Upon Further Review: Defense vs Illinois Comment Count

Brian October 24th, 2007 at 7:57 PM
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
M33 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Run 7 Zone read handoff
Fullback in the game; Mendenhall motions in from the slot. FB used as a lead blocker as Taylor gets doubled at the POA. CGraham(-1) gets blocked out of the hole and Mendenhall has a crease; a blitzing Harrison comes around from the backside and grabs at Mendenhall's legs; he almost powers through but falls.
M26 2 2 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Pass 26 Zone read PA
Again with motion from the slot to the backfield; this time it's Benn. Illinois fakes inside to Mendenhall as Benn comes around the outside, giving a triple option look. This sucks up Graham and Englemon, leaving eight guys within two yards of the LOS. Warren(-2) has let his man behind him; easy pitch and catch for the touchdown. (Cover -2) It looks like Warren expects safety help from Englemon and got the defense mixed up.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 0-7, 14 min 1st Q. Fake beautifully executed there; we freak out about the option and Juice had his choice of targets.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
M40 1 10 Ace 3-wide Nickel Run 2 Zone right
Straight zone stretch here that we could have run. We have an extra guy, Harrison, in the box and they neglect to block him because Crable(+1) drives his man into the backfield and draws attention from a guard. Harrison slows Mendenhall; Jamison and others converge to tackle after a small gain.
M38 2 8 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass -6 Flare screen
Benn motions into the backfield, then runs a little flare screen. This is odd, since instead of blocking Harrison the slot guy runs a little flare route of his own, allowing him to close unblocked. He does do this(+2), making a key TFL without overrunning the dangerous Benn.
M44 3 14 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pen -5 False Start
M49 3 19 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass -12 Sack
Well, full credit to CGraham(+2) here. He blitzes, beating the left tackle to the corner and grabbing Juice from behind as he attempts to scramble out of the pocket. (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 9 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O4 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 Goalline Run 0 Off tackle
Jamo(+1) is ignored on the first level in favor of a double on Johnson; he busts into the backfield and takes on the FB such that he's stoned and the pulling guard has nowhere to go; Mendenhall cuts it to the backside were an unblocked Adams(+1) fills with authorita.
O4 2 10 I-Form Big 4-4 Goalline Run 5 Iso
Taylor doubled and pushed back a bit, opening a hole as BGraham(-1) shoots upfield and out of the play. Ezeh(+1) takes on the fullback, shedding as he ducks inside to avoid a filling Adams.
O9 3 5 Shotgun Empty Nickel Pass Inc Slant
Englemon(+1) jumps the route and impacts the receiver just as the ball gets there. It's wide anyway – Juice Williams and all that – but would have been a tough catch to make even if accurate. (Cover +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 0-7, 5 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O10 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run 0 Zone read keeper
Crable(+1) keeps contain, bottling Juice up and tackling. Benn dropped back here, hoping to give Juice an option look should he get outside.
O10 2 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass 9 In
Juice stands in despite having an unblocked blitzer in his face and delivers a strike. Warren tackles immediately. (Cover -1)
O19 3 1 I-Form Big 4-4 Goalline Run 1 Iso
The double on Taylor gets just enough push for Mendenhall to squeeze out a first down. BGraham(+1) got some penetration and was a hair away from slowing Mendenhall in the backfield long enough for the linebackers to collapse.
O20 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Run 5 Zone read handoff
Stunt or slant of some kind that sees Taylor step hard to the left, eventually getting picked up by the RT as Crable and Ezeh crash in unblocked on the outside. Juice reads this and makes the handoff; Chris Graham has to deal with the center and can't; Taylor(+1) does a good job of reading and recovering, grabbing Mendenhall by the legs and taking him down. Our rock, their paper, and a five yard gain here is about the minimum.
O25 2 5 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Run 0 Iso
They leave Crable(+1) unblocked on the first level; the fullback is supposed to pick him off. This does not so much happen as Crable bolts around the FB and sticks Mendenhall in the backfield.
O25 3 5 Shotgun Trips 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 9 Cross
Benn sits down in a hole in the zone vacated when Ezeh starts chasing after Mendenhall on a flare route, then suddenly pulls up. Crable(+1) was about to pound Juice here if he had to hesitate. (Cover -1)
O34 1 10 ??? ??? Pass 8 Rollout Stop
Juice on a rollout. Fires low and late to Benn; Trent(+1) is up on this route, nearly intercepting it and making it an extremely difficult catch. (Pressure -1, cover +1)
O42 2 2 Shotgun Trips Nickel Run 23 Zone read trap
We've got Ferrara(-2) in there; he comes through totally unblocked as Illinois turns him loose; he then bites on the zone read fake and lets Juice free. You can see him say "#&#$" to himself as Juice starts motoring. Ezeh had to respect the Mendenhall fake but CGraham(-1) meekly accepted a block.
M35 1 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass 2 Scramble
Juice scans and scans, finding no one. (Cover +2, pressure -1) Once the clock in his head goes of he starts running around like he is wont to do; Ezeh and CGraham chase him out of bounds.
M33 2 8 Ace 3-wide 3-3-5 Nickel Run 10 Iso
You can blame this on shoddy tackling or credit Mendenhall for being a damn good back; probably some of both. Ezeh shoots into the backfield on a run blitz, where the fullback submarines him. Johnson has hopped inside the tackle and lunges at Mendenhall's feet; he takes a hop step and dodges it. Johnson(+1), prone, latches onto his foot, but just before the cavalry convenes he squirts free and takes off downfield for ten yards. I have to hand out some demerit somewhere, and this one goes to Englemon(-1), who overran the play and gave up that cutback lane when there was no need to rush to an area two players had covered.
M23 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 6 Stop
Benn motions into the backfield, but Juice just sets up to throw. He has all day (pressure -1), finally coming down to a little stop route in front of Trent. Good coverage(+1) elsewhere.
M17 2 4 Ace 3-wide Nickel Run 9 Iso
Illinois pulls a tackle around to attack a fairly large gap between the weakside tackle, lined up almost over the center, and end, who's outside the tackle. Taylor(-1) is blown back; Ezeh does not read the play quickly enough and eats the pulling OL as the LG slides off on Graham. Mendenhall bursts through the line and drags Crable, tracking back, for four extra yards.
M8 1 G Shotgun Trips Nickel Run 8 Zone read handoff
Pure zone left from a shotgun formation here. Crable(-1) cedes the corner; Warren(-1) reads this late and gets out of position as this nears the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 3-14, 10 min 2nd Q. A frustrating ground-based drive that features... what? Three first down passes? None of these were exactly brilliant but they kept the defense off balance and put Williams in a place he could succeed. I also love the zone read where they loose a defensive tackle who's unlikely to be as well versed in containment as the defensive ends; sure enough Ferrara bites and Illinois gets a big chunk of yards on an impressive touchdown drive.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O35 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Run 0 Zone read handoff
Both CGraham(+1) and Ezeh(+1) finally get the picture, leaping forward before the second-level blockers can get out on them and stuffing this in the intended hole.
O35 2 10 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Pass 8 Rollout scramble
Play action to Mendenhall and then an escorted rollout for Williams. He can't find anyone (cover +1); Jamison is all alone out there and manages to keep Juice inside, a small victory, despite having to deal with a blocker. Ezeh(-1) waited too long on the fake, allowing the scramble, but did recover well enough to make a tackle downfield. Managed to not get suckered by a juke and made a nice open field tackle.
O43 3 2 Shotgun Trips Nickel Run 0 Zone read keeper
Same zone read that Juice picked up 23 on the last drive with the intent being an unblocked, suckered DT; we stunt, however. Taylor(+1) comes around after blowing up the center and holds contain; Johnson(+1) has beaten the pulling guard to his spot and the two of them have Juice boxed in for no gain.
Drive Notes: Punt, 10-14, 6 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O35 1 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass Inc Post
This kind of looks like a bad throw, but I don't know that it was. Harrison(+1) was actually running this route better than the WR; if this is accurate he has a shot at a pick. As it is, Juice has to throw it well behind the WR, who drops a very touch catch. (Cover +1)
O35 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 0 Screen
Ezeh(+1) reads this and should have it dead to rights but Mendenhall makes a great play to get away. Nevertheless, the timing of the play is disrupted and Mendenhall is swarmed under by defenders. Illinois allows the half to run out.
Drive Notes: EOH, 17-14, EOH.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O38 1 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Run 13 Zone read handoff
Mendenhall motions into the backfield; triple option look; they hand off to the dive guy. Awful play from both linebackers; CGraham(-1) gets lost way outside where Crable and Warren have hopped on the option; Ezeh(-1) is hesitant and gets clubbed out of the play by an OL. DT twist leaves both guys out of position and there's a major hole.
M49 1 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass 20 Zone read PA
Same motion, same triple option action, but Juice pulls it out and sets up to throw. Both LBs are sucked up; huge hole between levels in the zone. Ezeh recovers a bit, getting in the throwing land, but the pass glances off his helmet and is completed anyway. (Cover -2, pressure -1)
M29 1 10 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Run -1 Option
Michigan blitzes into this, forcing a quick pitch. As soon as that happens, Harrison(+1) comes up to fill, taking on the fullback and forcing Mendenhall back inside, where Crable(+1) has come all the way from the backside to tackle.
M30 2 11 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Inc Stop
The 3-3-5 with much smaller DL gaps; we blitz ineffectively out of this (pressure -1) and our LBs open a big hole in the middle of the zone (cover -1); we again are flying out on these flare routes. Juice finds a guy for near first down yardage. He drops an easy pass.
M30 3 11 Shotgun Trips 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Inc Deep cross
Another delayed blitz, this one sort of effective as Juice can't find anyone. (Cover +1). He rolls out, pulling up to airmail a ball out of the corner of the endzone.
Drive Notes: Missed FG (47), 10 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O29 1 10 Shotgun 2-back 3-3-5 Nickel Run -6 Zone read option
McGee in. They finally go with the option they've been threatening; Harrison(+1), blitzing, shoots into the backfield and tackles Williams before he can even think about pitching – pitch was probably going to be covered by Adams anyway.
O23 2 16 Shotgun 4-wide 3-3-5 Nickel Pass 9 Screen
CGraham is in man here and Mendenhall is his responsibility. He cuts through some blockers adeptly, then flies right past Mendenhall. Overrun, thy name is Graham(-1). Adams comes in and makes a valiant attempt but fa
ils; Taylor(+1) backtracks impressively and grabs Mendenhall by the ankles. Mendenhall did make a sweet move to juke Graham.
O32 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 16 Scramble
BGraham(+1), at DT, shoots past a guard and gets immediate pressure on McGee, who scrambles out. (Pressure +1) Crable chases but can't catch him; Will Johnson(-1) overruns it. Where are our linebackers?
O48 1 10 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Run 13 Counter
Taylor(-1) bowled over, making this a huge hole; CGraham(-1) blocked out of the play. Ezeh attempts to close it down but is a step slow.
M39 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Run 12 Counter
Thompson(-1) returns for the first time in a while; his first contribution is getting blown out of the hole by a fullback, allowing Mendendhall another first down run. Adams(-1) also got himself out of position.
M27 1 10 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Pass 4 Bubble screen
Trent's(+1) playing off but does a pretty good job of closing this down.
M23 2 6 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Run 2 FB Dive
Option fake to the outside; we miss a portion of this play for an ESPN logo. Taylor(+1) gets off a block to close it down after a short gain.
M21 3 4 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Run 0 Zone read handoff
Option fake outside; Thompson(+2) slices up before the OL can get a hand on him and tackles in the backfield.
Drive Notes: FG(38), 17-17, 4 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O4 1 10 I-Form Big 4-4 Goalline Run 3 Iso
CGraham(+1) fills the hole, standing up the FB, but eventually gets pushed back; Mendenhall peels off and pushes for a few.
O7 2 7 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Run 7 Iso
CGraham(-1), blitzing as Michigan brings up Adams for a seventh man in the box, takes on the fullback with one shoulder, gets blocked out of the hole, and cedes major yardage to Mendenhall.
O14 3 In I-Form Big 4-4 Goal line Run 7 Iso
Weil picks out a hole on the backside that has two Michigan defenders, Adams and Ezeh(-1) defending it; Ezeh lets Mendenhall slide inside of him and through without so much as slowing down. Englemon comes over to make a saving tackle or this is a 86 yard touchdown.
O21 1 10 I-Form 3-wide Nickel Pass Inc + 15 Fly
Do you bash Trent for letting this guy get way, way behind him or praise him for having the recovery speed to come back and timing to break this play up? I don't know. If this is thrown longer it's a touchdown, but it's already a 40-yard pass. Trent -1, cover -1, instead of the larger numbers this would have been without the recovery speed. Jamison(-1) with a personal foul.
O36 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Pass 5 Stop
Again they hit a guy in the zone after our LBs vacate for a flare route. Warren tackles immediately.
O41 2 5 Shotgun 3-wide Nickel Pass Inc Rollout
I assume McGee threw this away because he didn't find anyone open. (Cover +1)
O41 3 5 I-Form 3-wide 3-3-5 Nickel Run 1 Option
Jamison(+1) gets a good push, forcing an early pitch or cut up decision from McGee; he decides to cut up. Ezeh(+1) shoots through a couple blockers and tackles.
Drive Notes: Punt, 17-17, 13 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O20 1 10 Shotgun 2-back Nickel Run 5 Zone read handoff
CGraham(-1) blocked out by the fullback again, paving the way for Mendenhall. Englemon closes down.
O25 2 5 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass -5 Sack
Williams has time; can't find anyone. (Cover +1). He starts flushing as BGraham(+1) comes around the corner; Crable(+1), coming around the other corner, watches and strips the ball from behind as Juice exits the pocket. (Pressure +1). The Illinois OL falls on it.
O20 3 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass Inc Post
Pocket holds for Juice, though IMO Jamison is held here and would otherwise be busy sacking the QB. Juice wings it over the head of an open receiver (cover -1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 24-17, 6 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds Form Def Type Yards Brief
O9 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass Inc Post
Time(pressure -1), Benn open on a deep post (cover -1); thrown behind and incomplete.
O9 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 15 Screen
Ezeh(-1) and Harrison(-1) read this late; there's no one even close as Mendenhall catches the ball except Trent, who has to keep outside contain.
O24 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass Inc Throwaway
McGee with epic time but no one open (pressure -2, cover +2). He eventually tosses it OOB.
O24 2 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 9 Stop
In front of Trent; immediate tackle. Fine given score and time.
O33 3 1 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass 8 (pen) Slant
Ooooh, I don't know about this. To me, this looks excellently timed and not deserving of a flag. (+1, cover +1) Oh. They called it on Harrison... who, yeah, got Benn, as this slant could have been caught by either of two receivers. (-1 Harrison)
O43 1 10 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass Inc Throwaway
Good coverage(+1) causes McGee to dump it into the stands. Warren(+1) again.
O43 2 10 Shotgun Trips Nickel Pass 3 Screen
Englemon(+1) jumps up, but gets juked. Mendenhall manages to trip up over his feet... a little lucky.
O46 3 7 Shotgun Trips 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Inc Throwaway
Illinois has put all its eggs in a thre
e step drop slant that Ezeh(+1) covers(+1) excellently. By the time he comes off to another receiver Illinois' attempted cut blocks have been defeated and Crable(+1) is crushing McGee.
O46 4 7 Shotgun Trips 3-3-5 Nickel Pass Inc Post
Benn open (cover -1); thrown behind him.
Drive Notes: Turnover on Downs, 27-17, 2 min 4th Q. Yeah, Warren(+1) runs a fly route and picks off a ball on the lone Illinois play on their final possession, but the game is over here; charting ceases.

Are you still Mr. Grumpypants?

A little, since visions of Chris Wells doing virtually the same thing Mendenhall did except 30 times instead of 18 dance through my head. Michigan did its share of good things in this game, but many of the Illinois drives were stopped because of the Illini's inherent Juice-ness (or McGee-ness) and can't really be credited to the Michigan defense. That's a logical strategy when you oppose Illinois, I suppose, but it's hard to get excited about it. At this point in the season I'm looking for reasons we will lose or win against Ohio State; this was sort of a non-event in that calculus.

Aw, come on.

Okay, okay. This game does represent a large step forward for the defense compared to the Appalachian State game, as one touchdown drive was a 30-yarder after a long kick return and there was no turnover blizzard to stop Illinois drives before fourth down rolled around. Michigan's safeties are playing at a level we haven't seen in a long time, the cornerbacks have progressed into a strength, and against teams with non-mobile quarterbacks Michigan has been a pass rushing terror. It's a pretty good defense at this point in the year; given Oregon's spectacular demolition of all comers only The Horror stands out as a bad outing. Ron English may be placed on his pedestal once again. Just ignore that ugly crack in the base.



Player + - T Notes
Jamison 2 1 1
Johnson 2 1 1
Taylor 4 2 2
B. Graham 3 1 2 Not much time with Crable a constant fixture.
Crable 7 1 6 Excellent game.
Slocum - - -
Gallimore - - -
Ferrara - 2 -2 Only play of note was the zone read.
Patterson - - -
Banks - - -
Thompson 2 1 1 Finally returned; appears to have lost his starting job.
Ezeh 5 3 2 Mildly surprised this is positive; don't think he's that much better than CGraham at this point.
C. Graham 4 6 -2 Got owned by the Illinois fullback.
Logan - - - DNP
Trent 2 1 1
Harrison 5 2 3 Was excellent on the rare occasions Illinois ran the option.
Warren 2 3 -1
Adams 1 1 1
Englemon 2 1 1 The Englemon: 2-1-1.
Brown - - -
"Pressure" 3 9 -6 Worst day of the year in this category, likely because of contain paranoia.
"Coverage" 15 10 5 Excellent day that should offset the fairly meh numbers from the secondary above.

It often happens that when Michigan is more concerned with a quarterback's legs than his arm the pressure suffers as blitzing is replaced with zone coverage and stunts are replaced with an emphasis on containment. It did pretty well.


Crable was all over the field. His speed at defensive end was extremely useful on zone reads, options, and just plain chasin'; against more dangerous running quarterbacks he never plunged inside on the zone read.

Also, Brandon Harrison was a key actor on the rare occasions Illinois ran the option, shooting into the backfield, but responsible like, on a number of plays that ended up as TFLs.

The secondary as a whole deserves credit for missing few tackles and registering a +5 coverage metric even though Illinois quarterbacks had a lot of time to throw.


Our linebacker play is just not good. Ezeh, like Steve Schilling (who will come in for a tsk-tsk-ing in the offensive UFR), has the dual excuses of youth and position switches; Chris Graham does not. At this point it's not awful, but neither player beat a run block to make a play all game and there were only a couple instances where either one managed to avoid a block and make a play at or around the line of scrimmage. Michigan did an excellent job of containing the outside run with Harrison and Crable, leaving in the inside to the DTs and the LBs. Mendenhall won that battle more often than not and it was only excellent tackling by the secondary that kept him from having a truly prodigious day. (Colin has much more on this in his own niche UFR thing focusing on Ezeh and Graham.)

Also: Taylor and Johnson weren't much more effective against the zone read than they were in the first week of the season. Taylor did make a couple plays, but +2 is a weak day for a DT playing against a lot of interior run plays.

What does it mean for Minnesota?

Hopefully as little as anything else does against what may be the worst BCS team
in the country. Minnesota's offense has been decent so far this year and they run the dread spread, but their redshirt freshman quarterback has been an interception machine. The defenses they've opposed so far are Ohio State and a bunch of slack-jawed yokels; Michigan is closer to the former than the latter these days and should do better than the 20 Indiana gave up.