Upon Further Review 2013: Defense vs Nebraska Comment Count

Brian November 14th, 2013 at 5:08 PM

FORMATION NOTES: Michigan abandoned the two-high look for most of this game in favor of seven or seven and a half man fronts depending on whether Nebraska was in standard or three-wide personnel. Against 2TEs and a back:


Against three wide they would often go with a straight up 4-3 under on plausible run downs. This is a four-wide formation on which Michigan has 4-3 personnel on the field (that's Cam Gordon over the slot) and only gets out of their 4-3 under because Nebraska splits a TE.


This is a wide shot of a fairly typical one-high setup:


All of this was great for jamming up Nebraska's inside run game and very bad for option pitches.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: Avery and Furman started at safety, with Wilson frequently subbing in. He was in the same role Bolden was, essentially a third starter. Thomas Gordon did not play. Countess went out in the first quarter, which put Dymonte Thomas on the field in the nickel and Stribling on the field on all downs. Lewis played only a little early and then was out.

Linebackers were the usual. Ryan/Gordon at SAM, Ross/Bolden/Morgan three guys for two spots at ILB. On the line, Jibreel Black(!) was your starting nose tackle with Washington rotating in. Henry and Glasgow were at the three tech, Clark went almost the whole way at WDE with Ojemudia in a clear backup role, and the same thing happened at SDE with Beyer and Wormley. On nickel packages, Taco Charlton came in as a DT. This was probably not a good move.

[After THE JUMP: 17 points should be good enough.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Black 0
Starting line is Beyer/Black/Henry/Clark, with CGordon, Bolden, Morgan. Black(+1) goes around the backside of the C, C initially lets him go and then goes oh crap and tries to peel back to block. This is mostly too late. Black is flowing and forces it outside. Beyer(+0.5) is not giving ground against a single block and even gets a little motion his way. CGordon(+1) holds the edge and then rips back inside to tackle(+1) the passing back; Bolden(+0.5) had hit one of the releasing Gs back and would be there to clean up if necessary. It's not.
O25 2 10 Shotgun twins H 4-3 under man Run N/A Speed option CGordon -5
Furman over the slot with single high Avery. Michigan looks like its about to get gashed because they've got no one on the edge but CGordon(+1) sets up and eventually convinces Armstrong to cut it up. Maybe he flows inside out if there's a pitch and holds this down but there's an awful lot of space out there. Bolden shoots upfield of his guy and draws a two for one but really gives up the edge by doing so, which will cost Michigan in the near future. Black(+1, tackling +1) comes through, again shooting behind and around the OL's zone responsibility with quickness most nose tackles don't have. Usually plays with this big a minus are more pluses somewhere but this feels like an Armstrong error more than anything amazing, though Gordon did make his choice hard.
O20 3 15 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Post Furman 27
Nickel line is CGordon/Black/Charlton/Clark. LBs here drop to the first down line and throw is over them, caught at 22 yards, gotta be on Furman(-2, cover -2), who is not there in time to prevent a big play conversion. At least he tackled the guy. On replay Furman seems to suck up on the outside guy's route, which he cuts off. Spielman thinks it's on Bolden but I think he's got anything under 20 yards, which is fine, right? I defer to him(-1). Pressure -2, BTW.
O47 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-4 under Run N/A Zone stretch Countess 4
M rolls down Furman, Nebraska runs at that side. Clark(+0.5) is playside DE and kind of gets sealed inside but knocks his guy back off the LOS and gives Morgan(+0.5) a window to shoot here, which he does. Nebraska seems to blow an assignment as two guys go for Furman; Morgan flows free and forces a bounce into Countess(-0.5, tackling -1), who is totally unblocked because his guy cracked down on Furman; Abdullah just about makes him miss; he's stumbling as Morgan comes from behind to take him down.
M49 2 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 5 Fade Countess Inc
M late getting lined up and again going with one high and many in the box. Nebraska goes at Countess, oddly, with Bell running a fade to the sideline. M's blitz is picked up (pressure -2). Countess's coverage is very dodgy, as he never looks and seems to think this is going back shoulder, but he ends up contacting Bell just as the ball arrives, vaguely, and I guess this is a push?
M49 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 5 Throwaway Countess Inc
Countess gray area; could drop but also could blitz. M does a good job not to tip anything, Nebraska checks, Countess and Morgan are sent with DT Charlton(!) dropping. Abdullah takes Morgan, Countess(+1, pressure +3, blitz) has a free run that hits QB as he throws. RPS +2.
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
M48 1 10 Pistol 2TE twins 4-3 under Run N/A IZ cutback Furman 5
Designed IZ counter with the H back shooting just inside the backside T as OL works to seal guys to frontside. Henry(-1) gives too much ground and makes it easy for the H-back to get out on Ross; M is blitzing Furman(-0.5, tackling -1) behind the play and he fills at about two yards; Abdullah jukes him. Ojemudia(+0.5) is the force guy and is useful enough to prevent this from becoming a huge problem and Furman rescues a full minus by recovering to tackle. RPS +1; should have had this for a minimal gain for unblocked guy.
M43 2 5 Shotgun twins H 4-3 under Run N/A Zone read delay bubble Countess 6
A triple option zone read play with the bubble on the edge I'm filing as a run. Ojemudia comes through to harass the QB from the inside and Ross, over the slot, comes up to contain. This creates a throw to the WR; Countess makes contact with his blocker at about three yards and escorts the WR OOB after the first down. RPS -1; M didn't have a good answer for this except hope Countess makes an amazing play.
M37 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even spread Run N/A Inside zone read Ross 7
Both DTs take play long double teams. Ojemudia is the contain for Armstrong. Ross(-1), somewhat shaded over a TE slot, is reacting quickly but takes a false step and that hesitation turns his impact from straight on to to the side, and that's not good when it's Cross vs Ross. Henry(-1) got blown down the line to make this a one on one matchup and Cross runs through the Ross tackle(-1) to get a nice gain.
M30 2 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even spread Pass 4 Out Taylor Inc
Avery slides down for a one high look. Taylor is playing way, way off his guy and Nebraska takes the easy out for the first down... except it's a mediocre throw and dropped. Cover -1, RPS -1. Same thing will happen at the end of the game, except Nebraska won't drop it.
M30 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 5-1 nickel Run N/A Speed option CGordon 18
M shows, check from Nebraska, they bludgeon this alignment. CGordon(-1) is again the guy on the edge that's optioned. This time he blows up Armstrong, which is an easy decision for him to pitch. He does so. Bolden(-1) again goes straight upfield, eliminating himself, but really he had little shot at this anyway. Abdullah wide open doesn't meet slight resistance until ten yards downfield. RPS -3. Not even sure I should minus Bolden since every M LB faced with this makes the same play.
M12 1 10 Pistol 3-wide H 4-3 under Run N/A Power O Heitzman 3
Heitzman(+0.5) squeezes down and creates a nice grim pile for everyone; Ryan(+0.5) powers through a block to initiate a tackle with help from Bolden(+0.5).
M9 2 7 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 under slide weak Run N/A Power O Morgan 4
M shifts line to field, away from strength of formation, and shifts LBs that way too. Avery is just behind the LBs, so maybe they've got something on to cover what looks like a big gap. That is, I guess, the idea, as Morgan(+1) shoots the gap on power hard, making contact and shedding the pulling G, forcing a bounce. Clark(-1) has given way too much ground to make this count, unfortunately, and that bounce is there for Avery(-0.5, tackling -1), who impacts Abdullah at two yards and gives up two YAC despite Morgan having already gotten Abdullah off balance.
M5 3 3 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over Run N/A Inside zone Henry 1
Nebraska checks; M checks in response to a more man look with a guy shaded to a potential speed option side. Nebraska goes IZ; Black(+1) digs between his double to get playside; Henry(+1) does the same; both guys make slowing contact as Cross tries to split them; Morgan(+1) takes on his OL, gets under him, and arrives to finish.
Drive Notes: FG(21), 0-3, 8 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O44 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide H 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Washington 0
This mesh is so quick it doesn't seem like a read and that's a problem as CGordon is sliding down and would be vulnerable to the QB popping outside. That's because M is slanting and folding back Ojemudia; bet a dollar Bolden blows his assignment here by not scraping outside to contain. But anyway. Armstrong hands; Washington(+1) blasts his dude in to the lane; CGordon(+0.5) comes down from the edge to tackle when the cutback is attempted. RPS +1.
O44 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even spread Run N/A Midline zone keeper Morgan 11
LBs side to the field with Wilson coming down over the short slot. Wilson spends about five seconds presnap trying to tell Furman what to do. Irrelevant, but interesting. Nebraska lets the NT go as they run a midline zone read; M responds with a double A gap twist blitz from the linebackers. This works beautifully, with Washington chasing the back and forcing a pull while Bolden absorbs a lineman and Morgan(-3, tackling -2) jetting unfettered into the backfield, whereupon he misses a TFL and turns a big loss into a first down. RPS +3. Mattison had 'em.
M45 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout out Lewis 8
Rollout to the field, another soft corner, another easy out, this time Nebraska does execute, albeit barely. (Cover -1, RPS -1).
M37 2 2 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Glasgow 2
This gets a first down but on second and short M has to play it straight and they do a pretty good job of it. Washington does get sealed away as the NU line doubles him but they take a long time and he gives his LBs a chance. Ross(-0.5) takes a false step at the start of the play, which makes it hard for him to do anything; he ends up juking and coming under an OL who appears to hold him but I can't be sure from the angle and no one ever gets that call. Glasgow does get a single block for a while and while he doesn't blow up immediately he does end this play on the ground, again from another likely hold that never gets called. So even though Clark(+1) holds up his guy and blows him up to make a tackle Abdullah can fall forward for a first down. Glasgow is making a pile that ends in a two yard run, so here is a half point.
M35 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-4 over Pass 4 PA Fly Taylor Inc
Play action gets NU all sorts of time, but you can at least understand that since 10 of their last twelve plays have been runs. Michigan in man free, NU tries the sideline against Taylor and Armstrong throws the ball OOB. Taylor(+1, cover +1) in good position; Furman seemed late but on the sideline these guys are always late. Pressure -1. Ross was about to go on a delayed blitz to sack if Armstrong didn't throw.
M35 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 even spread Run N/A Speed option Clark 12
Wilson walks down again. By this point I think I get how Michigan wants to defend the option. The end is supposed to prevent a pitch after delaying the QB; the playside LB is supposed to shoot inside of the tackle once the QB pulls, or at least that's how it's supposed to work. It doesn't here as Clark(-2) holds up and allows the pitch. Ryan(-1) gets too aggressive and allows Abdullah inside; secondary. Why M couldn't execute this all game is probably indicative of the fact that it's hard to do. RPS -1.
M23 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-4 under Run N/A Power option Clark 1
TE covered; NU checks to a pistol from a shotgun 2 back set. They try to pull the C and playside G around the playside T; Clark(+0.5) heads outside and blasts the FB, which is a two for one as a pulling G goes for him and Wilson is on the edge on the RB. Keep from the QB; Henry (+1) has driven his guy back some, making one of the G pulls awkward and allowing Ross(+1) to attack, pop, and tackle(+1) at the LOS since Henry's push gave Armstrong no room.
M22 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 4-4 over spread Pass 4 PA pop post Furman Inc (Pen +14)
M reacts well to this PA save Ross(-1, cover -1), who is two steps late relative to Bolden and provides this window. Furman(-1) is early on this and gets a deserved flag but of all the bad plays to make as a safety this one seems like the best. He's reacting, he's trying to make a play, he messes it up. I'd rather have that than timidly allowing the completion.
M8 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over pinch Run N/A Inside zone Black 8
DL pinched inside here, with three guys inside the tackles. NU runs to the over shifted side and gets M as Black(-2) goes straight upfield and is ridden out of the play. On the backside Henry is trying to flow down the line after taking a momentary double and kind of does. Two LBs meet their instant release Gs pretty well and provide a small lane that Furman(-1, tackling -1) should be able to attack and set up second and goal from the three, but he ends up catching Abdullah at the two and letting him score. RPS -1.This DL thing was busted.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-10, 3 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O26 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Black -3
Black(+2) fires off and gets into the backfield, hugging the back hip of the center as he tries to move downfield; C eventually tries to change course and do something about Black before bad things happen. RB trips on QB's feet (Kellogg gets this series). He goes down; if he got through Wormely(+0.5) and Bolden(+0.5) were in good position to stop him or force an awkward bounce.
O23 2 13 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Black 7
Black(-2) cut by the backside G and gives up a big lane in the middle. C and backside T go out to the linebackers immediately; nothing they can do when RB is cutting back to the side those blocks come from. Wormley(+1) does a nice job to flow behind, taking a conservative enough angle to tackle as Abdullah passes.
O30 3 6 Shotgun trips Nickel over Pass 4 Comeback Thomas 6
Thomas and Stribling in; no Countess. Stunt gets some token pressure, Kellogg fires a ball upfield and away from the backs that just barely avoids giving back the first down yardage. Thomas and Bolden are there in push coverage.
O36 1 10 I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power O Wormley 4
There's really nothing here as Michigan jams the LOS pretty well. Ryan(+0.5) and Bolden(+0.5) get to their guys in good position to prevent any creases; Wormley(-1) got blown up a little to provide the narrow crease available and Avery cleans up as Abdullah stumbles through the hole.
O40 2 6 Pistol twins H 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Ryan 3
Washington(-1) scooped; Henry(+1) avoids that fate and flows to force a cut behind him. Clark(+0.5) also got some penetration against a single TE block. Abudullah cuts back into the gap provided by the successful scoop; Ryan(+1) runs through the backside TE block and covers a surprising amount of ground to make an ankle tackle just past the LOS.
O43 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even press Pass 4 Pick slant Stribling Inc
This might be a little late but it's still pretty impressive for Stribling(+2, cover +2) to recognize what the traffic in front of him means in man coverage and come around it to get a PBU. Sort of. Ball through the WR's hands, but he had a play on it.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-10, 9 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O3 1 10 Ace H twins 4-3 under Run N/A Busted play Ryan -2
Busted play by NU as the TE runs into the QB and they can't make the handoff. Armstrong's running for his life and just does make it out of the endzone.
O1 2 12 Goal line 4-5 under Run N/A Power O Ross 1
M going hard after a safety; Ross(+1, tackling +1) shoots the gap caused by Washington(+1) burrowing his way through two guys and has a shot at it but Abdullah manages to fall forward. RPS +1.
O2 3 11 Goal line 4-5 under Penalty N/A False start N/A -1
It matters not.
O1 3 11 Goal line 4-5 over Run N/A QB sneak N/A 1
Okay, guys, that must be a super important yard.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-10, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Cross N/A Inc
All day (pressure -2). Coverage(+2) is good and Kellogg settles for a checkdown he misses badly.
O39 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 3 Scramble Henry 5
Henry(+2, pressure +2) splits the G and T as Ojemudia drops out, forcing Kellogg to scramble for a meh gain.
O44 3 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Rollout fly Stribling Inc
Stribling(+1, cover +1) has this at the sideline blanketed; this may actually be a throwaway. Clark(+1, pressure +1) actually leaps over(!) an attempted cut from a tailback to pressure.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-10, EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even Run N/A Inside zone read Beyer 10
Beyer(-1) is shuffling down the line and then apparently thinks Armstrong has the ball; he takes a false step to him. Abdullah has a crack to the backside of the line that Bolden(-1) exacerbates by going upfield of his blocker, creating a crease up the middle.
O35 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 over spread Run N/A Inverted veer keeper Morgan 7
This is tough for M with six in the box and Nebraska getting a seventh blocker with a slot TE. Clark contains, almost comes down to tackle. Henry(-1) splits a double but falls, Armstrong runs by him; both guys blocking him now get Bolden. Morgan also doubled. Morgan(+1) actually does a great job to come off those two guys and latch on to Armstrong, whereupon 3-vs-1 momentum takes them a lot farther down the field. RPS -1. Close to -2 but not even a first down gain.
O42 2 3 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 over Run N/A Inside zone read Bolden 2
Bolden(-2, tackling -2) sent on a blitz that gets him clean through for a free TFL shot; Abdullah spins through him. Morgan(+1) comes through traffic to make a tackle and set up third and short. RPS +3; this was basically a free TFL for the D.
O44 3 1 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A QB sneak N/A 1
M prepared for this, with both LBs attacking it one NU goes under center. Black does a good job for someone his size but he's just not huge enough to prevent NU from squeezing out a short one yard.
O45 1 10 I-Form 4-4 under Run N/A Speed option CGordon 4
M strings this out for a long time with Wormley(+1) doing good work to flow down the line a long way. CGordon(-0.5) is stringing it out too, then collapses on the QB as he threatens to cut it up and gets a pitch on his face for his troubles. Furman(-1) gets stationary and eats a block. Stribling(+0.5) comes up to escort OOB as Wormley closes down.
O49 2 6 Pistol 2TE 4-3 under Pass 4 Waggle deep comeback Stribling Inc
Plenty of time here(pressure -2) as M has no one on the edge, though understandable since NU has been so run heavy. CGordon on the short option, Armstrong starts pointing at his guy deep and throws a comeback that's short in front of Stribling and eventually dropped. Bell was open but only by a bit and took a long time, so push.
O49 3 6 Shotgun trips Nickel even Pass 4 Sack Charlton -14
Simple DT twist that Nebraska blows—they've had some OL go out in this game—and Charlton(+1, pressure +3, stunt) gets a free run up the middle. CGordon(+1) finishes. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-10, 7 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Pistol 3-wide 4-3 under Run N/A Inside zone Ross 2
M stunts playside end and T; Nebraska picks this up. Washington(+1) is driving weakside and gets depth and push to constrict the available space; stunt seems to pick off a lineman who would normally go for Ross(+1, tackling +1), who shoots the gap unfettered to tackle. This play is what Ross can do and maybe why he hasn't seemed so great this year. Few opportunities to do this working behind a middling DL and taking on blockers is never going to be a strength.
O26 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 even spread Run N/A IV QB counter Ojemudia 4
M runs this exact same thing except they usually have a TE. Ross(+2) reads it really well, bashing the pulling T in the backfield and drawing a crackback, that's a two for one and hesitation for Abdullah. Ojemudia(-0.5) is the playside end and tries to fight inside; OL holds him(refs -1) and gets away with it, at which point Ojemudia gets blown up and pancaked five yards downfield. Usually that's worse but he made a good move only to have a missed hold blow him up. Wilson is trying to fill and picks the outside; because of Ojemudia getting blown up. Henry(-1) also got blown up, creating the room that allows Abdullah to avoid Ross. All this futzing allows Beyer to come from the backside and tackle.
O30 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel over Run N/A Speed option Ryan -3
RYAN(+2) BACK? He blazes upfield; forces Armstrong inside of him, and then just misses a tackle. Black(+1) is now about to murder Armstrong; he makes a pitch; Ross(+2, tackling +1) has shot upfield of a blocker trying to get him and is no the edge to TFL; even if he's not there Morgan(+0.5) was flowing behind after beating a block of his own to get this down short of the sticks. This was blown up but it took about two and a half very good plays to do it.
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-10, 2 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O22 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Hitch Stribling 13
Another wide open hitch with DB playing ridiculously far off in cover 3. Stribling -1, cover -2, RPS -1. CGordon(+2) makes up for it by making a tackle that punches the football out; M recovers.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 10-10, 1 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O35 1 10 Pistol 2TE 4-4 under Pass 4 PA Dig Morgan 23
M bites hard; Morgan(-1, cover -1) is way out of position; Avery(-1, cover -1) is also sucked to the play action and cannot react. He gets dangerously out of position for not only this ball but a post going into the middle of the field now way behind him. Armstrong takes the shorter route which is also open. Stribling makes a nice read to disconnect and tackle(+1) immediately.
M42 1 10 Shotgun twins H 4-3 even slide Run N/A Belly Bolden 1
Looks like designed cutback with H back heading backside to pick off Wormley, the unblocked guy, and NU blocking everyone away from the cutback lane seemingly on purpose. Bolden(+1, tackling +1) doesn't pick up a blocker and thumps Abdullah to the ground for minimal gain. M slanted to the playside and Bolden was there to clean up. RPS +1.
M41 2 9 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under slide Pass 4 Out Taylor 5
Fake snap, Ryan shows blitz, NU check. M still runs it, soft corner, out run and completed. Taylor there to bang OOB on catch; five yards on second and nine is a push.
M36 3 4 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel over Pass 4 Fade Clark Inc
PA; M stunts, with Clark(+1, pressure +3, stunt) coming through unmolested. Armstrong chucks it up; Taylor(+2, cover +2) has pwned his guy and is more likely to catch it than the WR is when he stumbles and then the WR is grabbing him so he doesn't intercept. Borderline OPI flag not thrown; this was great coverage.
Drive Notes: Punt(!), 10-10, 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Rush Play Player Yards
O25 1 10 Pistol twins H 4-3 under Pass 4 PA RB seam Bolden Inc
Oh man, Nebraska gets Michigan hard here by sending the H back up the middle on a playfake and just jetting him up the seam. Stribling's taking a TE to one side; Avery's trying to bracket the WRs; Bolden(-2, cover -4) steps up and is gone. He does try to recover but the TE has about three steps on him and no safety. Beyer(+1, pressure +1) gets around a tackle and makes Armstrong throw it earlier than he wants to, and Armstrong misses, but this was a touchdown. RPS -3.
O25 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass 4 Rollout out Taylor 9
Taylor(-1, cover -1) playing soft here and gets beat easily for a near first down.
O34 3 1 Ace 4-4 over Run N/A QB sneak N/A 1
This was third and inches; they get it by a nose.
O35 1 10 Pistol FB twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power option Ross 10
M stunting DE and DT, so Glasgow is out on the edge. He's only going to be a QB guy here, no chance to prevent a pitch. Ross(-2) is that guy, and he gets fully cut by the FB. Also was moving to LOS at snap; Michigan really has no answers for the pitch here. Ross recovers and Wilson comes down to stop. RPS –1.
O45 2 In I-Form twins 4-3 under Run N/A Power O Wormley 3
This is odd. LBs are shooting to the line, not scraping to hole on G pull. Morgan(-0.5) hits Wormley(+1) in the back and kind of pushes him through the line and into the back, but he's way far inside and Ross(-0.5) is gone too. Back is delayed and has to pop outside; CGordon(+1) comes off to make a nice tackle from behind.
O48 1 10 Pistol twins H 4-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Beyer 2 (Pen -5)
Abdullah motions to the LOS before the snap, drawing an illegal shift call. Play is a stretch on which Black(+1) and Beyer(+1) both avoid a seal and flow, getting a yard or so of penetration. Abdullah has little choice but to try to crease them and Beyer comes off to tackle with an assist from the aware CGordon(+0.5).
O43 1 15 Shotgun trips Nickel over Run N/A QB draw Ross 6
Charlton(-1) blows upfield out of his lane, providing a nice gap; this play stands in contrast to a NU DT staying in his, prepped for a QB draw on a QB draw down. Tailback releases; Ross(+2) comes up, defeats his block, and tackles(+1) Armstrong in the open field to prevent a big gain. Morgan was coming from the other side to cut this down to like 13 or so and Armstrong wanted a big chunk so he tried to get around Ross; no sale. RPS -1; Michigan should have gotten burned worse by not be prepped for a draw.
O49 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel over Pass 4 Hitch Charlton 12
Charlton(-2) does not get a stunt call. Henry plows two guys back to the right, opening up a huge hole that should be attacked profitably; Charlton awkwardly goes into this mess of three players, bringing his own guy into the mix, and falls over. With Clark(+2) ripping around the tackle, any hesitation or even preventing him from stepping up in the pocket results in a hurry or sack; as it is there is no one in front of him and he can stand in and fire to Bell on a good route in front of Taylor(-0.5, cover -1). Pressure -2 despite the Clark move working. Have to question having Charlton out there instead of Black on this crucial drive.
M39 1 10 Shotgun twins H Nickel under Run N/A Inside zone Black -1
Black(+1) again comes under the center and presses from behind with his quickness. This is fortunate since it looks like Charlton is getting blown out to one side of a block and there will be a cutback if Black doesn't force the RB outside. Clark(+1) stands up a TE and sheds to initiate a tackle; Charlton(+0.5) is also there but I find this dodgy.
M40 2 11 Shotgun twins H Okie two Run N/A Speed option Furman 2
Michigan does actually have a pitch guy this time, hooray. It's Furman. Ryan is the unblocked guy on the end and goes to hit the QB; he should probably hold up a bit there. Furman(+0.5) comes down and gets juked a bit; he does force the play inside of him at the hash, where Bolden(+1) dropped out from the okie and then ran around Morgan getting double teamed to get there and tackle as Abdullah falls after his cut past Furman.
M38 3 9 Shotgun 3-wide ??? Pass 5 Rollout out Furman 7
M sends Thomas(+0.5) off the nickel at the rollout. He cuts off the outside and will get in the feet of the QB if he's not throwing right on time; he throws right on time. This kind of looks like M is intentionally baiting Armstrong to make this throw with a really soft corner and Furman coming up to undercut; Furman(-1, cover -1) hesitates on an interior route that a linebacker is coming under and cannot arrive in time to get a PBU or INT. He does tackle to set up fourth down. RPS +1; I think Mattison had this one and M did not get it right.
M31 4 2 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel even Pass 4 Out Stribling 26
Stribling and Thomas playing miserably soft on the corners; Taylor is pressing. NU takes the easy, easy out for the first down. No one is telling these guys to slide up even as Nebraska sees Michigan's alignment and checks; Mattison said he wanted to have those guys near the LOS and should have called time out. Tough in a tight game late but, yeah, he should have called TO. RPS -2. Stribling(-2, tackling -2) then misses a tackle; Thomas(-2, tackling -1) takes a flat angle and misses a tackle; many yards. This could be a false start. It is somewhat close. Refs -1.
M5 1 G Goal line 5-3 under Run N/A Zone stretch Henry 0
Henry(+2) blows his G into the backfield, into the pulling G, and forces a cutback. CGordon(+1) is shooting down the line behind to initiate a tackle on the cutback.
M5 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 over Pass 4 Corner Furman Inc
Fade massively overthrown. Furman looked kind of shaky here but no way to tell with the throw.
M5 3 G Shotgun trips Nickel even slide Run N/A Speed option Clark 5
Sideline check as NU sees M's alignment and is like holy pants speed option. Clark... Clark actually does a good job here to really delay Armstrong to the point where when he finally does pitch it's forward. Any reasonable defense will now stop this; Michigan is not in one. Ross(-2) got sealed away by a tackle pretty badly, but this is one guy versus the world. RPS -3.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 17-13, 2 min 4th Q. Remainder of NU's snaps are kneels.

Quinoa is terrible.


On this we can agree.

We are MGoUnited on this fact.

Mexican restaurant chips are great.

This is the quinoa UFR, not the Mexican restaurant chips UFR, which are terrible.


We all agree that this is a B defense with personnel that's probably a bit worse than that and that it is basically the same as the other two Mattison defenses and we would like to see a major step forward from them next year but this is basically what it is.


And we all agree that we wish they would not give up touchdown drives at the end of the game.

We couldn't stop the option to save our lives.

I know it seemed like that; the numbers aren't actually that bad. Two options featured guards leading; those got 11 yards. There were seven speed options; those got 33 yards. Total YPC: 4.9. That's not as bad as it seemed. In fact, since Michigan seemed to be giving those up by scheme and that helped Michigan hold Nebraska to 2.9 yards a pop on their 33 other rushes, that looks like a win. On paper, anyway.

Watching it live it was frustrating.

This is the cost of that single-high-safety look: you do not get a safety who is able to help as you do when you are playing two guys back there, especially in quarters D.* In quarters the playside S will come down hard on run action and he is usually in good position to stop this stuff; the backside guy will play more conservatively into a deep middle and then help clean up. Michigan's single-high look was exploitable in that department. If you remember the Air Force game Michigan had similar struggles from that alignment. The one time Michigan did have a safety to come down to play the pitch man, it was an okie look; that one went for two yards.

Exacerbating the safety issue is that it seemed like Michigan linebackers would find that tackle coming out on them and go upfield of him, every time. That happens above. It happens below. It happens on the final touchdown, about which more later. My best guess is that M was coached to do that with the expectation that the end would prevent the pitch, and the end was supposed to play it in just that particular way that would end up with a keep but only after some delay. Whatever it was, it looked hard as hell.

That scheme also opened up a pretty sweet play by Nebraska that would have made their go-ahead drive one play for 75 yards, shooting their second TE up the middle of the field as Avery attended to deep routes on the exterior:

It may be time to try something else against these option schemes, which Michigan has not done real well with. Maybe next year they'll be more confident in a front six and have that safety flexibility.

But this year, they had a front seven and Michigan's DL straight up won against the Nebraska OL, with most of Nebraska's yards coming on those options or zone-read based misdirection that beat Michigan mentally, not physically.

*[A prediction: Nebraska option pitches get annihilated by MSU.]

But the last one.

Yeah, the last one was pretty bad. Michigan had actually gotten a TFL on third and four on a near-replay of that earlier in the game. That was the Ryan playing two sides play. Ryan gets a hit on Armstrong, the pitch is late and stops the back, and Ross makes a nice play to shoot upfield of his blocker and get to the edge.

Hooray hooray and all that, but that still feels like a disaster waiting to happen since you're asking Ross to take on a tackle with no one else on the edge. On the last play it's a virtual replay down to the late weird pitch and Ross trying to get upfield of the tackle, only this time he cannot.

I think Clark does a pretty good job there and it's still an easy walk-in for Nebraska.

Michigan's been getting torn up on option pitches since Mattison arrived; this game was actually one of their better outings in that department because they did make some plays, but the way they're defending this looks broken somehow. The stats would look worse except Armstrong ate a TFL on Nebraska's first option despite having the pitch man wide open. Once he fixed his decision matrix Michigan had a lot of trouble. It's time to do something different in this department.

But let's look at the

you've never been to a good Mexican restaurant


[Reminder that DL is a MAKE PLAYS position and being neutral is bad; for a full game you want +4 to break even.]

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Heitzman 0.5 - 0.5 Sparing time as he recovers from injury.
Washington 3 1 2 Ever more elaborate theories about the multiple nagging diseases he has come down with welcome.
Black 8 4 4 Mike Martin impression maybe not so convincing in final two games.
Clark 8 3 5 Another solid outing.
Wormley 3.5 1 2.5 Not much of a playmaker but getting better.
Pipkins - - - DNP
Glasgow 0.5 - 0.5 Cameo 2.0
Ojemudia 0.5 0.5 0 Also a cameo 2.0
Godin - - - DNP
Beyer 2.5 1 1.5 Got pass rush to prevent 75 yard TD.
Henry 7 4 3 Highly variable as technique is consistent but strength massive.
Charlton 1.5 3 -1.5 Didn't get that stunt, was a big deal.
TOTAL 35 18.5 16.5 Most all of Nebraska's rushing yards came outside the tackles.
Player + - T Notes
C.Gordon 8 1.5 6.5 Um… so this happened.
Morgan 5 4.5 0.5 Blew one TFL big. Otherwise solid.
Ross 9 7 2 Option culprit; had some nice read and destroys.
Ryan 4 1 3 One RYAN BACK play, but not every-down impactful yet.
Bolden 3.5 7 -3.5 Also missed a free TFL; took some option minuses.
Gedeon - - - DNP
RJS - - - DNP
TOTAL 29.5 21 8.5 Gordon came down to tackle on edge a lot.
Player + - T Notes
Countess 1 0.5 0.5 Early exit.
Taylor 3 1.5 1.5 Some short stuff but that's all.
Stribling 3.5 3 0.5 Promising, erratic freshman alternated nice plays with missed tackles.
Thomas 0.5 2 -1.5 Missed tackle was killer.
T. Gordon - - - DNP
Avery - 1.5 -1.5 Would have been better used at nickel corner in this game.
Wilson - - - Did play quite a bit, but didn't chart.
Furman 0.5 6.5 -6 I don't get it man.
J. Clark - - - DNP
Lewis - - - Cameo.
TOTAL 0.5 15 -6.5 Thomas Gordon, please.
Pressure 13 11 +2 +3 blitz, +4 organic, +6 stunt
Coverage 8 16 -8 Too much easy short stuff.
Tackling 8 12 40% Many YAC, as some of that YAC was in the backfield.
RPS 14 20 -6 About even until 4th and 2 and option TD.

The DL played pretty well; I don't get Furman playing; the linebackers were very up and down. Do these numbers seem conservative for a 17 point performance and under 300 yards? Somewhat, but Nebraska shot itself in the foot more than MSU did and the game was functionally short: 10 real drives for NU, one of which started on their three with a broken play that lost two yards and another that ended after a first down completion for 12 yards when Cam Gordon incidentally created a fumble.

What the pants was that on the fourth and two?

Ugly, is what it was. Michigan comes out in man press on the short side of the field and then Dymonte Thomas and Channing Stribling are in space cadet mode on the other side of the field.

Nebraska sees this and checks. (A few plays later they will also check to their option after seeing Michigan align in such a way as to invite it to the boundary.) Michigan doesn't respond, and the thing that looks open is then open. This is half infuriating, half typical freshman business, and another half that's what you get for futzing with your D like this. I'm giving 150% in this section.

  • INFURIATING: Michigan almost never responds to an opponent check by checking in response. They show a blitz, check, blitz comes. They show a formation, check, speed option to where no one is. Here they wave their hands and say soft man coverage on fourth and two, Nebraska is obviously checking, and no one on the D or sideline can communicate with the freshman DBs to get up on the LOS. This is a systematic issue with Michigan's defense.
  • THAT'S WHAT YOU GET: It is entirely possible that senior with massive experience Thomas Gordon will tell the freshmen to get their asses to the LOS. Furman's just trying to get his own assignment right.

Now, Mattison at least said that's not the defense they intended and he should have called timeout. It was a screwup, not a really dumb call. But the systematic issue really bugs me. Last year Nebraska got a sweet touchdown on a sideline check that Michigan did not react to. This is a pattern.

I loved their first touchdown:

Pick route, sure, but rubbin's racin'. Nothing Michigan can do as soon as that guy rubs Gordon off. Where'd they get that call?


all your heads in a box to the left

From the sideline after they got lined up with 25 seconds on the clock and Michigan showed man coverage with one high safety. That was not aww shucks luck. It's using the extra information the defense gives you to exploit it. Michigan, meanwhile, is usually still in the huddle with 18 seconds on the playclock and often scrambles to the line with no other option than running what's called no matter what the D shows.

It's frustrating on both sides of the ball that I've identified more excellent checks from Tim Beck in two Nebraska-Michigan games than I've detected in two years of watching Michigan. (I've got the UConn speed option TD and…)

Anyway, once Michigan doesn't react to the check it's over and then there's a double helping of freshman tackle derp. That'll happen.

(I didn't think the near-false start was egregious.)

Wait, Black was a nose tackle?

Yeah, and he did well with it. I know. It's weird. His main technique was jetting upfield and outside of his guy and then changing direction to run down the line behind him. Because he is compact and quick for the position, Nebraska had a hard time dealing with it. That blew up the first play of the game and a number of others besides.

There's a crease there that Abdullah gets pushed out of because Black comes around so quickly.

Unfortunately, that's another thing that seems like it'll be a problem once it gets on tape. Nebraska did occasionally latch onto him when he pulled this stunt and when that happened he was gone upfield and there was plenty of room. They were also a stretch team for the most part. When Michigan faces an inside zone or power team (ie, Iowa or Ohio State) it's hard to see that going nearly as well.

I still don't know what's wrong with Washington, who seems to be doing well when he actually gets in.

I don't detect much difference between his play this year and last year, when he was a starting fixture who probably had more snaps than any other DL. I mentioned it last week but the only thing that makes sense here is that he's got the wheezing mumps or something that makes it hard for him to play much.

What was with the safety switch?

Your guess is as good as mine. Safety is the spot at which we get the least information from the television broadcast, so we're mostly going on assumptions about what happened downfield. My general feel for Wilson and Gordon was that they were like the rest of the defense: good, not great. Gordon getting beat to a well-executed corner route by Michigan State is about the worst thing he's done this year, and that's reason to do a midseason makeover featuring a 175-pound converted cornerback and Josh Furman?

I don't think it paid off. When a safety popped up on the radar it was usually doing something bad, like Courtney Avery getting way out of centerfield here:

Spielman goes right to Bolden on the third and fifteen conversion on Nebraska's first drive but… really? I mean, that ball is caught 25 yards downfield and this isn't something Furman's supposed to handle?

And I can't quite be sure but on the third and nine catch that preceded the WTF goings on on fourth down, I think Mattison had Nebraska dead to rights and Furman blew a pick-six opportunity. Nebraska had been going to short outs against softer coverage all day, and Michigan showed that again. Mattison blitzes Thomas to cut Armstrong off and force a quick throw as Furman moves down into a short zone that if read and pursued aggressively leads to Furman jumping in front of the short out Nebraska went to time and again:

Maybe that's nuts. Furman also caught Abdullah at the two on the first Nebraska TD on a play where it seemed like Michigan could have got Nebraska into a second and goal from the three. He certainly didn't seem like an upgrade.

I'd also heard that Raymon Taylor's job was under threat this week, and that too makes no sense to me. Taylor is not the best player in the history of the world but he seems to be improving week to week and is clearly better than Stribling. In this one he gave up a couple of short things, dominated some long routes, and then was avoided. He was actually at the LOS on the fourth and two, because he's not a freshman. All this secondary rotation smacks of desperation in a location that has not warranted it.

The DL actually beat someone up?

Well… in the run game. And Nebraska was highly run oriented so you can write off some pressure issues to understandable rock-paper-scissors stuff. And Nebraska was getting pretty short on OL by the end of this one. But, yeah, and this is a good rushing offense. I will take it.

Clark turned in a second consecutive strong day highlighted by a leaps-tall-buildings (or at least short running backs) pass rush:

Willie Henry is one game closer to being an established good player, though this offseason will be big for him as he tries to get more consistent with his technique.

That DL play also allowed us to see a flash or two of what we were so hyped up about with James Ross preseason. He is a read and react demon if he's kept clean.

Michgan's DL has not been demanding doubles, and that's meant Ross is fending off guys; he's undersized and that's never going to be a strength. This year's line is bad for his playstyle, what with Jibreel Black replacing Will Campbell and a lot of nickel packages with nothing even resembling a nose tackle. Campbell was not explosive in any way but in his senior year he was a space eater who got pretty good at preventing DL from releasing, and Ross found some profit in that.

If next year's DTs are Henry and Pipkins, that would be an environment in which Ross could take off.

Other new faces?

Charlton is the latest defensive end to get playing time as a nickel DT. He helped force a sack in this one when Nebraska blew a DT twist pickup and he flushed the QB into Cam Gordon; otherwise is impact was not of the good variety. On the winning drive back to back plays featured Charlton having the freshman blues; he got way upfield and out of his lane the QB draw Ross chopped down after six of the 30 yards it looked like it would get. With Nebraska's offense, first and fifteen is a high-alert QB draw down, and that stood in stark contrast to a Nebraska DT going straight back on an ill-fated Gardner draw in their two-minute drill. That was not so good.

The following play was painful. Michigan puts on another DT twist. Henry does an excellent job to bull back through the G and C, there's a big lane for Charlton to come around, and Clark beats the tackle around the edge. Charlton does not stunt.

Brutal missed assignment and probably the difference between a first down and third and long after a sack. Why you have a true freshman out there protecting a three point lead with five minutes left in the game is a mystery.

I just feel so bad. Michigan's watching blitzes tear them apart and they're ultra passive on defense and everything feels like the opposite of what we're told it's supposed to be.

Strong men also cry, bolded alter-ego. The flipside of all those blitzes on which Michigan got eaten are some on which Michigan did the eating, or would have if someone can get a tackle:

Morgan also missed a tackle on a Mattison RPS +3 blitz that would have eaten a midline zone read alive. Michigan was not particularly passive in this game, and that was even with Countess out for most of it and new safeties.


No one really stands out as having had a massive game except I guess Cam Gordon, who helped hold down those runs effectively. Henry, Black, and Clark were major contributors to Nebraska's ugly run game and only Clark can be even vaguely accused of being part of the option issues.

Maybe not so heroic?

I don't get why Furman was playing over Wilson even if Gordon was out. Bolden again came in negative, and rather significantly. Michigan needed more pass rush out of the SDE spot.

What does it mean for Northwestern and the future?

Wilson should re-enter the starting lineup. He has faced more intimidating passing offenses and come out better. Gordon, too, should reclaim his job.

Black is a rotating nose guard now. It's weird; I'm not optimistic about how it'll do against the mashers at the end of the year. Northwestern it seems fine for.

The linebackers could use some space bugger tackling lessons. Big problem for the first time all year. Venric Mark is out for Saturday, and that's a stroke of luck for M.

Freshmen are freshmen. Please for the love of all that is holy let us never play any more ever. Except Jabrill Peppers.



November 14th, 2013 at 5:28 PM ^

I still have faith in the mattison brain trust, but some of the decisions they make just make me scratch my head. Benching Wilson, playing our best corner in the slot and starting lots of true freshmen corners over the 2nd and 3rd year kids we have, playing Beyer at SDE, and Black at NT, playing Bolden despite his consistent errors, playing our corners 10 yards deep on short passing downs, not blitzing very much despite our lack of push from our front, receivers being wiiiiiiide open even when we have 8 in coverage to basically double team everyone, etc etc etc.


November 14th, 2013 at 6:44 PM ^

at first i thought i had a theory for why the freshmen are playing more and taylor's job may be under threat - maybe the coaches want to get them more PT for next year given that this year is a bit of a lost cause and the freshmen aren't a huge downgrade.  but that of course makes no sense when furman and avery are starting over wilson and gordon.  furman will be here next year, but avery won't.


November 14th, 2013 at 7:55 PM ^

I think the coaches are trying to do two things...one place a team priority on the seniors ala Avery.  And second, they are trying to reward good practice players, ala Furman, Beyer, Black, etc.  Where Q-Wash gets missed in that is a good question since he's a senior.  But, at some point you have to play the guys who you know will fare the best in games versus who gives the best effort in practices.  Some guys perform better in practice...those grinders who love to work hard day in day out.  Sometimes when the game day environment gets dialed up and everyone else brings the intensity they bring every day, they don't look as good as they did on a practice day.  By the same token, sometimes more talented kids have a harder time getting up for practice, but that doesn't mean they don't do so in games.  We have to play the best players...not the best practice players.  Sometimes I feel like we focus too much on practice and wear our kids out on practice and they don't bring the intensity to the game.  The goal is be in the best possible position, mentally and physically, for the game.  Not to have the best practice possible.  We should not be about great practice, but about great games. I'm not sure that's our philosophy.


November 14th, 2013 at 8:15 PM ^

The first thing you need to be aware of presnap on both sides of the ball is down and distance. This is a massive blunder Freshman status notwithstanding.
Jordan Kovacs never lets this happen. Where the hell is the communication?
Super frustrating. It's the ninth ballgame man. What are they doing in practice?

steve sharik

November 15th, 2013 at 1:38 AM ^

Is a bad deal...period.

As Brain noted, your inside LB to the play side is responsible for either QB or pitch, and he has to get over an OT to do it.  Therefore, it is especially foolish to ask him to play pitch.  Even for him to play the QB, you have to slow down the action to allow him time to deal with the OT.

The technique is called "slow-playing the pitch," meaning the player responsible for the pitch (in this scheme the DE) will not go straight to the pitch, but commit to neither, causing the QB to hesitate and allow the ILB responsible for QB time to get there.  There is one important key in slow-playing the pitch: never get outflanked by the pitch.  Once the pitch man gets even with the slow-playing pitch defender, that defender must abandon the slow-play and sprint outside and parallel to the LOS.  

Another tenet of defending the option is to vary your responsibilities so the offense can't adjust to the way you're playing it.  I'm guessing that there were times the DE was told to make it look like slow-play, then take the QB.  I think we fooled them once doing this, and I don't recall a time where the DE didn't get outflanked by the pitch.  So maybe the TE was told to slow-play but ultimately take the QB every time.  Only those in house know for sure.

I personally believe that if you put the DE on QB in the speed option, you make the DE immediately take the QB.  Two things: one, the DE absolutely rocks the QB, putting the QB in danger of being knocked out of the game; two, the ball is pitched so quickly that the entire rest of the defense knows who and where to pursue to.

Also, against the option, your corners have to be excellent run defenders.  Ours are not.  Way too passive.  As not only a defensive coach but also a former secondary coach, one of my pet peeves is corners who dance with wideouts who are stalk blocking.  A team can't cut block on the perimeter, so there is no reason not to attack once the ball is pitched.


November 15th, 2013 at 6:16 AM ^

This team is extremely young on both offense and defense.  If there were just one or two freshmen sprinkled in with a bunch of upper classmen, there wouldn't be as many mistakes, and it wouldn't be as noticeable. It sucks, but the mental side of the game just isn't there yet for some of the first year players.


November 15th, 2013 at 9:21 AM ^

I would say the first play on the winning drive where Taco has the "Freshman Blues" is entirely on the coaching staff. 

You have a true freshman defensive end playing on of the DT spots (3-tech?). Of course on a pass play he is going to go straight up the field. It's in his nature to do so to get around a OT. To expect technique at the wrong position to over-power the natural instincts of a Freshman is asking a little much IMO.

Saying that, I think he showed some promise & play making ability. Looked big & fast. Surprisingly I thought he held up well against those interior lineman.


November 15th, 2013 at 9:28 AM ^

It's frustrating on both sides of the ball that I've identified more excellent checks from Tim Beck in two Nebraska-Michigan games than I've detected in two years of watching Michigan. (I've got the UConn speed option TD and…)

There was this nifty audible by Gardner against ND.


I have erased the details of the UConn game from my memory so I don't know if that was a typo or Gardner checked to a speed option and scored a TD against both ND and UConn or what.

But I think we can all agree that happened against ND and it was good and fun and for once not terrible and the worst.