Upon Further Review 2016: Offense vs Penn State

Submitted by Brian on September 29th, 2016 at 3:49 PM


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FORMATION NOTES: Not too much other than some extra empty stuff. This was "quad tight bunch." In my world a bunch is three guys and I'll tell you if it's not.

 ace empty quad

This was "ace empty TE hide":


Newsome is in the slot with Butt your nominal left tackle.  This is obviously a stunt to get Butt open, and it worked.

PERSONNEL NOTES: The OL battle seems settled, as Braden got every snap with the first team. Early Bredeson playing time probably injury-related. Speight obviously went the whole way.

Despite the profusion of RBs getting carries, Smith still got about 60% of the snaps, with Higdon, Isaac, and Evans splitting the rest about equally. Darboh and Butt were the most frequently deployed receiver types; Chesson got exactly half the 80 snaps before the second string came in. (Remember that he missed a chunk of the game after he got dinged up on Higdon's first run.) Asiasi got 36, as Bunting went out with an injury early. Grant Perry got 25 snaps; Crawford 16, McDoom 8.

[After THE JUMP: cruelty.]

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 6 Pass Tunnel screen Darboh -2
Darboh(-3) does not have faith that Newsome is going to get out and block the corner who he’s aiming for, so he stops and runs away from all his blocking. Newsome(+1) does indeed get a good shove in on this guy, but because of Darboh stopping that shove puts the DB directly in Darboh’s legs. Run the dang play. It was there. (CA, 3, screen, RPS +1)
O22 2 12 Offset I Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-5 under 9 Pass Waggle throwback RB flat Smith 9
Nominal waggle play where Speight is hoping to hit a wide open tight end all the way to the other side of the play. Butt gets tackled by a linebacker (refs -2) without a call and this confuses Speight’s read; he has to avoid a guy coming at his blindside, does so, flips around, and hits the short throwback option, which is Smith. (CA+, 3, protection N/A)
O13 3 3 Offset I 2 1 2 Pinched 3-4 7 Pass PA FB flat Hill 11
PSU elects not to cover Hill, as both guys to his side of the field blitz and there’s nobody to pick up the slack. I’m sure one of these guys is supposed to abort when he sees the FB slip out, but nope. Could be academic as Chesson is headhunting down the LOS and trying to pick off whoever’s in coverage here. Hill’s wide open barely across the LOS and Speight almost puts it on the turf. Hill digs it out and rumbles down the sideline. (MA, 2, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
O2 1 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 10 Run Power O Smith -1
Not really sure what M should do better here. Playside DT shoots himself into Mags’s and Kalis’s legs. He’s super low and threatens to come through. Poggi gets around this and gets a hit but the two for one without any push allows the MLB to scrape around and hit Smith. Very nice play by him. Not sure how to deal with a guy just shooting himself at your knees. Mags, Kalis –0.5.
O3 2 G Ace twins 2 3 0 Goal line 9 Pass Out Smith Inc
Goal line formation from M on which first Butt and then Smith motion out. Goal is is to catch man coverage and run Smith into the flat, where he’s got a pick and a LB he can presumably outrun. Zone from PSU with the CB doing a good job to redirect into the route; Speight throws a high, hard ball that Smith has no real shot at. A looped ball is a better bet here. (IN, 0, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
O3 3 G Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even 7.5 Pass Rollout out Darboh 2
PSU all over this with a blitz from the field and a safety sliding over; CB switches off on the Darboh out. Darboh makes an adjustment, cutting back shallower than the CB, and Speight throws that adjusted route—impressive recognition by both players. That’s not a touchdown but every yard counts down here. (CA, 2, protection 1/1, Darboh route +, RPS -1)
O1 4 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 10 Run FB dive Hill 1
Mags(+0.5) and Kalis(+0.5) put their guy in the endzone; Wheatley(+0.5) puts a slanter by his spot; Asiasi(+0.5) hits a LB and Hill falls in.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-0, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M46 1 10 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 7.5 Pass Crack sweep Higdon 6
Hill(+2) motions out to an H back spot to the twins side. He wipes out the DE, who never gets off this block. Braden(-1) is pulling and goes after the same guy Newsome does; Newsome is further outside and this guy has just one thought: keep contain; he spends himself for naught. Meanwhile Kalis(-1) misses as he releases and the LB goes upfield of him and around. This isn’t great but the cost here is that it takes you a while to get there. Higdon(+1) meets the safety Braden should be harassing at two yards and bounces off his tackle, managing to get four yards of YAC while being hit by three different guys.
O48 2 4 Ace 3-wide 1 2 2 4-3 over 6.5 Pass Out Darboh 5
Easy pitch and catch as PSU’s CB aligns like he’s playing three-deep outside leverage despite Darboh lining up inside the hash. He has to turn 270 degrees when Darboh cuts out. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
O43 1 10 Shotgun empty TE hide 1 2 2 4-3 over split 5.5 Pass TE quick seam Butt 9
No huddle, line up Newsome as a tight end, get it snapped as quickly as possible, take advantage of PSU misaligning. Safety does do a good job to read it and thwack just after the catch. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
O34 2 1 Ace 3-wide H 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Run Jet sweep McDoom -5
PSU’s been getting burned on these all year, so you know they spent a ton of time in practice on this stuff. M leaves the playside end unblocked; all he’s thinking is jet, and he goes and nails McDoom for a big loss. RPS -3.
O39 3 6 Shotgun trips echelon bunch 1 1 3 Nickel under 7 Pass TE post Butt 25
Massive coverage bust by the MLB as he seems to have a pattern matching fail aided by Butt(route+) convincing him he’s headed outside. MLB follows a drag route someone else has covered, Butt’s route sells the safety, and he’s wide open for a big chunk. Good pickup from Smith helps this happen. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
O14 1 10 Ace 1 2 2 4-4 under 8 Pass TE screen Bunting Inc
PA followed by a TE screen that is wide open as PSU players try to get depth on their drops after reacting to the PA. Bunting’s got a shot at a TD… Speight puts it in the turf. (IN, 0, protection N/A, RPS +2)
O14 2 10 Ace H 2 1 2 4-3 under 8 Run Power O Higdon 6
PSU blitz mostly works and gets them a free hitter but that guy isn’t quick enough to respond. PSU slants away and drops a DE into coverage while shooting DBs to the playside. Butt(+1) kicks a DE. Newsome(+1) reads the LB blitzing and downblocks him as if he was a DT sitting stationary; nice play. Kalis(+1) gets around that block and kicks out a second blitzer; Higdon(+0.5) can jet through the line, again getting a chunk after contact. RPS -1.
O8 3 4 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 Nickel even 6.5 Pass Hitch Perry 6
PSU shows press man on the two outside receivers. Perry, the interior slot, appears to be matched up with a safety sitting on the goal line; the LBs are slid to the TE/RB side of the field. So Perry just runs a hitch at the sticks, which is open and pretty obviously so presnap. Speight hits him (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
O2 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line 9 Run Iso Smith 2
Kalis(+0.5) and Mags(+0.5) put their guy in the endzone. So do Braden(+0.5) and Cole(+0.5). Bunting(+1) gets under a DE and kicks him out; Smith can surge straight ahead.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 14-0, 4 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M36 1 10 Offset I 3 1 1 4-3 under 7 Run Jet counter trap Smith 39
Peppers at WR, jet motion, decoy. Further decoy is that this is a counter that starts right and goes left; the left side of the field is dealing with Peppers and the right is thinking there might be a bounce; there’s a cavern up the gut. Braden(+2) grabs the nose on a bit of a trap block and blows him out. Newsome(+1) kicks a DE. Poggi goes and hits the same guy but that might be okay since a LB is burying himself outside of this block because his angle was changed by the jet fake. Cole(+1) thumps a LB. Kalis(+1) turns out the other DT. Smith has a cavern. Smith(+2) jukes a safety to turn this from a good gain to a big one; he also runs through two tackles. RPS +2.
O25 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass Throwaway N/A Inc
M slides their protection left and sends Higdon(-2) at the DE to the right. He fails to read his block and lets his guy in free. Speight does a good job to avoid a sack, stepping up and power through an arm tackle. He rolls, has nothing, throws it away. (TA+, N/A, protection 0/2)
O25 2 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 even 7.5 Run Power O Higdon 5
M runs power at the two TE side. PSU slants away and this is almost real bad for them. Butt(+1) and Mags(+0.5) blow out a guy slanting away, with Butt climbing to a LB. Asiasi(+0.5) shoots one LB past the scene. Braden(+1) pulls around and plugs a safety, rocking him back. Higdon(-1) is about to burst through the LOS when an ankle tackle takes him down from Asiasi's guy. One on one with an S for a TD otherwise.
O20 3 5 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 under 7 Run Reverse McDoom 6
Another counter to expected jet sweep overplay deserves better. Mags turns in one DT and keeps pushing; his guy will force a bend and slow McDoom fractionally. Poggi(+1) turns in and steps around the relevant DE. Both Speight(-1) and Smith(-1) should be hunting linebackers; they both pass up the relevant playside guy, who runs it down with help from a safety. McDoom(+0.5) makes a little move to get the first down. RPS +1.
O14 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 6 Pass Hitch Chesson Inc
Kind of want to run at this box, but it’s a pass. Good protection; Speight can’t find anything deeper and checks down to Chesson on a sideline hitch once things break down. He airmails it, losing 5-6 yards. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
O14 2 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 over 8 Run Power O Smith 6
Another slant away, with a corner blitz to compensate. Mags(+1) thumps a DT and puts him on the ground. Butt(-0.5) does an eh job with a DE but he slants past the play; Asiasi(+1) does a good job to read it and pop out on a LB. Braden(-1) fails to read the corner blitz and runs by the force guy. Smith(+1) cuts to him and spins through that tackle.
O8 3 4 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel over 6 Pass Slant Perry Inc (Pen +4)
Little rub route with Asiasi trying to clear out potential man coverage. It’s a zone but there’s a hole for this throw that Perry sits down in and Speight sees. He just throws it a couple yards upfield, which brings the LB into play and results in a sequence of events that is a PBU, near interception, and incorrect targeting call. (IN, 0, protection 1/1, refs +3)
O4 1 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 8 Pass TE corner Butt Inc
Play action does not see PSU bite and Speight turns around to see nothing good. He’s got a free guy who hopped a Smith cut block and zero open options. He tries to put it in the #buttzone but does it wrong, throwing it hard and on a line instead of lofting it up. DB gets a PBU. (MA, 0, protection N/A, RPS -1)
O4 2 G Goal line 2 3 0 4-5 under 9 Run Power O Smith 1
This is a Smith error as he sees a linebacker shooting a gap and cuts away from him, which is also away from his blocking. The line had created a big ol cavern for him up the gut he should have hit. Braden(+2) clubs the NT again, blowing him out. Kalis(+0.5) did get around to hit this guy but his angle was ruined. Newsome(+0.5) got a decent second level block. If Smith(-2) goes up the gut from the four he’s at least at the one.
O3 3 G Shotgun twins twin TE 1 2 2 Nickel even 6 Pass TE hitch Asiasi 3
This isn’t Speight’s first read; he is looking for Smith on a wheel route that’s covered. I don’t think he should be looking for this since the DB to the outside is clearly in a zone but whatever. He comes off it to find that one of the PSU LBs has vacated his zone to chase Butt and nails Asiasi for a TD. (CA, 3, protection 2/2.)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 21-0, 14 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M29 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 even 7 Pass Throwaway N/A Inc
Formation implies a LB blitz off the corner, PSU tips it, Speight seems to audible. PSU sends six; Newsome(-1) lets his guy around the corner. Smith gets the blitzer but doesn’t exactly stone him; Speight starts moving around and just dumps it. He should probably try to run up behind the Smith block to see if he can climb the pocket and get a throw in. (PR, N/A, protection ½)
M29 2 10 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 7 Run Power O Smith -3
Jet fake and a power play behind it. Mags(-1) and Kalis(-1) get shoved back, as does Butt(-1); Braden(-1) trips as he tries to pull around. Smith gets buried.
M26 3 13 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-3-5 stack 6 Pass Slant Darboh 16
Darboh in the slot so you get an indicator where this is going. PSU blitzes off the corner, sending six and leaving Darboh wide open underneath. Speight hits him; Darboh(+1) runs through a tackle to convert. (CA, 3, protection 3/3).
M42 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 7.5 Pass Scramble Speight 0
Bust from Poggi, probably? Michigan runs some play action to the left side of the line; Poggi leads it out, then stops and redirects all the way across the formation behind the LOS. Speight gets back and has a case of happy feet here as he’s got some time to survey and find something. He is spooked by the rush and rolls out for zero. (TA, N/A, protection 2/2)
M42 2 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even 6 Run Inside zone Isaac 11
Weakside DE gives way, way too much respect to Speight on this zone read, or he’s just pass rushing on the assumption Michigan will throw. DT to that side slants away; Kalis(+0.5) hits him; he moves him but he also falls. Mags(-1) goes after the same guy instead of climbing to the second level. Isaac(+2) makes a nice backside cut and then stiffarms a linebacker to pick up the first down. RPS +1.
O47 1 10 I-Form Big 2 3 0 4-4 under 8 Run FB dive Hill 1
This starts as a goal line formation until Butt motions out. It’s a fullback dive but I think Smith gets his assignment wrong since he starts running at the same gap Hill is hitting. Seems like you’d want him to go the other way to draw the linebackers away. Cole(-1) doesn’t chip the backside DT and Kalis(-1) doesn’t control his man; both those guys tackle Hill at the LOS.
O46 2 9 Shotgun twins H 2 1 2 NIckel over 7 Pass Tunnel screen Chesson Inc
Batted down by a blitzer coming off the corner. (BA, 0, screen)
O46 3 9 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-3-5 stack 6 Pass Dumpoff Smith 7
Ugly from the OL as a stunt gets through on a three man rush. Kalis(-2) and Mags(-2) both fail to ID it so both guys get through and threaten to sack. Speight has the wherewithal to move up in the pocket a little bit and just flip it to Smith(+1), who cuts past a LB to get Michigan in range to go for it. (CA+, 3, protection 0/4)
O39 4 2 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass Drag Chesson Inc
This is open as M catches man coverage that has to bend around another route; Speight hits Chesson and it’s just dropped. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 21-0, 8 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 6.5 Run Power O Higdon 7
Mags(+1) and Kalis(+1) blow the playside DT way off the ball, to the point where Kalis comes off under the guy to get a second level block. So close to +2 for Mags but the DT is able to spin off and get to the hole as Higdon attacks it. Braden(+1) gets around and plows a linebacker. He gets off the block by giving ground; Higdon gets tackled by those two gents. Poggi’s kickout was iffy but enough.
M27 2 3 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 6 Run Power O Smith 8
PSU does insert a safety late to get this to 7 in the box. This is probably supposed to go inside the TE but PSU seals that off. Newsome(+1) and Braden(+1) blow up the other DT to the point where one of the LBs buries himself in that block in a bit of a panic. Butt(+0.5) gets a little bit of movement on a DE who he’s not really controlling; Kalis(+1) reads the blocking and gets out to kick out that safety. Smith(+1) also reads the play developing and slides outside with Kalis (a thousand roses bloom), then makes a hard cut right off Kalis’s butt (horns sound across all the valleys in the land) to burst to the second level.
M35 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even 6.5 Run Power O Isaac 3
PSU slants away. Kalis(+0.5) latches on to the guy moving away from him and does enough to push him past. Mags gets pushed as he tries to get through the line and can’t do much more than slightly harass one LB. Butt(-1) gets a little motion from the DE and then that guy spins off to tackle; Braden got a meh kick and Isaac cut inside it.
M38 2 7 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 over 7 Run Power O Higdon 1
Another slant away. Kalis(+0.5) escorts DT away. Poggi(+0.5) gets a good kick. Mags(-1) and Butt(-1) combo the DE with Butt getting out to the second level; he gets rocked back by a LB and Mags loses that DE back to the outside, where both those guys hammer Higdon at the line. PSU sent down a S right at this to make it hard. RPS -1.
M39 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even 6.5 Pass Circle Perry 16
Great route by Perry (route++) breaks the DB’s ankles. He shoots inside and then redirects out, getting a ton of space. Easy conversion as Speight hits the wide open dude. Perry just about swims past a safety to make this a big play but cannot. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O45 1 10 Ace empty twin TE 1 1 3 4-3 under 7 Pass PA wheel Chesson 18
Evans comes in motion and M fakes a toss to him, then runs Chesson on a wheel route. Safety pulls up to about two yards downfield and then does not freak out and get back, probably doesn’t matter since Chesson’s by him. This could be a TD, but Speight leaves it well short as an unblocked guy on the edge comes in to pressure him. (MA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +3)
O27 1 10 I-Form 2 1 2 4-3 over 8 Run Crack sweep Evans -1
Chesson(+1) seals in the playside end. Newsome(+0.5) pulls deep and again sees his man sprawl on the ground as he anticipates contact. Hill(-2) airballs on the playside LB on a play that was otherwise to the safety. RPS -1; safety was coming down hard as PSU again is playing the edge really hard after previous pratfalls.
O28 2 11 I-Form twins 2 2 1 4-3 over 8 Pass Improv Darboh 28 (Pen -10)
PA to the right; PSU blitzes the OLB to behind this play. Braden(-1) has issues with a DT and he gets into the backfield. Smith(-1) has got to pick up the blitzer and does so, but his hands get outside the shoulder pads and when Speight breaks the pocket he holds on to long; refs throw a legit flag. Speight finds Darboh in the endzone for a touchdown, which is nice. (DO+, 3, protection 0/2)
O38 2 21 Ace empty quad tight bunch 1 0 4 Nickel over 6 Pass Slant Darboh Inc
Pass well behind Darboh and broken up. Not much on a successful completion anyway. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
O38 3 21 Shotgun trips 1 0 4 3-3-5 stack 6 Pass Screen Evans 14
Excellent call and good patience by the line to let PSU get its depth before popping out. Set up for a big gain but Cole(-1) sees his block spun through. Evans(+1) manages to slice inside and then make a hard cut upfield for a solid gain all the same. RPS +2. (CA, 3, screen). Braden(+1) got a good cut on a safety that wasn’t relevant.
O24 4 7 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7.5 Pass Scramble Speight 9
Good protection. Speight doesn’t see anything he likes on the three guys actually in the route on max protect, and then moves up in the pocket. He sees daylight, and goes and gets a first down by juking(+1) safety who is going to die in film sessions this week. (SCR, N/A, protection 2/2)
O15 1 10 I-Form twins 2 1 2 4-3 over 7 Run Trap? Smith 3
Not entirely sure on the call here. Poggi goes in a hole to the left of Braden; Kalis goes right around Cole and directly up the gut. Cole(+1) kicked out the NT big. Braden hits one DT and then moves to the second level; DT doesn’t get sealed but maybe that’s as intended and he’s just supposed to delay the guy so Kalis can go hit him? Newsome(-1) gets slanted under a bit and gets pushed back, splitting the two lead guys. Smith cuts outside with Poggi into a couple of guys. Smith(+0.5) gets some YAC.
O12 2 7 Ace empty 2TE 1 2 2 Nickel even 6 Pass Waggle TE flat Butt 10
Another slot guy in motion and a fake pitch to them, this time Peppers. Waggle action afterwards with Butt turning around and getting into the flat. Speight has no choice but to throw that route since he’s getting quick pressure. PSU doesn’t have anyone checking him as the LBs again are trying to get depth after the fake; Butt(+1) catches it and then makes a nice cutback to get the first down. (CA, 3, protection N/A)
O2 1 G Goal line 2 3 0 Goal line 11 Run Iso Higdon 2
Kalis(+1) gets a guy trying to shoot under him and puts him on the ground; Cole(-0.5) gets stood up and his guy can get an arm in on a tackle. Mags(+1) fires out and whacks the MLB from the side, which clears him out and allows Higdon the room to get in.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 28-0, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Pass Waggle TE flat Butt -1
Immediate pressure on Speight leads to a high throw that Butt has to double catch, robbing him of any ability to avoid a hit that’s coming. May be more yards if he catches it clean. May not be. (IN, 1, protection N/A, RPS -1)
M24 2 11 Offset I twins 2 1 2 4-3 under 7 Run Counter trap Smith 4
Jet fake. Smith starts right and then has a designed cutback left. Braden(+1) gets a big shove on the nose. Kalis(-1) stands up an OL but doesn’t really move him and doesn’t step around to delay his release once it cuts back. Poggi(-1) more or less misses on his cut block of the DE as Newsome(+1) leaves immediately to go whack a LB. Poggi’s guy and Kalis’s converge to tackle. If Poggi gets his guy this is probably a chunk run. RPS +1.
M28 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 7 Pass Out Perry Inc
PSU rushes just three. M picks up some blitzers from odd angles. Plenty of time; a checkdown to Perry opens up and should be good for the first down. Speight airmails it. Hello Tacopants. (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 28-0, 13 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M14 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 Nickel over 6.5 Pass Hitch Darboh 9
Zone; Darboh sits down between a couple guys at about four yards and is able to get upfield to set up second and short. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M23 2 1 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 over 8 Run Counter trap Evans 4
Jet fake; Newsome leaves the end to get to the second level, and the idea is Poggi will cut him or he’ll overreact to the jet or both and Evans will cut to the backside for piles of cash. Poggi(-1) just about whiffs. Braden(-1) gets stood up and discarded; Evans chooses to go directly upfield, which works. Cole(+0.5) got a second level block; Kalis had a meh block on another DT. Mags(+1) did kick out a guy with authority. RPS +1. This was blocked real bad but still got a little bit.
M27 1 10 Shotgun empty TE 1 1 3 Nickel over 6 Pass Slant Darboh 9
Double slants as PSU shows zone with the outside corner backing off. Perry’s route occupies an underneath defender, easy pitch and catch as a result. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1)
M36 2 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 even 8 Run Split zone? Smith 30
Smith rips off a chunk on a… play. Poggi initially slides backside but with the backside end shooting in he changes his mind, which is probably wrong since you have to figure PSU will replace that guy. He ends up hitting a DL who split Mags and Kalis with a move neither expected. Kalis(+1) gets a point for Never Turn Upfield here since he feels that dude is just doing what he’s doing and he goes and gets in the way of one of the LBs. Smith(+2) does the rest, first pressing the hole to the interior then swiftly bouncing out. Darboh(+1) seals out a corner and Smith runs a long way. Butt(+0.5) I guess did enough on the playside end.
O34 1 10 Offset I Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 over 8 Run Power O Isaac 4
Blocked well all around but Michigan spends an extra guy on the gents in the box and the safety creeping down is unfettered. Slant away and the TEs both spend themselves on the playside end. Asiasi(-1) gets shed; Butt(+0.5) finishes off the vulnerable guy. Poggi(+1) gets a room-generating kick on the CB. Braden(+1) comes around and seals the playside LB inside. Ideally he’s hitting the S that now tackles Isaac. Wish Isaac could break this tackle but he does stretch out to get five. RPS –1.
O30 2 6 I-Form 2 2 1 4-3 over 7 Run Crack sweep Evans 2
Butt split out and comes down to crack; TBH I’d rather have a WR do this. Butt loses the guy. Enough of a delay for a push but the WRs do better usually. Hill(+1) gets out and kicks a safety running hard; Evans(-1) doesn’t have faith that block is going to be made and instead of cutting behind it moves outside and has to leap the falling PSU player. Since Asiasi(-1) whiffed on the playside LB that guy can track this down after a modest gain. Asiasi did delay the guy a bit. Mags(+0.5) blew up a corner.
O28 3 4 Shotgun empty TE 1 1 3 Nickel even 6 Pass Out Evans Inc
This looks like a straight drop but on replay the DB does grab Evans’s arm as he tries to secure the ball and gets it out. (CA, 1, protection 1/1)
O28 4 4 Shotgun empty twin TE tight bunch 1 2 2 Nickel even 6 Pass Out Smith -1
Smith motions out to make the bunch and then runs an out behind the two WRs. PSU’s deep safety reads the intent and makes a terrific play to run at this before the snap even happens; he meets Smith on the catch, turnover on downs. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS -3).
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 28-3, 8 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M20 1 10 Ace 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Run Offset draw Evans 37
I forget what I called this last year. This is Michigan’s draw that features the back fanning out as if to pass protect and then the QB running to the back to get him the ball; unlike your average draw this one attacks just inside the tackle. PSUs relevant DL bite hard. Braden(+0.5) escorts one well upfield. Newsome(+0.5) and Cole(+0.5) release but don’t really have to do much. They do slow guys by existing. Evans(+2) just scoots outside before the LB level reacts, then runs through a tackle attempt and almost the last one standing between him and 80 yards. RPS +2.
O43 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 under 7 Pass Post Perry Inc
Five man pressure with a DE dropping out; Speight comes off his first read and finds Perry on a post, He’s getting some pressure now and can’t really step into the throw, or just doesn’t? Cole(-1) got shot back and this pressure affects the throw, which is turfed. (IN, 0, protection ½)
O43 2 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 even 8.5 Run Iso Smith 8
Big gain on an iso as Kalis(+2) wins his block big time, getting the DT opposite him three yards downfield. Braden(+1) puts the other guy on the turf, though he’s slanting away. Poggi(+0.5) gets a hit on a LB; Smith(+1) cuts behind Kalis as the blocking has afforded him that. Cole(+0.5) got a second level block, though that guy did get off it to help tackle.
O35 3 2 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 over 8? Run IZ counter Isaac 5
This is superficially split zone but is definitely going backside and is thus some sort of other thing. PSU slants; Mags(+2) reads it and picks up the end, blowing him down the line. Butt(+1) adjusts to his block leaving the area and gets a LB; Poggi(+0.5) cuts off the guy coming from the edge. Kalis(+0.5) gets an easy second level block on a frozen defender. RPS +1.
O30 1 10 Offset I Big 3 1 1 4-4 over 8.5 Run Crack sweep Higdon 3
Poggi(+1) your H-back who cracks down on the DE and seals him. Chesson(-2) airballs on his LB block and Newsome(+1) can’t quite get out to clean up because that DE shot upfield fast and made him bend. He still gets a shove in, impressive in these circumstances. Higdon(+0.5) does well to get outside one LB charging hard and get some.
O27 2 5 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 under 8.5 Run Power O Evans 5
This is chaotic, and the director cutting post-snap doesn’t really help. Kalis(+1) latches onto a guy slanting away and shoves him over a mess made by Cole(+0.5) cutting a backside end. Braden(-1) pulls, stumbles. McKeon(-1) loses his block, losing ground and forcing Hill to double up on his guy; two guys waiting outside for Braden and the ballcarrier; Evans(+1) goes right upfield and then has a slick cut in a tiny space behind Mags(+0.5) second level block to avoid a charging safety and get a solid gain.
O22 3 2 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 over 7 Run Crack sweep Smith 8
Hill(+1) hammers in the playside end. Darboh(+1) gets the LB and mostly holds him up. Crawford gets to the safety but takes the contact instead of delivering it and gives some ground, narrowing Smith’s gap. Mags(+0.5) got a kick and Smith’s a bit impatient here as he has a blocker for the CB but just outruns Kalis and takes the tackle.
O14 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 over 7 Run IZ counter Higdon 10
Same play as the Isaac run above. Mags(+1) again escorts a slanter past his gap. Butt(+1) adjusts and gets a second level block. Darboh(+0.5) kicks out the CB on him. Poggi(-1) runs into the back of Butt instead of finding some work. Higdon is attacking downhill, making shallow cuts to get through gaps and maintaining forward momentum that results in a chunk of YAC when someone hits him from the side. +1.
O4 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 Goal line 9 Run Iso Evans 4
Just easy. Braden(+2) buries the nose tackle. Newsome(+1) kicks out a DE. Poggi(+1) thumps back a linebacker. Evans directly upfield.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 35-3, 2 min 3rd Q. This was the win with cruelty drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M24 1 10 I-Form 2 2 1 4-4 under 8.5 Run IZ counter Isaac 5
Just jamming the box with people now. Still doesn’t matter. Mags(+1) and Asiasi(+1) club the playside end in with Mags harassing a LB. Poggi(+1) gets a kickout that moves his guy back. Jocz(+0.5) comes in and hits a LB. Isaac(+0.5) burrows and gets a healthy chunk because the LB Jocz engaged can’t do much to stop his momentum.
M29 2 5 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 even 9 Run Iso Isaac 1
Blocked fairly well but too many dudes at the LOS now. Safety M does not have a blocker for makes contact at the LOS. I’m not RPSing anymore. Braden(+0.5) got a chip and hit on the second level; Newsome(+0.5) got a good kick.
M30 3 4 Shotgun trips tight bunch 1 0 4 3-3-5 stack 6 Pass Drag Darboh 5
Mesh doesn’t quite work as intended as Perry’s route is too deep or Darboh’s is too short and the rub never happens. CB can tackle on the catch; Darboh(+1) can carry him across the first down line. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M35 1 10 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 over 7 Run Power O Evans 2
Slant away. Asiasi(-1) adjusts but when he gets to the LB he lunges at him and misses. Freshman stuff. Safety inserts and Poggi(-1) misses the pickup. Kalis(+1) got a good lead block that almost gave Evans a crease.
M37 2 8 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 9 Pass FB flat Poggi 15
Jocz(+1) with the perfect pick route, as he finds the relevant LB who’s covering Poggi and then turns around to the QB just as contact comes. Poggi now wide open, hit, rumble. (CA, 3, protection 1/1, RPS +1) Good cut block by Evans to open up the window.
O48 1 10 Offset I Big H 2 2 1 4-3 under 8.5 Run IZ counter Evans 4
Again this is a safety inserting himself. Wheatley(+0.5) barely contains a DE but does get him pushed and doesn’t let him around. Jocz(+1) shoves a LB well downfield; he spins off; Poggi(+0.5) kicks. Evans hits the hole and gets slashed down.
O44 2 6 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 even 7 Penalty False start Asiasi -5
Asiasi -1.
O49 2 11 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 even 8 Run Power O Isaac 10
Excellent patience and cut from Isaac(+2), who sets up his blocks well. Braden(+1) turns in the playside DT. Kalis has the end. End tries to duck inside of him, which just about works(-0.5); Kalis does manage to annoy the dude enough so that Isaac can go outside of him. Newsome(-0.5) similarly kind of whiffs but stays attached and shoves the LB as he tries to tackle. Henderson(+1) worked through the trash and got a good kick.
O39 3 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 over 8 Run IZ counter Isaac 4
They just keep slanting hard away from IZ action and M is killing them on this. Newsome(+1) ejects the playside DE way downfield. McKeon(+0.5) adjusts and gets a meh block. Safety inserts after the first down.
O35 1 10 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 under 7 Penalty False start Braden -5
Braden -1
O40 1 15 Offset I 2 1 2 4-3 under ? Pass Fly Chesson Inc
Ball is underthrown but not severely; Chesson doesn’t read it and slow up and get the PI flag that is real easy to get. Instead he drifts back and doesn’t high point it; PBU. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)
O40 2 15 Ace 3-wide 1 2 2 Nickel even 6 Run Offset draw Higdon 40
Newsome(+1) flings the DE upfield and goes and seals out a LB; Darboh(+1) gets a good block on the CB. Higdon(+1) shifts outside a safety and that’s a TD. RPS +2.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 42-10, 6 min 4th Q. Final two drives not charted.

They scored a lot.

They did. The drive chart reads:

  • 24 yard touchdown
  • 54 yard touchdown
  • 64 yard touchdown
  • 32 yard turnover on downs (on a drop)
  • 80 yard touchdown
  • three and out
  • 58 yard turnover on downs
  • 80 yard touchdown
  • 76 yard touchdown
  • 31 yard touchdown

This was treating a power 5 opponent like it was Hawaii. The PSU LBs may be Hawaii level now, but the rest of that D should be a step up.

That touchdown drive where they tried to find out whether Penn State had a detachable jaw like a snake, though.

Yes. They found out Penn State's jaw did not detach, and then they detached it for them. By the end of it Penn State was spent, beaten down by life and also Ben Braden.

While PFF was more reserved in its evaluations I thought this was a hamblasting. Just look at this

I like ham. I might wander off and go find some. It is tradition that Penn State's coach wanders off to find ham. –James Franklin


Offensive Line
Player Snaps + - Total PFF   Snaps Pass- Error% PFF
Newsome 42 11 1.5 9.5 0.6   37 1 2% 0.8
Braden 42 15.5 6 9.5 0   38 1 2% 1.4
Cole 42 5.5 2.5 3 0   38 1 2% 0.2
Kalis 42 12.5 5 7.5 1.1   38 2 4% 1.0
Magnuson 42 11 3.5 7.5 3.0   38 2 4% 0.8
Bredeson 0      
Butt 29 6.5 3.5 2* 0.6   4 - -
Bunting 1 1 1 -0.6   - -
Wheatley 10 1   1 1.4   - -
Asiasi 20 3 4 -1 0.4   2 - -
Hill 11 4 2 2 -0.2   - -
Poggi 24 6 4 2 -1.3   1 - -
TOTAL - 76 32 70%

*[Butt got +1 for running. While I'm making asides, I had Jocz at +1.5 and a route +, McKeon at –0.5, and Henderson at +1.]

Player + - T Notes
Protection 34 10 78% Kalis –2, Mags –2, Higdon –2, Newsome –1, Braden –1, Smith –1, Cole -1
RPS 25 14 +11 Ass kicking. Big Stanfordization section below.

That 70% is a big number given the way I grade; PFF thought Magnuson was great and Kalis good while being eh about the rest. (Although with pass protection factored in every M OL was positive, most significantly.

Biggest disagreement was on Braden, who I thought had a strong game with no blitz pickup issues and a number of blowout run blocks. He knocked some guys back. Here he pulls to a DB and gets an authoritative kickout:

He did the same to a number of linebackers:

This linebacker unit is injury-decimated, of course. Still nice to see Braden apparently full-go after an ugly start. At this point I assume his first game was injury and rust and that the generally competent guy from last year is back. There were hints of an upgrade in there as well, especially when he helped finish the Win With Cruelty drive by burying PSU's nose tackle. That was an exhausted and demoralized PSU outfit that has been vulnerable on the ground all year, so far from definitive. We'll get a much clearer view on him and the rest of the OL this weekend.

Meanwhile the rest of the group was just about as strong in my eyes. While Newsome had some pass protection issues in the last game he's been good in the other two games; this was another strong pass protection performance and I liked a couple things he did on the ground, as on one of those Higdon runs. He reads the blitz here and treats the linebacker shooting across the LOS like he's a DL he needs to block down, and accomplishes that goal:

Kalis had a couple of blocks that verged on mauling:

He and Magnuson caved in sides of the line on a fairly regular basis. You'll see them below when we talk running backs.

Wilton Speight: not terrifying. But still unsettling?

Yeah. A bounce-back game in that he wasn't a major problem and offset some issues with nice plays of his own. He shifted all his bad things from bad reads to inaccurate and didn't pick up a star:

[Hennechart orientation: mouse over column headers for explanations of the categories. + is handed out for a good throw under duress. * is handed out for a very bad version of a bad thing. Numbers in parens are screens. DSR is an attempt to compress the numbers into one overall number. PFF is PFF's grade.]

  Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Hawaii 1 8(1)+       1(1)       1* 2*   73% -1.0
UCF 3 21(1)     5 2     2 2(1) 2   82% 1.0
Colorado - 14(2)++++ 1   4 3   2 - 5 6**   50% -3.5
Penn State 1+ 17(2)++ 1   1 4   1(1) 2+ 8(1) -   68% 1.0

But there were a lot—a lot a lot—of inaccurate and marginal throws. I thought he was much better against UCF than in this game; PFF not so much.

Four games in I think we can confidently state that Speight's got that Rothlisberger thing where he's slippery enough in the pocket and also huge so it's surprisingly hard to sack him. On Michigan's opening drive they tried some sort of waggle throwback thing on which Butt got straight-up tackled (and is covered anyway). Speight's getting a DL to his blindside and just spins past him:

Later he'd have the wherewithal to move up past a couple guys about to sack him and just flip it out to Smith:

With the exception of the Awuzie leveling against Colorado his pocket presence has been a major asset. His roll to the outside and throw to the endzone ended up drawing a (legit) holding call on Smith but was more evidence that he's good when things start to break down. Strange but true.

Speight also discontinued his series of dangerous throws into coverage. Speight didn't target a covered guy all day, and had a number of instances where he got to second or third reads. Speight's touchdown to Asiasi was probably #3 after a wheel route to Smith and Chesson's drag:

He was confident in his reads, found open guys, bought time in the pocket, and even converted a fourth and seven with a buffalo stampede. And this is a good secondary.

On the downside, Speight straight up missed several guys on balls that weren't even close.

That's not the guy we saw against UCF, and I'm trying to figure out why. My theory is that Speight's footwork went to hell when he was still in the pocket and getting pressure. Once he's outside the pocket and throwing on the move he's basically fine. He modifies his approach since he knows he's on the run and throws a lot of wobbly floaters that are on point to open guys. When he's totally clean and his mechanics are consistent he's very accurate.

When he's getting rushers in on him and still throwing from the pocket maybe his footwork gets messed up and balls go anywhere? Compare the two fullback flat throws. On the early one to Hill PSU sends a blitzer and Speight appears to anticipate the contact as the pickup guy gets hit back into him. Thus a throw Hill has to pluck off his shoelaces:

The fourth quarter throw to Poggi is clean and he throws a strike to Poggi's chest:

I zaprudered these plays and Speight doesn't step up with his left foot on the Hill throw, probably because he's anticipating contact. If he does step and throw as normal this ball still gets out without having the impact affect the ball's accuracy.

So. On a dart to Butt over the middle, he steps up confidently:

On a wheel route to Chesson he does step into the throw but appears to abort his follow-through as he anticipates contact; the resulting ball is well short and turns a TD on an RPS +3 play into just a solid gain:

The post he left short is also somewhat pressured and may affect his footwork.

This doesn't explain everything. Speight was clean on the throw to Perry that drew an (incorrect) targeting penalty. The first down is there but Speight throws it upfield of the spot and brings the LB into the play. His other miss in the direction of Perry was a clean throw as well. I don't know if those are still after-affects from the hit or a more realistic picture of his accuracy when he's not certain he won't have a hand laid on him. Wisconsin will reveal much, because he's going to be under duress.

FWIW, a gentleman who hears about practice reported back to me that this week's practice shorted the backups snaps: "They were trying to correct some mechanics [for Speight]. Short arming passes, footwork and timing. Cadence and rhythm were a focal point." He's seeing the field well, and just struggling to execute periodically. That's the kind of thing Harbaugh can get worked out.

You liked the running backs?

All of them.

Mikey likes it! Sound the church bells! Their pealing will usher in a new era of tolerating running backs and not complaining each and every week about the yards they set fire to on the field! Yea, it is a frabjous day!

Laying it on a little thick there.


Yes, Mikey likes it.  So did PFF:

RB chart (WR grades are run only):

Player Rushes + - T   PFF   Notes
Speight 1 1 1 0   0.2   Mini stampede
Smith 16 8.5 3 5.5   1.2   Got –0.9 for the hold, not included.
Isaac 11 4.5 4.5   1.2   -0.7 for a pass dropped. I was less harsh.
Evans 8 4 1 3   1.1    
Higdon 9 4 1 3   1.8    
Johnson               DNP
TOTAL 45 22 6 16   +5.5    
Player Blocks + - T   PFF G   Notes
Darboh 29 5.5 3 2.5   0.9   -3 for opening tunnel, +2 for YAC, then blockin'.
Chesson 15 1 2  -1   -1.6   Airballed on a crack screen.
Perry 7       -0.1  
McDoom 3         -0.1    
Crawford 8 0.5       0.4    
TOTAL - 7 5 2

With Penn State overplaying the edges hard Michigan shifted much of the workload from the Colorado game back to a suddenly-dominant line and four backs who all played well per both charters here—getting into the green (+1 or better) on limited carries is impressive, and all four of Michigan's backs managed it. Meanwhile a 22-6 plus-minus ratio hasn't been seen in these parts for a long time.

While I liked everything, I liked Higdon best of all. This is probably because we hadn't seen anything from him except that one cut against Northwestern last year and I wasn't expecting much. He turned out to be the tough inside runner his recruiting profile said he was, and he demonstrated that on his opening carry, where he just bounces off an unblocked safety at two yards:

That was immediately preceded with a steeplechase hurdle and followed by Higdon lowering his pads and dragging two more guys a few yards. On the next drive he shot through a small gap in the line on a power play and once again powered through the first guy to meet him; he succumbed to an ankle tackle but had turned three yards into six. The one downer was a play on which an ankle tackle took him down:

Say whatever you want about De'Veon Smith but I'd forgotten running backs occasionally fall over like that. As far as Higdon goes, even on that run where I gave him a negative I liked his late shift outside to go right off his lead block's butt. His instincts look good so far. The little shifts got the most out of a run near the goal line:

Right off one butt and then another and then changing the angle to get hit from the side and grab those YAC. This game puts him right in the thick of the running back rotation. He looked legit.

Smith made a number of excellent cuts that are the kind of thing I was hoping would be consistent after his bowl performance. On this power play he presses inside at first, then bounces to the outside before a final upfield burst that takes him to the secondary:

Butt got a little motion on that end but has not sealed him at all, and if Smith commits outside to start there's a high chance the DE sheds back to that hole and it's a modest gain. By downshifting and threatening inside he gets a LB to commit (with help from an OL that is blowing out a DT). He's rarely sold opponents on a gap he doesn't intend to hit; he did here. Also note that finally, finally Kalis and Smith are consistently headed to the same gap.

Smith would press and pop later for a big gainer on third and short, and the endzone view features Griese exclaiming "look at that cut", because yes, it's a good cut:

That's going to work on better teams than PSU. Maybe not for 30 yards but at least five.

Isaac made some good cuts, including a decisive slash backside on a zone read. The defensive end apparently thinks it's 2010 and Michigan's quarterback is shorter, more dreadlocked, and slightly faster:

He had a cut on a power play that was just about identical to Smith's, albeit with a little less interior gravity. He also ripped off a weaving long run on Michigan's final, uncharted touchdown drive, so you can probably add +2 to his totals above.

Evans had a big gain on an offset draw that was his wheelhouse since he just got to go be fast in space. I was more impressed with this little piece of work on a broken power play:

He's cutting away from his lead guy because that outside is borked; in doing so he exposes himself to a charging safety. That deft little cut behind Magnuson doesn't get him a ton but it does allow him to grab five yards instead of two.

I thought Smith blew a cut on first and goal from the four on a play that could have ended up in the endzone; Evans could have gotten more on a crack sweep that he did not cut upfield at the proper moment to do so. Higdon fell over that one time. This is a very short list of bad things on so many carries, and then Michigan's backs piled yards on yards of stuff they're gaining themselves.

It is the way of things that they will be dire against Wisconsin and I will despair.

But I pealed the bells. No takebacks. 

I didn't peal any bells, pal.

FINE. If Hill is an All-American why is Poggi consistently splitting snaps with him? He got half as many as Poggi here.

Uh, I dunno. Poggi's improved from last year but Hill has seemed clearly better, what with the singlehandedly paving the way for a Smith touchdown last week and various other impressive blocks. I thought this seal on a crack sweep was terrific:

You see guys lose to that spin move all the time but Hill keeps stepping around and gets to the point where even the give-up-and-give-ground approach isn't getting him anywhere. That DE is gone. On the other hand, Hill did fail to recognize a linebacker on another crack sweep, so he's not perfect.

Let us talk receiving. Amara Darboh was a tank, and I mean this as a compliment?

Yes, here is catch chart.

[0 = uncatchable, 1 = circus catch, 2 = moderate difficulty, 3 = routine]

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
Darboh 1 1/1 7/7   8 1/3 1/1 16/17
Chesson 1   0/1 1/2   4 0/1 2/3 6/7
Perry 3     2/2   5   2/2
Ways                 1/1
McDoom             1/1   2/2
Crawford                 1/1
Butt 1 0/1   2/2   3 1/2   14/16
Bunting 1         1     2/2
Asiasi       1/1         1/1
Poggi       1/1         3/4
Hill     1/1       2/2 3/3
Smith 1 1/1 2/2   2 1/1 2/2 4/4
Evans   0/1     1 0/1   2/2
McKeon                 2/2
Hirsch                 1/1

ROUTES: Perry ++, Butt +, Darboh +.

Darboh had an excellent game, twice toughing out third down conversions by breaking tackles:

This has been a consistent theme for him. I also really liked his adjustment on an out route near the goal line. Penn State has this route bracketed and dead to rights, so he pulls himself out of the endzone and gives Speight a target.

Those two yards set Michigan up to punch it in from the one; if he doesn't make this adjustment (and if Speight doesn't, as well), fourth and three is either a chip shot field goal or a considerably tougher goal-to-go.

Butt was wide open for a chunk on a play largely attributable to a PSU bust but he also demonstrated some route chops by selling the PSU safety on a corner route:

Reminder: those are good safeties.

Meanwhile Grant Perry continues to come into his own as Dileo 3000. Michigan got a chunk on third and six because he shook his dude so badly that he couldn't get any sort of tackle attempt in even when the safety came up:

Then he just about shook the safety. Perry had a key third and medium conversion near the goal line and should have had another but for a bad throw from Speight. He has his role and he's playing it well.

I need some wacky Stanfordization plays man. I'm running low.

How about Grant Newsome, slot receiver?

That's actually kind of a standard trick play a lot of teams run.

Those fullback flats were RPS plays, or at least should have been—Penn State didn't bother to cover the first one. Check out Michael Jocz on the second, as he runs a perfect pick route:

That's more or less a block. His only goal is to find the LB shooting out to the flat. When he gets there, he sticks his butt out and turns to the QB, thus eliminating a potential OPI flag. That's textbook right there from Michigan's 7th TE.

Michigan also spotted something in the way PSU was defending inside zone and repeatedly hammered it. I'm not exactly sure what to call this play, which is clearly designed to attack a backside gap since Speight hands off to the right:

The line blocks inside zone. PSU slants to it, and slanted to it every time. backside tackle washes that DE down the line, TE and FB go and get second level blocks, and now whoever it is has a lane to the second level. Michigan ran this five times, picking up two third and short conversions and 20 yards on the other three plays.

And with Penn State demonstrating that yes they had in fact drilled all week on stopping jet sweeps on a rather predicable early carry for McDoom that lost five yards, Peppers entered to decoy the Penn State defense and give De'Veon Smith a cavern on the interior:

The jet fake hold some guys outside—one LB in particular runs himself out of the play—and then the other half of the play is in fact a zone counter that starts out right and goes left, holding a DB who sits with "??? over his head for the duration of the play. Also in this vein was the wheel route mentioned above in the section on Speight: M brought Evans in motion and faked an edge pitch, which drew up the safety Chesson ran right by.

Finally, Michigan brought their offset draw back out. They hadn't put it on film since late last year and so I'm a little perplexed why they'd remind people about it in a game that was out of hand, but I'll never stop loving that little tweak that slides the draw over a gap and has made this such a consistently effective gainer:

Higdon's long score would come on offset draw as well.

This was a blowout tactically on top of everything else.


The OL as a whole. The running backs as a whole. Darboh.

Maybe not so heroic?

I'm beginning to get a bit worried about Chesson, who hasn't had much impact. He dropped a fourth and two in this game and didn't play his single long target well. Speight was okay but had too many passes to Tacopants and his extended family.

What does it mean for Wisconsin and the future?

We're going to find out how opponent-dependent this performance was real quick. This was a huge step forward for the ground game, which consistently found yards in an all-around performance Michigan hasn't seen since at least 2010 and probably longer than that. Penn State is a team that was shattered by Pitt's ground game and then lost all its linebackers after that, though, soooooo... yeah. We'll see.

Speight made better decisions but his mechanics fell apart too often. I'll take the former; let's hope Michigan can hammer out the accuracy issues. Harbaugh's the man to do that.

Hello Karan Higdon. Instantly in the conversation after that performance.

Darboh can still grab you third downs by catching the passes defenses want you to. The idea is they tackle him. Not always possible.

Paging Jehu Chesson. Donde esta?

I'll probably hate the running backs next week. But this week I am full of bountiful hope!

Grant Perry is a reliable chain mover and useful piece. Freshman stuff deep in the past.



September 29th, 2016 at 4:00 PM ^

Not really sure what M should do better here. Playside DT shoots himself into Mags’s and Kalis’s legs. He’s super low and threatens to come through. Poggi gets around this and gets a hit but the two for one without any push allows the MLB to scrape around and hit Smith. Very nice play by him. Not sure how to deal with a guy just shooting himself at your knees. Mags, Kalis –0.5.

You ding DL for not dealing with this scenario, but say not sure what OL should do - and ding them anyway!

Granted diving at the legs is generally an OL tactic not DL, but maybe this is the wave of the future? Hope not, and anyway it didn't work out too well for them...


September 29th, 2016 at 4:10 PM ^

I hope good chesson and Speight are around this game because if we can't loosen up the defense with some shots over the top I'm not seeing a lot of sustained drives.


September 29th, 2016 at 5:06 PM ^

He's one of the best route running TEs I've ever seen - same basic reason Perry keeps getting open. On the play Brian shows above he's able to hold the safety a half second before quickly cutting back inside. He is really good at the fake outside and turn back inside (or vice versa). When coaches talk about a guy being a fluid route runner I think he is what they mean. This is party of the reason why receiving isn't all just speed - a slower guy who runs amazing routes will get himself open much more often than a guy who is fast in a straight line but is a stiffer runner. Think Larry Fitzgerald vs Ted Ginn


September 29th, 2016 at 4:17 PM ^

But did anybody else have an issue with the highlight playbacks turning dark for the first 3-5 seconds before returning to normal lighting?  It seemed like the last 10 or so all had that issue when I viewed them.

Edit: must be something on my end.  Just watched again it played normally.



September 29th, 2016 at 5:07 PM ^

I'm on iPad and sometimes have video problems (probably) because of the size of this thing. Don't know if that was your issue but it's always fine when I refresh.

Gotta say the clipping/explanation on these just keeps getting better. Really showing what we miss in a live broadcast. On the play Butt faked a corner I figured it was just a huge RPS win live.


September 30th, 2016 at 12:02 AM ^

You have a redshirt sophomore making his first 4 starts.  Has he really performed that poorly?  Go take a look at what Brady looked like at the beginning of the 1998 season.  Everyone knew QB was a big question mark for this team.  Anyone expecting UM to trot out a QB that was going to challenge Barrett for 1st team all Big Ten had some serious maize and blue goggles on.  

Speight hasn't set the world on fire but considering he's coming up on his 5th start, he hasn't been bad either.  I'd be way a lot more concerned if he was throwing a lot of ints.  Harbaugh has a great track record with QBs.  If people have some patience, more than likely Speight will turn out just fine.


September 30th, 2016 at 2:13 PM ^

He isn't playing poorly but he isn't currently playing well enough to beat our rivals. Beating our rivals is always the expectation of every #1 Michigan QB. As far as experience goes, younger QBs have been heisman winners and older guys got beat out by Speight. So a RS sophomore or not, the expectation remains the same.


September 29th, 2016 at 4:22 PM ^

Chesson is getting a lot of mentions as having mysteriously disappeared, could it just be being a bit slow to catch up after recovering from the injury?  

I don't think what we saw last year was a mirage and his public persona at least seems to be a guy who wouldn't rest on his laurels.  I'm rooting for him and have faith that he'll rise to the occasion.

matty blue

September 29th, 2016 at 4:23 PM ^

i like his speed, but i really like his work inside - he seems to have the instincts to make the first guy just miss inside and get a couple extra yards.  he did that just about every time he touched the ball against hawaii.


September 29th, 2016 at 4:56 PM ^

That 4th and 2 Chesson dropped was tipped subtly at the line. You can see it comes out of Speight's hand in a tight spiral and when it goes by the DL's hand it's wobbly. It was still catchable, but at live speed, a little change of direction probably made the catch a lot tougher.


September 29th, 2016 at 4:30 PM ^

I'm a bit concerned going into Wisconsin that there is nothing that the offense can consistently hang its hat on. Sometimes Speight seems good, sometimes the running game seems good, etc. But never always for any of these things. Wisconsin appears to be, by considerable measure, the best defense Michigan will have faced. What is going to work?

Since the running game was good this week, I'll gripe about the passing game. Speight's numerous inaccurate throws are a worry; Brian's analysis of those throws is excellent. But, further, it doesn't seem like he can hit the wideouts in stride consistently. Late-season Rudock was just humming with the wideouts, but here it seems like Speight struggles to complete passes like that. I hope it is something that can be ironed out by Saturday.


September 29th, 2016 at 5:50 PM ^

I'm not convinced about injury in the slightest. His mechanics looked off and he looked scared of pressure. It got in his head and his accuracy fell apart. I'm terrified of this Wisconsin defense. He's not thrown into coverage, but his inaccuracy is a recipe for more turnovers to help the mediocre Wisconsin offense just like last week.

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September 30th, 2016 at 2:07 PM ^

A competent game manager QB should be sufficient to defeat Wisconsin tomorrow.  How many points will their mediocre offense be able to score against our outstanding defense?  Very few unless we help them out with turnovers.  In November, we will need more than a game manager to defeat the Buckeyes because they will be able to put up some points on us even without turnovers.  But if Speight does what he did Saturday and doesn't throw to covered guys, we should be OK.


September 29th, 2016 at 4:57 PM ^

Our edge play is terrific, and well-complemented by good open-field blocks and a Rothlisberger-esque QB.  Cole is excellent in space.  McDoom, Evans and Peppers are all very quick to the edge.  Higdon is a good combination of speed and power.  Chesson is fast and a nasty blocker.  Hill can block and catch.  Darboh can block, catch and is hard to bring down.  Smith can block, catch and is hard to bring down.  Speight is hard to bring down.  Butt is a nominal blocking TE but a good enough receiver to split wide, and Grant Perry is Dileo 2.0.  It's bizarre, but we're kind of turning into the world's most hippopotamus-shaped spread attack.  We line up in I-form but we reliably move the ball with sweeps, screens and RPS plays off those because almost everyone we send out there is tough to tackle and gets excellent blocking.  The reason you didn't see it against PSU is because they were way, WAY overplaying the edge, but that's also why the middle opened up as much as it did.

My only real concern is that this offense hasn't yet been tested in all phases.  I knew going in that our "perimeter" play was going to be good, and while PSU did shut it down, they were way too depleted to do so without seriously compromising an already-soft interior.  The question is, if a more balanced defense holds the edge play in check without giving up too much, can our QB or run game do well enough to keep the offense moving?  I think the Wiscy game will tell.


September 29th, 2016 at 5:01 PM ^

I actually read that as mostly positive. Our offense has been extremely adaptable this year. Whatever isn't there, whether by opponents being good, over playing things, or our guys just having a bad day, there's been something else that's picked up slack. If you're an opponent's DC, what weakness do you attack based on the film of the 4 games so far? It's like the offense has perpetual access to the character creation menu, where they just adjust the sliders as necessary based on each game.


September 29th, 2016 at 5:09 PM ^

You and dragonchild both have fair counterpoints to my argument. It is unquestionable that we have a coaching staff who can both account for weaknesses in pregame planning and adjust during the game to take advantage of what is available. 

I would still be more comfortable playing a solid defense knowing that, for example, we were sure that Speight could make a number of key throws downfield if it were necessary, or if we knew that we could move the ball on the ground against any defense to at least some extent. It's not clear to me that these things are true. 

Of course, I'm a pessimist about this sort of thing. I was, honestly, surprised by how many negative grades players were accruing early in the UFR, even on otherwise good drives. Inaccurate throws, bad blocks, and so on. Penn State isn't Hawaii, but a lot of the positive grades were scored against a tired defense that had already admitted defeat. Wisconsin will not be so pliable.

I guess we'll see what happens. I am expecting a low-scoring slugfest Saturday.

But then, it's not out of the question, so I'm also crossing my fingers for a surprising romp where everything comes together, too.