Upon Further Review 2018: Offense vs Northwestern Comment Count

Brian October 4th, 2018 at 5:31 PM

[Patrick Barron]

image-6_thumb_thumb5_thumb_thumb_thuSPONSOR NOTE: Reminder that Matt is hanging out at the Charity Tailgate at 327 East Hoover (if you were at the preseason MGoEvents this year and last it's the same place). Food trucks, beer, TVs, and also those things. When not tailgating Matt is also a person who will get you a mortgage right quick from the comfort of your own home. If you need one, he's the man, man.

FORMATION NOTES: Even more gun/pistol than usual. Up to almost 70%, and a number of the exceptions were short yardage/goal line stuff. I have just 11 snaps with a fullback on the field, and here's something I never thought I'd say: that's probably not enough.

SUBSTITUTION NOTES: At this point this is all as expected. OL, QB, RB, FB the usual given Chris Evans's injury. Wilson got scattered snaps and nobody else saw the field at RB; Wangler got a few snaps but it was Mason when there was a FB. The most notable item was dearth of McKeon snaps after his drop. Usually one drop doesn't get you exiled. I wonder if something else was going on.

DPJ, Perry, and Collins got the large bulk of the WR snaps, with Martin and Bell getting the remainder. There was a distinctly Carr-ish thing where Michigan tended to tip run when Martin and Bell were in.

[After THE JUMP: a bit of a festivus]

Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M17 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even 6.5 Pass Hitch DPJ 4
DPJ(-1) catches this with some room about three yards from the first down and can probably set up third and one if he just goes directly upfield. Instead he tries to dodge a linebacker and gives half of it back. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M21 2 6 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Run Jet sweep Bell -1
OLB over Gentry goes right upfield and is able to bend Bell around him. Nothing Gentry can do other than kick out, which he does. McKeon releases to the CB; S at 8 yards is reading this and attacking it; the bend allows him to TFL. Bell(-1) should have taken the hint Gentry provided and cut right off his butt. I wish they’d come back to this with instructions for the WR to cut immediately upfield, as the LBs are gone gone gone; RPS –1. Half the lack of a cut and half Michigan not teaching the cut, IMO.
M20 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Exotic 7 Pass Sack N/A -4
M goes with max pro as Northwestern sends three, so those three guys all get brackets, more or less. Perry might be breaking open by the time Patterson decides to move. Both Gentry and Higdon leak out after their services are not needed. Shea pumps the dumpoff to Gentry but changes his mind as he sees that it’s doomed. He then tries to get out of the pocket and is sacked. (TA, N/A, protection 1/1, RPS -1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-0, 12 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M14 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Run Power O Higdon 1
Tackle over with JBB next to Runyan. They run a power at it. M has no playside double. Runyan(-1) gets stood up by a DT. JBB flares for the Gaz on a kickout. Onwenu is trying to pull around tight and gets knocked off by Runyan, and Fisher’s blitzballing it. RPS -1. I want to minus other OL because this is a zero yard run but I mean, no. Higdon(-2) on the other hand has an opportunity to bounce this around Onwenu(+0.5), who does get the block, and try to test JBB’s kickout. Instead he runs right into the LB.
M15 2 9 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 even 7.5 Pass Waggle comeback DPJ Inc
No bite, drop to zone. Both TEs in flat and on cross are covered. Patterson’s only option is the comeback. He’s got a guy coming to him and has to load up for a throw on the run that’s well downfield; DPJ is blanketed and he’s trying to hit a tight window. He misses. (IN, 0, protection N/A)
M15 3 9 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Dime even 5 Pass Improv DPJ Inc
Ruiz(-1) passes off a DT and then looks away from the Gaz to find someone else. He looks back and gets hit and run through. He does knock the guy off balance and allow an escape. Patterson escapes. He’s got a lot of time to find someone on the edge; DPJ breaks deep for him and he misses again, Fairly tough throw but DB is in panic mode; has to give DPJ a shot. (IN, 0, protection ½)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M31 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 over 7.5 Pass Scramble Patterson 3
Patterson makes this tough on himself as instead of setting up at seven yards he drifts back to ten, giving the Gaz an angle to pressure him despite Runyan putting him around pretty deep. He then has to move up when he needs a moment for Perry’s deep out to get far enough outside and is reduced to scrambling. (TA, N/A, protection ½, Patterson -1)
M34 2 7 Shotgun empty twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 over 6.5 Pass Dumpoff Higdon 9
Motion out Higdon to the boundary and they’re trying to split a safety with the TEs. Patterson doesn’t like the look and checks down quickly. Higdon(+1) is in space with a DE that NW dropped into coverage and has an easy time dusting him for the first down. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M43 1 10 Shotgun twin TE twins 1 2 2 4-3 even 7.5 Run Down G Higdon 8
NW has this scouted and is hammering the Gaz down, but they forget to set the edge. Blitzball LBs go straight upfield; the Gaz is squeezing and not setting, and Higdon(+1) has an easy bounce read he takes. RPS +1.
O49 2 2 Ace 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 7 Pass PA TE corner McKeon Inc
Jet fake, up the middle fake. The jet sucks a safety up past the LOS(!) and with DPJ running off the playside corner McKeon is wide open. Hit. Dropped. F. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)
O49 3 2 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel even 5.5 Pass Flash screen Collins 1
This playcall is downright strange… but it still should have converted. Perry(+0.5) is able to just get a charging CB. Collins(-2) steps around him and gets past a LB DPJ(+0.5) gets a finger to. He’s got the last guy forming up at the line to gain and if he just runs to the outside he is going to get it. Instead he tries to juke the guy on third and two and gets stuffed. Cumong man. (CA, 3, screen)
O48 4 1 Goal line 2 2 1 Goal line 10 Run Power O Higdon 0
McKeon(-2) gets chucked past the play by an overhang LB. He ends up doubling the guy Gentry is on. Fatal. Mason has to kick that guy. Guy Mason should be kicking in free. He hits, another guy hits, three inches short. Onwenu run under by a LB, so Higdon has to go outside, but I think that's fine? He's only able to go under because a guy slanting away got kicked way down the line. Onwenu(-0.5) did let that guy get into Higdon's ankles a little.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 0-10, 1 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M21 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 under 7 Run Iso Higdon 18
Superficially similar to the Down G trap from last week with Mason plunging to the backside of the play. No pull, though, and we’re going straight NS. This action pulls a NW ILB playside for two steps and gives M an angle on him. Mason(+2) crumbles the other ILB. On the other side of the LOS and everything. Ruiz(+1) and Bredeson(+1) move and seal the NT with Ruiz climbing to the LB who took some false steps. Onwenu(+2) blasts the other DT downfield. Higdon goes straight up the gut. RPS +1, LB bait.
M39 1 10 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even 7 Run Pin and pull Higdon 4
Blocked well in tough circumstances. NW appears to slant to the play or just is real good at IDing this. Bredeson(+1) doesn’t get a reach but wins against his guy, driving him downfield as they flow. McKeon(+1) blocks down and finds his guy slanting across his helmet. He follows him out, is losing him upfield, when Runyan(+0.5) picks him up with nothing better to do. McKeon then goes and gets the overhang LB. Ruiz gets hammered by a LB charging. Higdon(-1) is able to run by that guy and because of Bredeson and McKeon appears to have a lane directly up the middle of the field; he hesitates, bouncing out then back in, getting a decent gain but passing on the direct knife upfield.
M43 2 6 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel under 6.5 Pass Hitch Collins 5
Patterson late on this read; Collins hitches up a yard past the sticks and is open. Ball should be out; Patterson waits and throws a ball upfield and high that Collins is able to bring in, but yardage ceded. (MA, 2, protection 2/2)
M48 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 even SAM 8 Run FB dive Mason 2
M gets it. Motive force by Mason(+0.5) and Onwenu(+0.5) mostly.
50 1 10 Ace tight 1 2 2 4-3 even 7.5 Pass PA TE corner Eubanks 21
PA, cornerback sucks up hugely, Eubanks wide open. Hit, not dropped this time. (CA, 3, protection 2/2, RPS +2)
O29 1 10 Ace twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Run End around DPJ 24
Jet motion from Thomas, fake up the middle, DPJ the other way. Action fools NW. JBB(+1) is able to get all the way over from RT to harass a corner who spends much of the play focusing on the interior run. Ruiz(+1) also gets out, first hitting the Gaz to sell interior run and then letting him go; he gets to a secondary member(!). Runyan(+1) turns in the DT. DPJ(+1) runs around the Gaz and eats up yards. RPS +2.
O5 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 9 Run Iso Higdon 5
Another A-gap iso. Bredeson(+1) stands up and turns out one DT. Ruiz(+1) hits another; LB buries self in that double. Other LB gets Mason(+1) in his face and goes down. Higdon has it easy.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 7-17, 9 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M12 1 10 Pistol twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7.5 Run Pin and pull Higdon 30 + 10 pen
Another pin and pull; this one doesn’t catch a slant. Gentry(+0.5) stands up a DE. He gets shed but to the inside, which is fine. Runyan(+1) does a good job to recognize his pull is going to be short and effectively kick the OLB. McKeon(-0.5) releases free to an ILB and gets hammered back on contact. He gets driven all the way back to Ruiz, who’s pulling through, and almost gets the play fouled. He does stay attached. Other NW LB blitzballs and runs himself out for free. Higdon(+2) effectively bends to the outside; Perry(+1) gets a good block to help spring him; Higdon runs through a couple tackles to make it a big gain. Defensive holding tacks on ten. RPS +1, LB ate itself.
O48 1 10 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Run Down G Higdon 3
Man. Soft corners and safeties at 6 and 8 yards and Michigan still runs it. You have to check this. It’s a giant opportunity. M runs down G and gets it blocked; McKeon(+1) pins his guy inside; Runyan(+1) IDs the LB and does the same. Collins(+0.5) gets to that S but that contact is at the LOS and forces a bend. CB is able to fill as a result, also at the LOS. Higdon(+0.5) grinds out some yards. RPS -2.
O45 2 7 Pistol twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 over 6.5 Run Down G Higdon -3
You just ran down G and now you’re running it again except there's no Down bit. NW tips slot blitz and heavy slant playside, M gets crushed by it. Gentry(-1) leaves immediately. Ruiz(-1) leaves. Runyan(-2) loses his guy. McKeon runs by the Gaz to get a CB; Bredeson is kicking him out but Higdon has no choice but to bounce into the kick. RPS -1.
O48 3 10 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Exotic 6 Pass Drag Collins 7
Man, M aligns in trips and then motions Perry under Gentry in a stack. That brings a slot defender closer and then he blitzes. Line unprepared for this. JBB’s picking which guy to let through and does pick wisely, letting the outside guy through. Patterson has to get it out and hits Collins(-2) on a drag. Collins clears the LB and has a DB coming up really trying to keep contain. If he goes straight upfield this guy probably gives up the first down. Instead Collins tries to juke him to the outside and gets tackled. Wooooooof. (CA+, 3, protection ½, team -1)
O41 4 3 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Exotic 6 Penalty False start Gentry -5
Patterson is FURIOUS about this. Like four different guys move. Also the Gaz moves.at exactly the same time; he must have been giving a hard count, which worked! And also did not. FFS
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 2 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M39 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even 6.5 Pass Slant and go Collins Inc
M looking for a chunk; Patterson pumps the slant and then Collins breaks deeper. Patterson holds onto this way too long. The CB bites on the pump and Patterson should immediately reload and fire. Instead he waits almost two seconds to fire, which gives the S time to get over. Ball is OOB anyway. (IN, 0, protection 1/1) Just one on the protection because NW rushes just three and drops the Gaz. RPS +1.
M39 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Nickel even 6 Pass Scramble Patterson 15 (Pen -10)
Runyan(-1) sort of beat around the corner. Patterson could step up and find someone like Perry open over the middle; he takes off instead. He’s able to eat up 15 yards and we’re results-based charting but I do feel like this is a symptom of Patterson being generally uncomfortable reading this D. Runyan gets called for a hold which I won’t minus him for separate from the pass pro minus above for obvious B10 ref reasons. How this is a hold and Winovich didn’t get held in this game is a mystery. (SCR, N/A, protection ½)
M29 2 20 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel even 5.5 Pass Flash screen Collins 17
NW way off and backing off on the snap so this is easy. Bell(+1) and Perry(+1) get blocks, Collins(+0.5) runs straight upfield, notably running over a DB for a few extra yards instead of trying to juke him unsuccessfully. RPS +1. (CA, 3, screen)
M46 3 3 Shotgun 4-wide tight 1 1 3 4-3 even 5.5 Pass Out Collins Inc
Patterson is again late on this throw, which should be out by the time Collins is in his break. It’s not, DB can drive on it. Collins is too far outside because the timing is bad here and comes back to the ball, but leaps unnecessarily and allows the DB to shove him out before he can get a foot down. (MA, 2, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 7-17, 1 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M26 1 10 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 7.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 7
Eubanks to back of line but not as a split zone blocker, he’s arcing to the S for a potential QB keep. DE shuffles tight, give. JBB(+1) grinds against this DE for a bit before releasing to the second level. Onwenu(+2) one on one with DT, puts him two yards downfield. Ruiz(+1) slams a LB on the second level. Higdon(+1) finds the backside gap and runs over a safety at four yards. RPS -1; NW safeties at 6 and 8 and the guy at 6 was relevant.
M33 2 3 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Run Inside zone Higdon 2
Ruiz(+1) digs out the NT, moves him downfield. Gentry(+1) gets a good kick; JBB(+1) is able to read an exchange and blocks a LB shooting inside. Gap is between those guys. NW again inserts a safety. Onwenu(-1) gets out on an ILB but doesn’t seal him or move him. But also Higdon(-1) runs right into him and falls over. There is maybe room inside and definitely room outside. Running into the 350* pound guy seems suboptimal.
M35 3 1 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 8 Run FB dive Mason 3
Ruiz(+0.5) and Onwenu(+0.5) get the requisite push. Mason(+0.5) stays on his feet and adds a couple more.
M38 1 10 Shotgun empty twin TE 1 2 2 Nickel over 6 Pass TE hitch Eubanks Inc
Klatt gets this exactly right. Patterson’s stepping up, reading zone, and expecting Eubanks to sit down. Instead he continues running into a three-deep corner and the ball wings well short of him. (MA, 0, protection 2/2, Eubanks route -)
M38 2 10 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7 Run Pin and pull Higdon 4
This is getting ridiculous. No NW S is deeper than six yards. FFS, throw a post. On TE motion one safety come down to three yards off the LOS and the DTs both signal to the LB level. They slant hard to the play and swamp it. Asking a ton from the OL to get guys who are shooting hard playside; you don’t get to tell DL where to go all the time. M gets lucky as a backside DT falls; Higdon(+1) cuts back and salvages disaster. RPS -3. Throw a post!
M42 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 Exotic 7 Pass Scramble Patterson 14
Bell goes in motion and draws a CB with him. Man implied. M runs mesh underneath and Patterson reads this; it’s a mess of zone defenders as NW drops eight. Meanwhile DPJ does have man and sells outside before breaking in… and then starts jogging? WTF? Patterson(+2) takes off and gets it. (SCR, N/A, protection 1/1)
O46 1 10 Ace tight 1 2 2 4-3 over 7 Pass PA Post Collins 36
And NW is bailing hard on this first down PA. Did they see Wilson? I don’t know. But they’re playing 85 guys in the box on runs and back off on this one. Doesn’t actually matter since M gets good time and Collins(route+) is one on one with a S. He smokes the dude and only a throw behind Collins prevents a TD. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O10 1 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even 8 Run Split zone Wilson 7
Seems like NW DE doesn’t get the message. LB flies outside of him to contain QB so he should be able to crash down hard. He doesn’t; Gentry(+0.5) kicks him, barely. Bredeson(+1) drives his guy; Ruiz(+1) gets a LB thunk.
O3 2 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even 8 Run Split zone Higdon -2
Same play from both teams. This time the DE dives inside hard and crushes it. Tactically. Bredeson(-1) driven back into the gap as well. RPS -2.
O5 3 G Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 even 8 Pass Fade Perry Inc
Man to man rub on the edge gets Perry a step or two. Patterson misses. Why is this to the corner of the endzone instead of front corner? (IN, 0, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: FG(24), 10-17, 7 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M38 1 10 Shotgun 2-back TE 2 1 2 4-3 even SAM 7.5 Run Iso Higdon 6
DT dives inside Onwenu(+1) to make this look different; Onwenu drives that guy through. Ruiz(+1) and Bredeson(+0.5) hit and move the other DT with Ruiz getting to a LB. Mason(+1) has no angle to the other LB charging hard but hits him anyway and he starts going down. Higdon can run through. He gets a solid gain with meh YAC.
M44 2 4 Ace tight twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 8.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 3
Some counter action as Patterson makes a show of handing it one way and then Higdon goes straight upfield. Playside slant is handled OK. Higdon must cut back and does. JBB kicks the Gaz but starting giving ground; Gaz can reach out his arm and affect Higdon. Push. Everything else is also push? Onwenu and Ruiz both get decent blocks but nothing amazing. This is a successful run with a loaded box. Ruiz(+0.5), Onwenu(+0.5). Higdon(+0.5) did read the blocks and get to the gap.
M47 3 1 I-Form Big twin TE 2 2 1 4-3 under 9.5 Run Down G Higdon 2
At least Mason’s on the field? Gentry(+1) and McKeon(+0.5) down block effectively to pave the way; Ownenu pulls and his guy dodges but irrelevant. Mason(+1) puts his guy on the ground. Higdon meets last LB. Runyan harassed him but has no angle; he does prevent the kind of stick that might prevent a first down. Lot of blocking to get right when you can just wedge it.
M49 1 10 Ace twins twin TE 1 2 2 4-3 even 7 Pass Scramble Patterson 0
PA, safeties gone, one on one for DPJ and Collins. Patterson has all day, and I don’t care what kind of coverage those two guys have, throw the dang ball. Collins is 6-5, let him go make a play. Instead Patterson holds it forever and tries to scramble, no yards. (TAX, 0, protection 2/2)
M49 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 6.5 Run Power O Higdon 4
Light box with M spread out. M wants to run a tight power that hits inside JBB but NW slants to it. JBB(+0.5) moves the guy a bit; Bredeson(-1) does not re-gap. If he climbs over JBB and gets to the outside maybe this happens, maybe MLB doesn’t scrape over and Higdon gets a big play. Higdon(+0.5) does hop outside JBB and attacks; slot LB comes down to tackle.
O47 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide 1 1 3 Exotic 7 Pass Improv Gentry 17
NW sends five. Picked up. Patterson has time to execute this and routes appear to work, with Perry popping open in a giant pocket of space for a big chunk play. Patterson does not have the patience. He scrambles. Gentry, whose initial route was a nothing jog to the corner that is not a valid option, sees the movement and comes back to the ball to convert. (CA, 3, protection 3/3)
M36 1 10 Ace tight 1 2 2 4-3 over 7 Pass PA TE corner Eubanks 24
Man, I don’t know about this one. M goes to TE out PA for the third time and this time NW has a CB running specifically for this route. He’s under Eubanks and in dominating position. Patterson throws the Back Shoulder Corner made famous by Mitch Leidner and hits it. This is either an awesome NFL throw or a struggling QB getting lucky. (DO, 2, protection 2/2)
M12 1 10 Ace 3TE 1 3 1 4-3 under 10 Run Power O Higdon -3
No chance as M leaves the Gaz unblocked and hopes to get him with Onwenu(?). This isn’t on Onwenu; no OL is fast enough to get out on this. Eubanks(-2) probably missed an assignment, but this could be a bad idea play.
M15 2 13 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Dime under 4.5 Pass Hitch DPJ 9
Pitch and catch with NW playing off. Probably should have been doing this all day. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
M6 3 4 Shotgun empty TE 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass In Collins Inc
This really could have used a real replay. All I have is the regular angle. IMO: this ball is a bit high but clearly catchable by Collins, who doesn’t even try to catch it. (CA, 3, protection 1/1)
Drive Notes: FG(21), 13-17, EO3Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M37 1 10 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over 5.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 2
Another read nobody play. As soon as Gentry blocks instead of releasing the OLB over him fills on the running back and tackles unblocked and un-optioned. RPS -1.
M39 2 8 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 7 Run Zone read keeper Patterson 21 (Pen -10)
The worst holding call in football history. Been discussed already. NW blitzes off edge; Gentry(+0.5) gets enough of that guy. Patterson(+1) pulls and heads outside; S doesn’t even think this is a possibility. Patterson gets 21; called back. RPS +3.
M29 2 18 Shotgun trips 1 1 3 Nickel even 6 Pass Flash screen Collins 7
M borks the blocking with both WRs headed to the same guy. I think this is DPJ(-2) as they usually twist and DPJ does not . Collins(+1) is able to get a solid chunk of YAC. (CA, 3, screen)
M36 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 3-2 dime 5 Pass Dig Collins Inc
Patterson wings it high and wide of Collins; he has to knock it down to prevent an INT. (IN, 0, protection 2/2)
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-17, 11 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M33 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 2 0 3 Nickel even 6.5 Pass Dumpoff Wangler 9
Patterson checks down. It looks like DPJ is open beyond the LB level, FWIW. This is a questionable decision to dump it to a FB who takes contact a two yards but Wangler(+1) breaks a tackle and rumbles near the sticks. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
M42 2 1 Ace tight 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 8.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 3
Jet motion passes, big elaborate I’m giving it to this person motion; LBs react and flow; designed cutback. Onwenu(+0.5) turns it one guy; JBB(+0.5) kicks the other. Higdon has unblocked guys on the second level but LB had to redirect and other guy is a corner so the conversion is there. Not much more.
M45 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 6.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 1
Just dialed in. NW LBs are charging on runs and dropping on passes; an RPO would be real nice. Here NW lines up a safety at 7 yards and charges him. MLB blitz is picked up by Onwenu, but no one in the world has an angle to this safety, who tackles for a minimal gain. RPS -2. (Tough to judge blocking here as NW is setting this up to happen.)
M46 2 9 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel over 5.5 Pass TE corner Gentry 13
Three man rush. Patterson finally feels like a guy who knows what he’s looking at here with a quick, confident throw to Gentry that is a second read; he comes to Gentry and bang, it’s out. (CA, 3, protection 2/2)
O41 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 under 7.5 Run Split zone Higdon 1
I mean, they’ve got the safeties at 6 and 8 again. You’re not taking a shot at a smoke to a WR with a CB eight yards off and nobody else in the building? M tipping run with their WRs here: Martin and Bell. Anyway, 9 guys run pell mell at the LOS. Runyan(-1) tries to wall and go to a LB; LB runs outside and DL goes through. Ruiz goes direct to a LB because he has to because nobody’s slowed them down all day; Bredeson(-1) loses against the other DT. Onwenu(+2) clobbers the other guy two yards downfield and seals him and it doesn’t matter because a S coming from six yards is there at the LOS to tackle, RPS -2.
O40 2 9 Shotgun 3-wide 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Pass Scramble Patterson 3
Runyan(-1) beat on STP by a non Gaz. Patterson doesn’t really have anyone because of great depth by the dropping LBs, who had no interest in the token PA. Patterson rolls out and gets what he can. (PR, 0, protection ½)
O37 3 6 Shotgun empty TE 1 1 3 Exotic 5 Pass Scramble Patterson 9
Ruiz(-2) goes with a guy slanting way outside and the loop around is way too easy. Pressure up the gut. NW drops a DT into a spy zone, which kills them because their rush is too permeable and the DT is useless. Patterson finds a lane and runs past the DT. (SCR, 0, protection 0/2)
O28 1 10 Pistol 2TE 1 2 2 4-3 even SAM 7 Run Inside zone Higdon 1
7 man box but a corner blitz to make it eight. DT slides to Onwenu; JBB releases to LB level and has no angle. Onwenu(-1) driven into the backfield. Runyan(-2) gets ripped through pretty badly and that guy tackles at the LOS. No read, FWIW.
O27 2 9 Shotgun empty 1 1 3 Nickel under 4.5 Pass Seam Gentry 21
Patterson takes his shot against the zone, finally, and hits Gentry just before the CB can come under it. A matter of inches here; results. (DO, 2, protection 1/1)
O6 1 G I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 10 Run Iso Higdon 1
Blocked pretty well on the first level. Onwenu(+1) gets a dude jetting hard upfield and kicks. Mason(+1) buries a LB who’s already falling. Higdon hits a gap and gets a safety in his grill. NW’s check on the WR motion put this S right in the zone. If M leaves that WR over to the left this might be a TD. RPS -2, there is no possible blocker for this S that M invited to the party.
O5 2 G Shotgun trips H 1 1 3 4-3 under 9 Run Split zone Higdon 5
Quads, Mason motions in. Very illegal seeming formation but apparently it checked out (refs +1). A simple split zone sees two LBs bury themselves in the line, the Gaz checks the QB, and the line slants away? Broke ass D. RPS +1.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 20-17, 4 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form RB TE WR D Form Box Type Play Player Yards
M34 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-3 under 8 Run Iso Higdon 1
Damn near the same thing that happened on the goal to goal first down on previous drive. S moves to middle on motion,unblocked. Also Gentry(-2) fires out a DE that Runyan has and lets a DB through free. He tackles in the backfield. S finishes. Higdon has a shot at more yards without that. Onwenu(+1) put a guy on the ground; Mason(+1) wiped a LB; Ruiz(+1) chipped and got to a back. That S, though, RPS -2.
M35 2 9 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over 5.5 Run Inside zone Higdon 3
Patterson sees the Gaz step down hard and gives. He’s got an arc block from Gentry and a DE stepping the wrong way. Pull? He doesn’t. Gaz redirects to the QB after the step down but Higdon can’t see that, not reasonable to expect him to. He’s got to go to the interior. Rest of NW’s play works because they ignore . the QB. Onwenu(-1) does get more or less beat but the LB is flying in past JBB who has no angle; jammed. Bredeson(+0.5) and Ruiz(+0.5) do blow out a DT and reach an OLB way out of position.
M38 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide H 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Run Zone read keeper Patterson 8
And the keep. Whole D is gone except for the one CB they keep outside, who’s just trying to hold it down man. Patterson(+2) keeps and if he didn’t this time I’d just assume that there’s no such thing as a post snap run read in M’s whole offense. He then gives that CB the business for the first down. RPS +1.
M36 1 10 I-Form Big 2 2 1 4-4 even SAM 9 Run Split flow counter Higdon 0
M now in a situation where running is very profitable and RPS is off. And M digs out a last year play for the first time this year. Onwenu(-1) driven back by a DT; Bredeson(-1) controlled by and shed by the Gaz; no room, immediate tackle.
M36 2 10 Shotgun 2TE 1 2 2 4-4 under 8 Run Split zone Higdon 5
This should not work, with a bunch of mediocre push blocks at best. Higdon(+1) dodges a free LB and flings himself forward.
M41 3 5 Shotgun trips TE 1 1 3 4-3 over 7 Run Inside zone Higdon 4
A must pull from Patterson(-2), who has absolutely nobody bothering with him on the edge. Handoff, possibly called Higdon(+1) cuts back to the giant acres of space Patterson spurned but can’t quite get there. Gentry(-1) got blown back by the Gaz. Can’t blame him but that’s a minus.
Drive Notes: Punt, 20-17, 1 min 4th Q. EOG for O.





I AM—wait, yep?

Bolded Alter Ego, you're not always presenting an argument I want to knock down. Sometimes you are the writhing id of the Michigan fanbase and kinda sorta on point.


I did not like the outcome of this RPS matchup, which was a solid L at –6 with high amplitude. The go-go-go nature of the Northwestern defense contributes to the high numbers and that is somewhat unavoidable. When you play a team that at one point sent a safety who's supposed to be checking a 20-yard throw across the line of scrimmage, you're going to have a day heavy on the RPS:

NW safety creepin'

The loss was not inevitable. I wonder if the week off gave Northwestern an edge here, because they seemed to have Michigan downloaded late. When they ran, Northwestern linebackers flung themselves at the line of scrimmage.

NW LB level

When they passed nobody bought Michigan's token play action and the linebackers achieved terrific depth on their zone drops:

NW LB level

Northwestern did have a couple of plays on which they didn't guess run or pass right but spookily few. So Michigan set downs on fire running into what were legitimate nine-man boxes with safeties at six and eight yards. What are you even looking at here? This is reminiscent of the 27 for 27 Penn State game when the opposition was playing in the parking lot against Jeremy Gallon and Al Borges didn't care:

Those CB have zero safety help and know it and are backing off on the snap. Allowing the opposition to align like this is a major tactical failure. You have one on one matchups with the whole field available, and when you run the ball with a safety at six yards presnap you get what you deserve. Northwestern did this over and over again and not once did Michigan punish them for it. They only tried to once, I think. What are you doing running into this? On second and ten?


You think Not Even Montre Hartage is likely to win one on one here? You think Nico Collins can't get eight yards on an immediate throw? FFS.

But they got 370 yards against a pretty good defense?

This game felt short but was 11 drives, which is pretty average. 370 yards isn't great, and I thought the team played better than that.

Many of the things that worked were a little janky. I strongly prefer winning touchdown drives that aren't cobbled together with scrambles and passes that are a foot from a PBU or worse. How many times did Patterson have an obviously open guy to throw to? How many times was he looking at a bunch of covered WRs? How many times did Michigan get something easy? Not much. The end around. A couple passes. Some Northwestern dorfs.

Michigan's pass protection was excellent, their run blocking very good, and it was still a struggle to get up and down the field. The two main drivers of that struggle were Patterson, who had an off day that he made up for a bit with his running, and Northwestern's significant RPS win.

It was a generally frustrating game to chart, one in which Michigan's playcalling seemed to put Michigan behind the eight-ball in various situations. The failure to Ben Mason still sticks out. His two short yardage conversions were dead simple:

Wedge with the right side of the line and Mason falls forward. Until someone stops it, run it.

The two-play sequence that resulted in the turnover on downs was less bad on review—both plays probably should have gotten the first down but for a critical mistake on each. It still seems like you're risking those errors in a way that the dumb little FB dive does not.

On the other hand, the second and goal from the three looks much worse. Michigan got seven yards on first down because they got lucky. Northwestern has a gap exchange on with a LB looping outside to contain. This gives the DE free rein to go hammer the TE, but he screws it up:

NW DE #83 to bottom

There's your gap. On the next play, Michigan runs the same thing. Northwestern runs the same thing. The DE doesn't screw up this time:

NW DE #83 to bottom

You have three cracks at Masoning it into the endzone. Instead a playcall on which Michigan's blocking doesn't even get to apply.

And they keep pulling Onwenu?


I see our détente has come to its end.

Weren't you just some sort of slavering e-Troll who talks in all caps?

Well, I never.

In any case: I don't think it's a problem. Northwestern linebackers blazed into him twice, but on both occasions he managed to make the block. This is not a LB knifing into the backfield such that the play is dead. It's just that Higdon runs directly into the LB when gaps to either side are available:

He's even bouncing to the gap between Onwenu and JBB before redirecting directly into the LB. The story was similar on the failed fourth and short, except Higdon did go outside and got stuffed because of a different issue. If Onwenu is able to get around enough against Northwestern, which has some of the most aggressive linebackers in the country, it's fine.

The third incident is highly likely to be a Eubanks MA. First level defenders like this don't get left alone on the playside for reasons that are immediately apparent:

DE #97 to bottom, also M TE #82 to bottom

Nobody is getting to the Gaz there. Onwenu is fine. When allowed to go forward he's rooting people out.

Okay but PFF thinks we can't run block at all.

I don't know what they're looking at. It's possible I'm just overlooking some bad technique stuff that they're negging. I try to keep this results-oriented since I am not an OL or an OL coach and the intricacies of the position are not known to me. I (usually) don't evaluate blocks that are too far away from the ball to be relevant because their results are unknown.


lurking... lurking beneath

chart is a bit of a mixed bag but Michigan again hit our 2:1 positive ratio on the ground—this is probably a consecutive games record—and got a solid day from Higdon. 

Offensive Line

Player + - Total Notes
Runyan 3.5 6 -2.5 Gaz was a tough matchup.
Bredeson 5 4 1 Faded a bit late.
Ruiz 9.5 1 8.5 Clubbed DTs and climbed to LBs.
Onwenu 11.5 4.5 7 Graded some dudes.
JBB 4   4 Don't get why they're not running to him more.
Spanellis       DNP
McKeon 2.5 2.5 0 Critical whiff on fourth and one.
Gentry 3.5 4 -0.5  
Eubanks   2 -2 MA on Gaz TFL, I think?
Mason 7   7 +6 blocking.
TOTAL 45.5 22 68% Can't block safeties at six though.
Player + - T Notes
Patterson 5 2 3 Gave 'em the Forcier to convert.
McCaffrey       DNP
Higdon 9.5 4 5.5 Impressive grinding YAC.
Evans       DNP
Samuels       DNP
Wilson       DNC
Turner       DNP
TOTAL 14.5 6 8.5 Couple of missed cuts/pulls. 
Player + - T Notes
DPJ 1.5 3 -1.5 Screen dorf.
Collins 2 4 -2 Not Steve Breaston.
Perry 2.5   2.5 Downfield blocking.
Bell   1 -1 Jet should have cut up.
TOTAL 6 8 -2 First downs shunned.
Player + - T Notes
Protection 36 6 86% Ruiz –3, Runyan –2, Team -1
RPS 15 21 -6 Did not get after NW for their aggression.

What I saw was a bunch of blocks that got made and not a whole lot of payoff because of the hyperaggressive nature of the Northwestern defense. As we saw the last few weeks, when you run against blitzball programs you need to break some long ones to keep up statistically. Michigan didn't have a super long run and had a big chunk taken off the board with the phantom holding call. Many runs that didn't go anywhere weren't blocks getting beaten but safeties allowed to camp out almost in the box.

Let's revisit that Higdon run above against the safeties at 6 and 8. Every block on this play is made. Every one. McKeon, Runyan, and Collins all get their guys, but Higdon has to bend because of the safety's presnap positioning and the CB can fill. There's literally nothing else that the blockers can do here.

That's why the RPS metric exists. It is possible to grind through these nine man fronts but even when you do  your upside is limited. Higdon has to run through a safety at four yards on a play where Onwenu and JBB both definitively win blocks up the gut:

When Michigan was able to put a NW linebacker in the wrong gap they paid it off pretty well. That A-gap iso Seth covered sees Mason, Onwenu, and a Ruiz/Bredeson double all crunch guys:

interior line and #42 FB

Ditto on the TD:

What draws negs from me are missing blocks entirely (usually –2), missed assignments (usually –2), getting driven back to close a gap or force a bend (usually –1), and failing to get movement on a double (usually –0.5 each). And that didn't really happen much. Michigan didn't get swamped in the backfield much and when they did it was usually a tactical thing, like Michigan failing to recognize a highly likely slant:

I threw out a bunch of minuses on that play but the original sin is not recognizing that slot LB creeping down. Once that guy comes down you know you're getting a slant to the play and need to block down instead of having guys release immediately. This is a different kind of error. As always, YMMV.

This was a high level of opposition that Michigan's blockers got a W against. A narrow one, but a W.

I have this gold star burning a hole in my pocket.

While we're on the subject, one Gold Star for Cesar Ruiz on that end around. He's hitting the Gaz two yards behind the LOS when Peoples-Jones turns the corner and is still able to get out on a lead block:

He had a couple of pass protection hiccups but was otherwise dominant.

I'll take pass protection hiccups. I would have taken any sort of gastrointestinal distress that kept the tubes inside.

Yes, this was pretty encouraging. 86% against a real team is nice. There is an important caveat: Northwestern was playing to contain virtually all day. Blitzes were extremely rare. The Gaz was dropped into coverage repeatedly. Northwestern chose, fairly wisely, to sit back and tackle. An important step forward that leads to this faintly ludicrous stat...

...and even if that's generous if you told me anyone would be saying nice things about Michigan's pass protection after the Notre Dame game I would have been very drunk and disinclined to reply. If you told me the next morning I would have permitted the brief flickering of hope.

Patterson's day was... gritty? He ran some? And Led Us Down The Field To Rescue Us From Defeat?

Gritty is about right. There was sand in his gears, and then he got onto Northwestern's carpet and took his shoes off. The chart here is still fairly good, devoid of major errors:


  Good   Neutral   Bad   Ovr
Notre Dame 2+ 18(4)+ 1   5 1   1(1) 2 2 1*   77% -
WMU 3++ 9(2)++     2 1     1 2     77% -
SMU 3+ 9(1)+ 3     1     2 1 2*   74% -
Nebraska 2 11(2)+     1         2 1   79% -
Northwestern 2 12(2)+ 3   1 3     3* 4     68% -

But there's a clear drop in Patterson's efficiency. Some incidents were understandable. On Michigan's first drive their third down saw Northwestern drop eight against Michigan max pro; all three downfield WRs were bracketed. There is really nowhere useful to go here:

Maaaybe Grant Perry is getting open past the LB level but it's hard to tell.

Others were not. This is self-inflicted pressure by Patterson, who drifts back to ten yards deep and has to move because even when you win an edge pass pro event the DE often comes around at... ten yards:

Instead of finding Perry as he breaks open to the edge of the field, Patterson is moving around and trying to direct traffic. That was a trend: Patterson didn't like various looks and didn't trust his pass protection—which fair enough even if they were very good in this game—and resorted to running around trying to make something happen.

Even when sitting in the pocket and firing things didn't go so well. Michigan toasts a cornerback on a slant and go here, but Patterson has a "loading" swirly thing pop up mid-play and inexplicably waits:

Michigan got the look they wanted. Let it rip. If that's out as soon as Patterson reloads it's a chunk. This attempted third and short conversion is also late:

That ball has to be out when Collins breaks out. That could still be a conversion but the ball is behind Collins, who decides to jump, possibly unnecessarily. Later the deep shot to Collins was a completion... but coulda shoulda been a touchdown if the ball led him. The one time Michigan did go with deep play action against an absurdly safety-free Northwestern lineup he just held the ball:

Collins and DPJ are one on one. If DPJ is covered you have Collins on a fly route and should throw the ball. There is no CB against which tossing Collins a one on one arm punt is a bad idea. A few plays later it looks like Perry is popping open as Michigan runs a zone-beater, but Patterson exits the pocket and relies on improv. It's hard to tell on these without downfield replays, but this is a guy who's open as Collins draws that LB to him:


Patterson has bugged out of a clean enough pocket.

All of this points to a quarterback who was very uncomfortable. This kind of timing throw that's out in rhythm was unfortunately rare:

Northwestern plays a ton of zone, almost never blitzed, frequently dropped eight, and rarely bit on play action. The reads and windows were tight. Patterson didn't make them quickly enough in many cases; in others he didn't trust his protection and exited a clean pocket before his WRs broke open.

He offset this with some effective scrambling, a fair number of completions despite the above, and two throws that were either brilliant or lucky. We try to be a results-based charting system here but you have to wonder how much of this was on purpose:

The chart says DO. It also says DO for the throw to Gentry that set Michigan up for the winning score. That was a nervy moment too:

You wonder. Arguing in Patterson's favor is the fact that no Northwestern pass defender touched a ball in this game. Dangerous throws were limited to the two completions embedded just above.

Northwestern provided a very different challenge than opponents to date and there was a settling in period; Patterson's efficiency peaked late and hopefully that will continue going forward against teams that might try the same kind of thing.

And he pulled the ball some! Woo!

He did. These were close to uncontested. Michigan is running the kind of offense where the QB pulling the ball is a seismic event that sees all eleven defenders collapse to the ground. The 21 yard run that the Worst Holding Call Ever eliminated was an example. So was the third down conversion on Michigan's four minute drill:

And the third down that didn't quite make it. Look at this mesh point:


Patterson does not pull; Higdon in fact cuts into the gaping nothingness on the backside of this play but because he's got to kill his momentum to do so he doesn't get to the line. It seems like Patterson is passing up on opportunities to pull a few times per game. The old Rich Rodriguez rule is that if you got four yards you made the right decision. That is obviously not the cutoff for Harbaugh.

There are many possibilities here. Maybe Patterson just doesn't to run if he doesn't have to. Maybe the coaching staff wants to keep him away from hits as much as possible. Maybe they're not repping mesh points enough to have confidence to make this a real read and it's all presnap. I don't know. I do prefer the sort of offense that makes you respect the QB on a down to down basis than the sort that allows you to ignore him until they take their 20 yard chunk one to three times a game.

McKeon lost a fair amount of PT. Was it just the drop?

I think the fourth and one was probably the reason he sat more. A lot of people are muttering about Mike Onwenu not pulling fast enough, but it's McKeon getting batted past a linebacker immediately that really submarines the play.

#84 TE to top

Mason has to kick out the guy who flung McKeon past him and that allows a cornerback in free. If Higdon is hit by one guy instead of two he powers out the first down—as it was he was about three inches short.

I don't think this is going to last. Eubanks had a couple of issues of his own. There was the previously discussed Gaz TFL; he also failed to settle against the zone on an incompletion he got a route minus on.

Speaking of: receivers?

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

Player 0 1 2 3   0 1 2 3
DPJ 1     2/2   2 0/1 1/1 15/15
Collins 1   1/2 3/4     0/1 3/4 8/9
Martin           2 1/3   4/4
Perry 1         2 0/2   6/6
Bell     1/1         1/1  
McCurry               1/1 1/1
McKeon       0/1   1   1/1 5/6
Gentry     1/1 2/2   3   3/3 10/12
Eubanks     1/1 1/1   1   1/1 2/2
Evans                 4/4
Higdon        1/1          2/2
Wilson                 1/1
Thomas       0/1            0/1

I charged Collins with a straight up drop for the in route he did not attempt to catch, FWIW. I general his game was a weird, up and down thing. He had a number of important catches, including a 32-yarder that set Michigan up for a shoulda-coulda TD. But also:

That's catchable, I think. We never got a real replay. Collins either doesn't see it or thinks it's for DPJ or has a severe case of footsteps. No idea.

Collins also frustrated with a couple of crucial, bad decisions on the ground. That third and short WR screen I was cranky about actually turned out to be a first down waiting to happen if Collins just runs outside, or directly into the last defensive back:


There is no way Collins, who is two yards long, isn't falling forward for a first down if he understands he is a large burly man and this is no longer high school. When he goes straight north and south he grinds out impressive quantities of yards. He got hit about a yard downfield on a screen that ended up in a Katamari ball of receivers and defensive backs seven yards downfield.

When he tries to dodge guys it doesn't go well:

Again, this really looks like a first down if Collins just veers slightly left but mostly plows ahead:


Two steps and then indirect contact with a DB keeping leverage. Fourth and one at worst, right?

Collins coughed up a first down and (at least) an opportunity to go on fourth and short with decisions like this. DPJ had a similar incident on the first snap where he turned 8-9 yards into 4 by trying to dodge guys he could not dodge. I imagine that will be a focus in practice.

Also in this category is Ronnie Bell on the early jet sweep:

If he cuts this up behind Gentry instead of bending he's got a big play. This is also a slight tactical beef: you'd hope someone in the box saw this and came back to it later after explicitly instructing Bell that if Gentry is kicking a guy out you need to cut off his butt.

Got some things to work on.


Ruiz and and Onwenu did a lot of moving of folks. The pass protection was excellent. Gentry should have got more targets. Ben Mason was a hammer.

Maybe not so heroic?

Not throwing against zero coverage. Collins's mistaken belief he is a slot.

What does it mean for Maryland and beyond?

We might survive this crazy train ride after all. 86% protection, minimal Gaz incursions. LFG.

Someone get a smoke check in the offense. If a DB is eight yards off, throw the ball to Collins and you will get a nice gain. Or, like, go deep.

Either add some RPOs or work on more convincing PA. At no point in this game with the super aggressive LBs did they key run or pass wrong. There were some run plays that put them in the wrong gap, but the easy chunk to Gentry over the middle just did not exist.

Maybe we should run over the right side more? Michigan's run game is weirdly left handed, preferring to pull Onwenu instead of Bredeson and rarely clobbering people with the Big Big Boys on the right. Michigan's late surge last year was built largely on grinding people over the right side, and IMO those guys are performing better overall.

More Mason. Mason for all the short yardage. Mason for the mashing of faces as well, he was a perfect +6-0 when doing that against a really good LB. They should try to get him up to half the snaps.

Run straight upfield please, outside WRs. Probably blew three first downs between them. Game might be a lot different if Michigan converts a second and one on the first drive.


Diagonal Blue

October 4th, 2018 at 5:56 PM ^

I'll say it, I don't think Pep Hamilton is a good offensive coordinator. I couldn't believe Sam Webb on the radio this week trying to defend the play calling. Where the hell are the audibles in this offense.


October 4th, 2018 at 6:04 PM ^

I think I agree with you.  I was watching the game and thinking the kids were playing pretty well but I just hated what we were doing on offense.  This just isn't what I expected in year 4 with a competent QB.  We were much more dynamic when Jedd Fisch was here.  It is hard to win with such pro-style unless you just have superior guys across the board like Alabama and Georgia.

Diagonal Blue

October 4th, 2018 at 6:34 PM ^

Pretty much what I think as well. They are paying Pep Hamilton $1 million a year for a reason. I think he's calling the plays with maybe some input from a guy like McElwain. Then the play call goes thru Harbaugh's headset. 

It's 2018 and moving the football on offense has never been easier, yet we make everything look so damn hard. The play design of the passing game leaves a lot to be desired. Running into 8 and 9 man fronts repeatedly is just lighting downs on fire. There needs to be more audibles and check with me's in the offense to take advantage of how defenses are lining up. All the creativity on offense that Harbaugh had his first two years here and while at Stanford has vanished. I'd love to bring Jedd back especially after he's spent the last year around Sean McVay.

Just my two cents.


October 4th, 2018 at 7:41 PM ^

What Harbaugh does do is give kids exposure to more the kind of playing they will see in the NFL.  Most college football teams run a few different variations of a few concepts, Harbaugh tries to teach them several different concepts and have them have to adapt their skill set to all of them.  I think he really tests kids ability, more so that a lot of different places.  When he gets a few offensive classes in here, my guess is that a lot of Michigan players will success in the NFL for having been coached by Harbaugh.


October 4th, 2018 at 7:07 PM ^

Pep's the wrong guy to look at. Harbaugh is the one who has the final call on what plays are designed and installed. He has the authority, knowledge, and interest to dictate what sort of balance he wants in playcalls. He's on the headset; any of those predictable runs can be overridden, and frankly he has plenty of time to say "Hey, Pep, don't call a run on first down" when Michigan is on defense.

Based on what Brian has outlined in the UFR, I wonder if the plays are being tipped. Personnel can do that, certainly; so can certain aspects of formation. 

Harbaugh is the one designing the plays. If the plays are tipping run or pass, he needs to adjust. 

Pep's job is to assist in this process, since it's a big process. He's the one picking stuff off of the playsheet in the booth, but he's picking based on Harbaugh's gameplan and strategy. He is also relaying what he sees to the field; e.g, "the LBs are dropping on our pass plays" or "Shea isn't seeing open guys" or "their safeties are crowding the LOS." If Pep is failing at that, well, that's really bad; it's also highly improbable. 

It is more likely that Harbaugh wanted to go conservative. Perhaps they were concerned about Shea's lackluster reading of the defense; perhaps he felt that changing up the blocking schemes would be more effective than it was; perhaps he realized halfway through that plays were tipped and that it was too late to do anything about it and so just kept at it. 

Pep calls what Harbaugh wants him to call. If he wasn't capable of it, he wouldn't be in the booth. Harbaugh has McElwain available. He has Warinner. He has guys with experience with this stuff, and as he showed last year moving Drev down to the field midseason, he's not afraid to shake things up if they aren't working. Harbaugh appears to be getting what he wants.

Diagonal Blue

October 4th, 2018 at 7:35 PM ^

That's a lot of words to justify why our offense is stuck in the 1970's. At the end of the day yes it's Harbaugh's team and yes he's the one where the buck stops but you're kidding yourself if you think he has the time as the head coach to drawing up plays and devising game plans. Tom Herman said something to this affect when asked why he gave up play calling at Texas. That's why Pep Hamilton makes $1 million dollars a year. Harbaugh oversees the entire operation and I'm sure has input but he's not driving the car so to speak and the Amazon series offered a lot of confirmation of that.

They key to good play calling is taking advantage of mismatches on the field whether that be thru scheme or personnel and we aren't doing that anywhere close to enough. We were down 17-0 and needed every second of those 60 minutes to get back in that game. Great time to be conservative huh? Our offense lacks creativity and explosiveness to get easy yards on a consistent basis. It's highly concerning that against the two teams we've played with a pulse on defense we haven't cracked 400 yards of offense or scored more than 20 points. No ifs and or buts, those are the facts.



October 4th, 2018 at 7:46 PM ^

I don’t think what we are running is as dated as you think it is.  I think when our offense is functioning well, it looks very similar in concept to modern NFL offenses.  It is a matter of execution more than design, IMO.  And with those runs up the middle, how are these kids going to learn to overcome their weaknesses if all he does is scheme around them?  I think he wants to challenge players to do things they may seem uncomfortable with.  Lot of football left to be played this year.  And there are improvements.  Soon you won’t hsve to squint to see them.  I am expecting the sharpest offensive performance of the year on Saturday.


October 4th, 2018 at 7:58 PM ^

As much as I want to agree with you and disagree with Diag, I don't think Harbaugh was being predictable just so the team could learn to deal with things; Michigan was playing from behind for almost the entire game. The goal is to win. Being unpredictable doesn't keep players from learning to execute.

And while being at home will naturally improve Michigan's offensive performance this weekend, I don't share your optimism, if only because I suspect Michigan is really holding the unique stuff to pull it out against Wisconsin, MSU, and PSU.

The scheme isn't from the 70s, but it sure did seem to be deliberately choosing to make things harder than they needed to be.

Yost Ghost

October 5th, 2018 at 4:15 PM ^

UM was behind because the #1 defense in CFB gave up 17 points in the first quarter, not because of offensive play calling. Don Brown doesn't seem worried about it so neither am I.

If you listened to the the Rountable there were several times our receivers didn't get vertical after the catch and it cost the team several first downs. Shea had people open that he didn't throw to. That stuff sounds like execution. 

I'm not saying the play call is stellar but what if it's a combination of several things like play call, execution, penalties and Gaz?


October 4th, 2018 at 7:54 PM ^

Neither of your paragraphs actually address what I wrote. I have little to argue with your second paragraph, which says things I've affirmed in other places (as you tacitly admit by adopting my "car" illustration). 

Your first paragraph shows a flawed view of how the dynamics work behind the scenes. What the Amazon series showed us was Pep calling plays off the playsheet from the booth during games; that is what he still does. That tells us nothing about the process of watching film, designing plays, installing them, and developing the gameplan for the week.

There is a reason that there is no identified "offensive coordinator" on this staff and that is because Harbaugh bears much of the responsibility of running the offense. During the game, he has to pay attention to a lot of things, so he delegates most of the initial playsheet calling to Pep. But Pep isn't the OC. He isn't deciding, on his own, what mismatches to emphasize. He doesn't design the plays on his own. He isn't building the gameplan on his own. He has input, but Harbaugh is the one making the call. He's the one with the final say, and he is heavily involved in the design and focus of the offense from the beginning and throughout the week. 

If Michigan loses three or four games this year and struggles like this on offense throughout the season, I will be fine with a change in offensive staff. But it won't be because it's Pep's fault; it will be because Harbaugh hasn't done a great job developing a coachable, effective college offense. It will be time for him to delegate more responsibility.

Right now, he hasn't delegated much responsibility. There is a 0% chance that any one of those frustratingly throttled run plays were called against Harbaugh's advice or preference. There is a 0% chance that he does not know that Northwestern was keying on Michigan's plays. There is a 0% chance that Harbaugh watched film on Sunday thinking, "man, Pep really blew that one." 

Because Pep is doing basically what Harbaugh wants him to do. 


October 4th, 2018 at 10:45 PM ^

I think you underestimate how much Pep does.  I think everyone is in agreement that JH has final play calling approval.  The problem is there are only so many seconds between plays. 

Also, when the defense is on the field JH isn't able to look at the coverages and see how the defense is approaching the offense and start to look at plays that might work next series.  That is all Pep. 

You think the whole offensive staff sits down and designs plays together?  They may do that for gameplans but there is no way Pep isn't designing plays himself.  He is the pass game coordinater.  And if he isn't, then why is he even on staff?

Sure, it is probably 0% that JH watches film and says "man, pep really blew that one" but what are the odds that JH says "good shit pep?" I would guess they are pretty similar. 


October 5th, 2018 at 1:06 AM ^

The fact that there are only so many seconds between plays is not in dispute. Most coaches, even the offensively-minded ones, have a guy in the booth whose job it is to see what is happening on the field from an elevated perspective and to spend their entire time focusing on what plays to call. Michigan is no exception. 

But these playcalls aren't being conjured out of thin air. Game plans and playsheets aren't just random keyboard reference cards or vague ideas that say "we'd like to run up the middle a lot." They are comprehensively researched, designed, assembled, and practiced matrixes of plays that are developed to anticipate the events of the forthcoming game. They are different for every game and they are a vital part of the preparation of the week.

Remember Bo's playsheet? Even back in the "dark ages" offenses had specific packages of plays that were developed for the various scenarios (goal line, 3rd-and-long, goal-to-go, etc) that the offense would find itself in during a game. It has only gotten more sophisticated since then, with plays designed that meet specific yardage requirements, pre-built adjustments, and so on. 

These are developed early in the week based upon study of the previous week's film and study of the opposing team. For example, as we learned in Neck Sharpies this week, Northwestern likes to play even fronts and likes to leave space in the middle for the linebackers to attack. The coaches saw this and planned a number of iso runs from different formations to exploit it. Last week's star, Down G? It was in there, but not a heavy emphasis. The same thing happens for various passing plays and play actions. Defensive adjustments are anticipated and planned for. All of these plays are packaged into the gameplan and then practiced during the week. 

All of this follows Harbaugh's philosophies. His preferred route combinations, the types of reads he likes to present to the QBs. His preference to control the clock and the LOS by running. That sort of thing. Second-and-long is envisioned and Harbaugh's preferred way to attack it is established. If something is missing, he decides whether or not to include it.

The other coaches are involved, of course. This is complex work. They scout different things and make different suggestions. But this is Harbaugh's offense.

Pep hasn't, for example, simply ignored a desire from Harbaugh to throw RB screens so far this year; they're probably available, but it is almost certain that Harbaugh has chosen to keep them off of the field for the time being. Pep was not countermanding Harbaugh's preference by running on every first down. 

The plain fact is that if the offense is unable to get off of the ground this year and it costs us wins, the responsibility lies with the man in the chair. That's Jim Harbaugh. As long as he runs the offense in his preferred fashion, it won't matter who the "passing game coordinator" is. A significant change would require Harbaugh to change the level of responsibility he himself holds over the offense. 

I don't think the verdict is in yet. There is real potential here. There is talent, there is intelligence, there is the possibility of winning big games. But we haven't seen it yet. I hope we do. 


October 5th, 2018 at 7:08 AM ^

Maybe this is the place to ask a simple (naive?) question. I get that having the best D in the country ought to enable a squad like the one Harbaugh envisions to run the ball, to play to control the time clock and line of scrimmage. 

Only getting there and not perfect yet? Fair enough. 

But why don't we have more dynamic play-calling prepared when we are way behind?

I worry that a certain arrogance informs the proceedings, or--worse--a lack of contingency preparation.

I too had a sense that Shea was a little frustrated last week, and wondered about what some of the lurking tensions might be. 


October 5th, 2018 at 10:10 AM ^

I agree with you it is JH's offense. I am not necessarily disagreeing with you about anything.  My whole argument is essentially that Pep brings nothing additional to the table. 

Play calls aren't conjured up.  As you say that is a collaborative process in the beginning of the week. So Pep is part of that process.  JH has admitted that he is a bad screen coach, hence why UM never runs them. So that is an area that Pep could bring something.  I don't think he does.  I don't know for a fact, but we are fans and all we can do is speculate. 

JH is not one to say no to an idea.  He ran the train. He likes to run weird formations.  There are a lot fewer shifts.  There are no unique formations (outside of motioning Ben Mason in on a play that worked).  Pep is a spread em out with a lot of WRs on the field kind of guy.  Going shotgun on the goalline screams Pep's influence to me.  I know JH had final say on those plays, but it doesn't seem like something he would even consider two years ago. They did it against ND and NW, neither worked. 


October 4th, 2018 at 8:22 PM ^

It still feels like training wheels are on with this offense. I understand as a coach of a YOUNG team... there are things you want to do but just can't without everything falling to bits immediately. Thinking back to the interviews this week, Coach W said the word "simplified" again. You can't still be "simplifying" things AND making complex audibles. You are either laying basic foundation building blocks to get good at SOMETHING (which we have not been for the past... forever*) or work on everything and be good at nothing.  Think back to ND - we only had one functional way to snap the ball that the coaches trusted. We are much further along then that. This year has already seen the most growth and progression then any OLine we have had in recent memory (not to say they are doing great, but they are certainly improving week-to-week). By bowl time, I think we will see more complexity and audibles, especially if we don't have to always throw from max-protect all the time.

yossarians tree

October 5th, 2018 at 2:25 PM ^

Rewatch that play where Higdon gets thrown down by The Gaz four yards into the backfield. Grant Perry (Grant Perry! Not DPJ, not Collins, not Gentry) was one on one with a corner. As the ball is snapped the safety on his side immediately crashes down, leaving their corner playing to the boundary on an island with Perry. Perry puts a little move on the guy and gets inside edge and could post wide open not just to the end zone but to the Nebraska border. The only way that's not an easy touchdown is if the ball is really badly thrown.


October 4th, 2018 at 6:27 PM ^

This has me feeling worried about the offense.  Sources say this is Harbaugh, but this offense looks painfully basic without any of the wrinkles pre-snap that Harbaugh offenses have previously had.


October 4th, 2018 at 6:30 PM ^

We already know that Harbaugh's philosophy is to run the ball down teams' throats, even when they expect it. He breaks out creative game plans in big games, but otherwise this is what they're going to do unless someone with a different philosophy gains Harbaugh's ear. 

Anyways, there's no wonder they haven't been able to recruit wide receivers since 2017.