, Kerridge arcs out to block the end and runs by him. If that block is made Toussaint probably has the edge and Michigan is in the endzone. BONUS REASON FOR ASSERTION: Reynolds in the slot.

The single Smith carry did leap off the page as a WTF moment—so much so that BWS picture-paged it.

Screen Shot 2012-10-22 at 2.23.55 PM[1]

Oy. Got a block, though.

That play reminded me of a similar "oh crap" moment on a zone read last year. Here's Nathan Scheelhaase turning a bad read into a nice gain:

In Michigan's case the roles of the QB and RB are inverted. Heiko got all excited about that and asked if they'll put it in the playbook because it's cool, and got shot down. The Scheelhaase version of it is more plausible because the RB is the lead blocker. I'll believe a play with a QB designed to be the lead blocker when I see it. Other than that Nebraska quick toss, but that had Burkhead as the QB-type-substance.

That was possibly the worst successful two minute drill ever.

This is how it went down:

  1. 2:00 – Michigan runs inverted veer give to Smith that should have been a keep, gets 12 yards. Clock stops at 1:54 to move the chains.
  2. 1:45 – Michigan snaps the ball for a QB draw that picks up zero yards but probably should have gotten many. Denard tackled at 1:41. Clock rolls.
  3. 1:21 – Michigan rolls the pocket; Denard finds no one open and runs OOB for no gain; Gholston hit with offsides call. Clock stops at 1:14.
  4. 1:14 – Double A gap blitz only partially picked up; Robinson checks down, gets pass deflected, Smith gains three and does not get out of bounds. Smith is tackled at 1:10. M substitutes. Denard does not get call from sideline immediately.
  5. 49 seconds – Michigan snaps the ball, runs QB power. Denard extends for the first down with 43 seconds left.
  6. 32 seconds – Refs call for a review of the previous play, uphold it.
  7. 26 seconds – Michigan snaps the ball six seconds after a video review! Flare pass to Toussaint is deflected, caught, augh. 21 seconds are on the clock when Toussaint goes down, takes a second or two for Michigan to decide to take TO, clock stops with 18 seconds.
  8. 18 seconds - Robinson to Dileo. Twelve seconds are on the clock when the refs stop the game to move the chains.
  9. 9 seconds – spike, FG, exhale.

So Michigan spent a total of 70 of their 120 seconds with the clock rolling in-between plays. Some of those were unavoidable. It took ten seconds for Michigan to snap the ball after Dileo hit the turf on the spike; for a play you're actually calling you may need another three to five seconds. Let's be conservative and assume 15 seconds is the reasonable minimum between snaps. The refs are setting the ball for play eight seconds after a first down; you should be able to snap the ball the second it's ready for play on the review.

Under that assumption, Michigan could have had an extra 23 seconds on the clock before second and 11. 41 seconds is forever; 18 seconds is basically two downfield shots and then you're rolling with whatever field position you've got. This same profligacy cost Michigan in the Iowa game last year when they got down to first and goal from the two and did not have enough time to even think about or threaten a run.

That's without thinking about the playcalling. That… well, I'm actually fine with that. Borges was unlucky when two throws to tailbacks moving to the sidelines were deflected but still caught for minimal yardage inbounds—the worst case scenario. The zero-yard QB draw was extremely likely to get a first down if Barnum gets the play call. The QB power was necessary to get the first down.

So the tempo is the whole complaint here. I'm not sure what the issue is here but when Michigan is substituting and clearly still getting the play in after a run (whatever happened to that whole call two plays in the huddle thing?) I doubt it's on the players much, if at all.

But hey, it worked! Barely! And by almost killing everyone in the stadium!



Offensive Line
Player + - Total Notes
Lewan 6.5 4 2.5 Busted huge on one 6 yard loss, otherwise good.
Barnum 9.5 8.5 1 Tough time with White, couple blow-bys suffered.
Mealer 8 6.5 1.5 Around even usually, which is meh.
Omameh 8.5 3.5 5 Had a lot of Kittredge duty.
Schofield 6 1 5 Rush, a smaller guy, didn't give him much trouble.
Kwiatkowski 3 1 2 Needs moar playing time.
Moore - - - DNP
Williams 1 - 1 Eh.
Funchess 0.5 6 -5.5 Guhhhhhhhhhh
TOTAL 43 30.5 58% A little subpar, but pretty close to that 2/3rds ratio. They hit it without Funchess.
Player + - T Notes
Robinson 7 7 0 Reads missed.
Bellomy - - - DNP
Toussaint 5.5 1 4.5 Got some blocks, hit a hole.
Rawls - - - DNP
Smith 3 2 1 Saved the bacon late.
Hayes - - - DNP
Hopkins - - - DNC
Kerridge 2 3 -1 Oof missed goal line block.
TOTAL 17.5 13 4.5 Plays limited here.
Player + - T Notes
Gardner - - - -
Roundtree 2.5 - 2.5 -
Gallon 1.5 - 1.5 More touches more touches more touches x2
Jackson 1 - 1 Bounce-back.
Dileo 1 - 1  
Reynolds 2 - 2 DNC
Darboh - - - DNC
TOTAL 8 - 8 A big reason why the overall YPC numbers are okay.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 33 13 72% Schofield –4, Toussaint –3, Mealer –2, Barnum –1, Smith –1, Team -2
RPS 18 18 0 I'll take it.


Well, they did okay. Schofield was good, Omameh as well; three guys had meh outings, and then Funchess was really bad. Here's Lewan (probably) not blocking down on Kittredge on a Down G:

Kittredge sucks but you still have to block him. Here's what they were trying to do.

And Funchess is a receiver right now. His blocking is pretty much what you'd expect from a 6'5" 225 pound freshman.

I'm surprised they gave him as many at-bats as they did against MSU since he announced early that there wasn't anyone on that D he could block.

Schofield had another good day against the run and appears to be rounding into form somewhat—he did get nailed for a hold against Rush that was pretty bad in pass pro. The big Toussaint run came about because he sealed a guy slanting past him on a big run blitz:

That's a hyperaggressive version of the slanting we've been talking about recently where the two guys who would flow behind to clean up slant cutbacks are already where they're going on the snap, which means it's hard to get anything unless you crease a guy. Schofield's ability to do that above was the best block of the day.

Caveat: Kittredge was a huge liability for MSU and a lot of Michigan players took turns beating his head in. Still.

And a shout-out for the WRs, who didn't pick up a minus and paved the way for the two long long runs that kept Michigan's YPC above five(!) in a game against a tough opponent. If Reynolds doesn't plant that safety and a bunch of WRs don't help out on the long Denard draw and those plays are held to around ten yards, Michigan's YPC drops from five (woo!) to three (glargggg).

Speaking of wide receivers…

[Passes are rated by how tough they are to catch. 0 == impossible. 1 == wow he caught that, 2 == moderate difficulty, 3 == routine. The 0/X in all passes marked zero is implied.]

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Gardner 1 0/1 0/1 1/1   11 0/4 1/4 14/15
Roundtree 3   1/1     8 0/2 3/3 9/10
Gallon 1     1/1   7 0/1 3/5 14/14
J. Robinson           1 0/1 0/1 2/2
Dileo     1/1 3/3   1 1/1 3/3 5/5
Jackson 2         3     3/4
Kwiatkowski       1/1         3/3
Funchess   0/1   1/1   2 2/3 1/2 8/8
Toussaint     1/1 2/2     0/2 1/2 4/4
Smith     1/1 1/1       1/2 4/4
Kerridge             0/1    

Most notable thing we're getting is Gardner's inability to catch anything that's not routine. Usually receivers have a pretty good rate on 2s.


The Threat, Drew Dileo. Um, sort of Denard. WR blocking.


Sort of Denard. Funchess's blocking was a problem.

What does it mean for Nebraska and the future?

I don't think Michigan is going to be able to get away with keeping the car in the garage for so long against a really good defense that happens to have even a mediocre offense paired against it, but… I don't see any of those on the schedule. Teams just trying to not get burned are a lot more cautious and I have to imagine that's where Nebraska is right now. Michigan was an ankle tackle away from big yards several times, and Lavonte David isn't stepping through that door.

I assume we'll see more of the same against Nebraska until such point as it stops working, which may not actually occur. At some point Michigan does have to ease back off the MANBALL throttle a little and let Denard throw some slants and outs and hitches just to keep people honest.

Michigan's personnel is what it is at this point. The line did a pretty good job against a tough DL and should be able to keep winning the battle until OSU; the receivers are unremarkable at best; Denard is a shoddy grenade factory—something explosive is happening, but you don't know to whom.

The season might come down to another few moments like we had at the end of the MSU game where Michigan's conservatism has put them in a do or die situation it doesn't seem like they have to be in but for the long shadow of the first half of Notre Dame. Pack your whiskey.



October 25th, 2012 at 6:03 PM ^

Not to nit-pick. A couple in the play descriptions looks like they got missed.

Don't know what you're using to find/tag all these videos, but if you run this jQuery selector:


From Firebug or Chrome Dev tools it will give you a nice list of all non-lightboxed youtube video links.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:02 PM ^

I have watched almost every OSU snap this year, and I have little doubt that OSU's is better, though not by a large margin.  Fortunately, Michigan's defense is much better than OSU's. 

Michael Scarn

October 25th, 2012 at 4:30 PM ^

On the Gallon jet-motion that was picture paged earlier this week, I so badly want a swing pass thrown to gallon after the fake when he gets past the end/linebacker/safety, or even better yet, a wheel downfield.  SO many times he gets forgotten about by a defense when he doesn't get the ball.  He may get chipped by someone expecting him to have the ball, but once that defender does so, he has his momentum heading in the wrong direction and wouldn't be able to catch up with Gallon.  


October 25th, 2012 at 4:36 PM ^

Michigan's primary offensive problem, in my thinking, is the total absence of playmakers apart from Denard. Denard is great, but he has some limitations that defenses can gameplan for, and there is nobody else on the field that can punish them for this.

One of Denard's flaws is that he does not throw in-stride deep balls that receivers can catch wtihout turning around. When teams like MSU play tight to the LOS and key their safeties on stopping the run, deep passes like this are available if your QB can hit them.

Alternatively, you can have a receiver who can win jump balls or to be so fast and skilled at route-running that he becomes "oh wide open" and an easy target. Last year, Junior Hemingway was a deep threat because he was better than anyone else at adjusting to and catching those passes. This year, despite the move of Gardner and the emergence of Funchess (note that he was the guy they threw a fade to) that player does not yet exist. 

Thus, Michigan does not punish teams for slacking on the deep ball. We're not unique in this--MSU tried, and except for one pass, failed to punish us in the same way, and for much the same reason. They don't have great playmakers or a great deep-throwing quarterback.

For an example of what a great deep ball can do for a running QB, note what Cam Newton and Tim Tebow were able to do when called upon to throw deep.

It's nothing that's the fault of a coach or even a player; it's just what the team is.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:07 PM ^

is one of my favorite players on this team, so don't take this as an insult to him, but:

Gallon is a good receiver, but he would not have started for Michigan on just about any team pre-2009.  He has great hands, decent moves and ok speed, but his size is a limiting factor to some extend, and his lack of top end speed keeps down his numbers.

Again, not a knock on the guy - as you said, he is our best playmaker - but that only shows how talent-deficient this team currently is.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:31 PM ^

Man, you are dead-on today.  This year has shown me the drastic difference between the type of players that Rodriguez likes in his offense verses the type of players that are required of other more "normal" offenses.  Very eye-opening, this is.



October 25th, 2012 at 5:36 PM ^


I like Gallon too, and he is a useful player who does a lot of good things for the offense, but looking at him just from the perspective of Michigan's history of playmakers, he doesn't measure up.

I hope they keep using him for end-arounds, but he doesn't have 4.3 speed. Nobody we play has to worry that if they miss one tackle on Gallon, he'll take it to the house. No tackler fears getting embarrassed by his superior elusiveness.

And while he's a good receiver, he's not great. He's not super fast, he doesn't get himself "oh wide open," and I can't think of a single deep jump ball he's won and turned into a big play this season. 

He's good, but he's no Steve Breaston, or Braylon Edwards, or Mario Manningham, or David Terrell, or Marquise Walker, or Adrian Arrington, or Jason Avant. 

We don't have anyone of that caliber on the outside. Fitz, for whatever reason, is not forcing defenses to gameplan for him either--he's not as good as Mike Hart or Anthony Thomas. 

Now, I think a true spread guy could do a better job of putting these players in position to succeed, but it's not like Borges is putting a restrictor plate on a team that is incredibly talented. Frankly, given the situation Hoke walked into, the fact that this coaching staff has extracted the results it has from a team that, by Michigan standards, is as un-talented as it is merits nothing less than total awe.


October 26th, 2012 at 6:35 AM ^

You wrote: "No tackler fears getting embarrassed by his superior elusiveness." Did you see that punt return where he didn't just fair catch the ball? As an "in space" player I think Gallon is right up there in recent UMich history. Maybe not Breaston, but not too far away.

I basically agree with michgoblue's original point, but only because UMich didn't run a lot of spread under Lloyd. I think Gallon is very well-suited to the slot position. Too bad there isn't a reliable way to get him the ball there.

One other thing about Gallon: Watch him run and move. Very smooth, very tight ... I agree that his speed is far from intimidating.

Aside: Do any winter surfing up there in Duluth?


October 27th, 2012 at 9:37 AM ^

Apparently you didnt see Gallon juke three defenders on that return punt....  I noticed it live and it was impressive as they get.  One move was an ankle-breaker.....so, I gotta disagree with your comment " Nobody we play has to worry that if they miss one tackle on Gallon, he'll take it to the house."   That statement couldnt be more wrong.


October 26th, 2012 at 10:00 AM ^

Can you imagine if Sammy Watkins had ended up here instead of being a casualty of the coaching change? No commentary on the search or anything implied, just dreaming about how much fun it would be to have him and Denard on the field together.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:44 PM ^

I just wish there was a little more coherence between our plays. Doesn't feel like a lot of chess being played, period.

Re: OSU, they made State's DTs look a lot worse than ours did. They based off IZ and hit Hyde consistently up the middle, with counters off their base that gave them better angles and made the State LBs more hesitant. Our equivalent of Hyde rode the pine. Also, Braxton Miller is a lot more juke-y and east-west than Denard. That served them well on plays where their blocking sucked.

Basically, they have a bunch of small differences that add up. None of it especially high risk. There may be a bit of an overall talent gap, but not huge if so. If anything they have maybe a more equitable distribution of talent in their non-QB players than we do? Same average, lower variance between players. Maybe not. Talent eval is hard.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:53 PM ^

I got the impression that OSU was using every last bit of Urbz level 20 spread running wizardry to beat OSU with in their offense. Borges is only a level 7 spread running wizard and Michigan doesn't have or practice all those permutations that Urbz was using.

Anyway, that is my lay-opinion.

Fortunately Mattison is a level 25 anti-Palidan of Offensive Destruction.


October 26th, 2012 at 12:12 AM ^

One big difference between these two offenses is OSU's ability to hit some big pass plays.  UM had it last year with Hemmingway but no one's taken over that role this year.  Usually UM's big gainers are short to medium throws that have decent YAC.

Miller's hit some big pass plays this year.  The impressive thing is that some of these throws are after the original play breaks down.  Miller has a pretty good pocket presence.  When he feels pressure, sometimes he'll tuck and run.  Other times he move outside the pocket but keep his eyes downfield.  Denard, god love him, doesn't really do either.  He's gotten better at moving a bit in the pocket, but he hardly ever tucks the ball and runs, and he almost never moves outside the pocket.


October 25th, 2012 at 4:58 PM ^

... my impression following the play-by-play was that they were all over the field, and the UFR backs that up.  Clearly the best defense we played since Alabama, probably better than OSU's will be by the end of the year.

Pulling in your horns and playing to not lose is not usually a good strategy.  If it ever is it would be on a cold rainy day against a team that will need multiple hand-of-deity plays (like, say, fake punts, circus catches on top of defenders, WR escaping your flowing-locked-defensive-god in the backfield ...) to score at all while your shoddy-grenade-factory(1) offense is facing a well-coached D designed to defeat your best plays.  Oh, look!  That's the day that you take all the grenades and gently chunk them immediately, rather than counting 3 and throwing.  Yeah, they might not get the other guy, but they probably won't get you either.

That won't work against OSU - if Miller is healthy, they can score from anywhere.  It probably won't work against Nebraska - Martinez really does look like a totally different passer.  Our D is decent, but beating those teams will likely mean outscoring them, and that means winning the coordinator chess matches.

1.  Love that metaphor.  Kudos to you, Mr. Cook.


October 25th, 2012 at 5:16 PM ^

Here's how it'd have to go down...

Run  full pace with guy 2-3 steps behind you.  Stop.  Complete 360.  Set.  Get solid block before guy pushes you into your own man for a friendly-tackle.


Its a nice theory.  I just don't know how its going to happen in practice. 

Try it yourself with a buddy and see if you can get any meaningful contact on the chasing corner.



October 25th, 2012 at 5:42 PM ^

I'm sure this was discussed ad nauseum in the picture pages, but the gameplan was simple - run, take a few shots when it was safe, don't turn the ball over, punt. 

Through luck, coaching, and Bullough family bloodlines, MSU has an outstanding defense at the moment.  There aren't any teams left on the schedule that have Lewis, Dennard, Adams, and Bullough covering tight or roaming around for misthrown footballs. 

Our base offense will do enough damage against every team remaining. If we need to or choose to take chances, those will work too.


October 25th, 2012 at 6:44 PM ^

I am forming a THROW THE BALL TO JOE REYNOLDS  fan club

Anyone want to join in? Our early demands are at least a dozen tagets between now and the Ohio game,

Junior Hemingway. He cracked my most underrated UM wide receiver list. Keeps climbing it. Pretty soon, he'll have climbed so high, he wont be allowed to be on an underated list. It's, well. telling, how much more this team misses him overall than, say, Mike Martin and RVB combined.

Block M

October 26th, 2012 at 9:47 AM ^

Anyone else cringe each time Dantonio mentions the streets and the alleys regarding our game against each other? Does that really fire a team up? Has to be one of the dumbest motivational tactics in recent memory, this isn't West Side Story.

Der Alte

October 26th, 2012 at 10:28 AM ^

Denard is a great athlete and a good kid who in his four years at M has stayed on the ball and out of trouble. He’s a great credit to the University and yes, we’ll miss him come next fall.

All that said, I recall last year that after the MSU and Iowa games much talk had circulated about Gardner replacing Denard at QB. When we gathered at the Indoor Practice Facility for a Homecoming tailgate before the Purdue game Jim Brandstatter appeared and offered a stirring defense of Denard remaining at QB saying, among other things, “you don’t take the ball out of your best playmaker’s hands.”

Another year under the same coaching regime and the discussion continues. But now the consensus, as I read it, is that yes, Denard’s our QB, but Denard has been thrust into a QB position for which he’s only marginally qualified. In the first four games this year, he threw 54 completions in 99 attempts with 8 INTs--- an average of two per game. My guess is that Brady and Al said, “OK, we’ve seen enough. From now on this is how you’ll play QB.” The coaches have dialed down their (and our) expectations and designed a QB role for Denard that maximizes his running abilities (and those of the other RBs as well, hopefully) and minimizes his throwing disabilities. From here on M might not score a lot of TDs against quality opponents, but it won’t turn the ball over needlessly, either. And this year’s resurgent D largely allows such an approach.

Yes, against the Friars Minor on Saturday Denard did make some good throws, especially to Dileo. But he missed a wide-open Gallon in the end zone and threw another into Bullough’s (I think) outstretched arms, which shoulda coulda been one more INT. The coaches know what they’re dong.

For all his athletic ability, Denard as a Michigan QB is an aberration born of the preceding regime’s spread philosophy and the current regime’s lack of alternatives. By 2014 M football should return to its true offensive course.  



October 26th, 2012 at 11:33 AM ^

Brian, have you considered adding the cumulative numbers for the year to the blocking chart, similar to what you do with the receptions chart?  I think it would be interesting to see how the UFR numbers for blocking compare to how each player has performed over the course of the year.