Upon Further Review: Defense vs Michigan State Comment Count

Brian October 7th, 2009 at 4:30 PM

Sorry for the delay. I knew watching the Tigers game would result in a disastrous lack of sleep and delayed content but it was too compelling to turn off. Video is still uploading and will be added ASAP. Update: video up.

Personnel notes: same deal with the substitutions—very little in the back seven, regularly on the DL. It seemed like the backup DL got a lot less time. Floyd spent the entire game at CB; Williams was yanked very early (second drive) for Kovacs, who remained in for the rest of the game. When Woolfolk was dinged up early, Andy Van Slyke got a play or two.

Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Mouton -1
One of the “keys to the game” for Michigan State is, no foolies, “find a way to win.” This is the most quintessentially State play under Dantonio, they downblock the DE and pull a guard around to the outside. Steve Sharik discussed it after the EMU game, dubbing it "down G."  Mouton(+2) sees a gap open up in the line and shoots through it to tackle in the backfield; Winston was kind of running right up the field instead of off tackle. DL had gotten stalemated or creased a bit, so the Mouton play was key. (Tackle +1)
O19 2 11 Ace Twins Base 4-3 Run Zone left Mouton 4
Interesting... same formation, same presnap motion, as if they're testing to see what works better against the Michigan D. Answer: neither. MSU DL doesn't seal Martin(+0.5) or RVB(+0.5), leaving Winston to try a cutback. Mouton sent on a blitz, reads the motion of the play and tackles. He's moving sideways and Winston is heading directly upfield so the pile surges for few; no Mouton or tackle bonus as a result.
O23 3 7 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Batted Van Bergen Int
Van Bergen(+2) splits a double team and hits Cousins's arm as he throws (pressure +1), which results in a pop fly that Brown(+1) fields and returns inside the MSU 20.
Drive Notes: Interception, 0-0, 13 min 1st Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O20 1 10 Ace 4-3 under Pass Hitch Williams 15 (Pen -5)
Seriously, what the hell: Donovan Warren is playing twelve yards off the line of scrimmage on this play. So a hitch is wide open(-2) for a zillion yards. That's just easy. I guess Williams is supposed to get out in a flat zone here but he fakes a blitz first, which makes his effort to get out futile. Reason he was pulled? Play comes back because this receiver was covering up a TE who went downfield. Hitch on the other side of the field was just as open, FWIW.
O15 1 15 I-Form 4-3 under Run Zone right Graham 0
MSU doesn't boot Cousins, FWIW, so Roh has free reign to crash from the backside. MSU has covered the TE so maybe kind of an obvious playcall. Graham(+1) and Martin(+1) both drive blockers into the path of the play, causing a delay and allowing Roh to tackle from the backside.
O15 2 15 I-Form Base 4-3 Pass PA TE Cross Ezeh 18
Awful coverage as it's second and fifteen and both linebackers bite on the PA. Mouton at least gets a solid bump on the TE, delaying him; Ezeh(-1) gets no depth on his drop(cover -2) opening up the tight end for first down yardage. Van Bergen was coming if this throw wasn't open.
O33 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Ezeh 6
At least, I think. Hard to tell because I think Graham(+0.5) destroys the play design by getting outside of the guy downblocking him, which picks off a pulling guard and sends the play inside, where it finds room because Ezeh(-1) failed to read what Graham had accomplished and ran himself out of the play. Good effort by Van Bergen to peel off the LOS and flow down the line to keep this from springing into the secondary.
O39 2 4 I-Form 4-3 under Run Zone right Van Bergen 6
Michigan has aligned the two young guys to the strongside of the formation and State goes after them. Van Bergen(-0.5) doesn't exactly get sealed but he does get largely handled by his guy; Roh(-0.5) gets kicked out and there's a crease Ezeh can't get to before Caper is through. Ankle tackle from Ezeh.
O45 1 10 I-Form Base 4-3 Run End around Williams 17 – 15 Pen
The crazy reverse field thing. Comes after Williams(+1) did a great job getting upfield and grabbing/delaying Martin long enough for the cavalry to arrive; I don't know who, if anyone, can reasonably be blamed here. Maybe Herron(-1) for not keeping contain, but that's pretty weird contain to keep. Yep, post-play we're treated to a shot of Greg Robinson patiently explaining something to Herron. MSU gets a PF after the play.
O47 1 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Pass Bubble screen -- 9 – 15 Pen
Dude, this is just not defensible with no one over the slot and the outside CB 10 yards off the line. I don't know how Robinson can leave this so open. (Cover -2) PF afterwards sets MSU in second and long.
O41 2 16 I-Form 4-3 under Pass Corner Floyd 17
Michigan is a zone and the WR runs a corner route that settles between Floyd(-1) and Woolfolk. There's no one in the flat at all so Floyd needs to get deeper on this, especially on second and 16. (Cover -1) Floyd doesn't even get a chuck on the guy to delay the route and give Woolfolk some time.
M42 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Pass Bubble screen Brown 3
Same formation, same play. White can take it outside for six or more but tries to cut back and slips. Wide open and easy. (Cover -1)
M39 2 7 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Inside zone Van Bergen 1
I think? I'm not exactly sure what this is supposed to be. Roh slants inside, which might be bad news as there should be a big crease between he and Warren, but RVB(+1) does a great job of reading the play and coming off a blocker to track down the line in tackle; some assistance from Mouton(+0.5), who took on the fullback and forced the play back to him.
M38 3 6 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Cross Ezeh 9
This is the exact error that Michigan made on two separate third downs against Indiana: MSU pairs crossing routes against Michigan's linebackers, Ezeh(-1) gets all eager to bump a guy and in doing so pulls himself out of position and ends up chasing a guy who picks up the first down. (Cover -1) If Ezeh covers this a little better maybe Floyd can come up and help.
M29 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Pass Seam Herron Inc
Herron tasked with man coverage on the tight end. He bumps him a bit then starts chasing; TE has a step but this is a tough throw Cousins airmails. Tenuous cover +1. From Herron. First of the day.
M29 2 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Pass Bubble screen -- 12 (Pen -15)
ARRRRGH (cover -2). A chop block brings it back.
M44 2 25 Ace Twin TE Twins 4-3 under Pass Scramble Ezeh 19
Big gap opens up right up the middle of the field as Martin and RVB attempt to get to the QB, allowing Cousins to step up (pressure -2). Ezeh's gotten that bump he loves on the crossing route, which causes him to fall down(-1) and opens up acres of space for Cousins to run into.
M25 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Out Woolfolk 15
Zone blitz gets Brown through unblocked (pressure +1), forcing an early throw short of the sticks. If Michigan can just tackle they can get off the field but Woolfolk(-1) is in man on Cunningham and fails to react to this out route. He's a corner, right? Ugh. (Cover -1, tackling -1) Woolfolk spends his time watching the QB instead of the receiver. Terrible technique. You're in man coverage!
M10 1 G I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Graham 0
Graham(+1) holds up to a double and begins to move inside of his blockers when Mouton charges up into the middle of the play on a blitz, which gives Graham the momentum to come around a block entirely and stiff this at the line. An Ezeh(+0.5) blitz had cut off the outside and caused the cutback.
M10 2 G I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Zone left Mouton 2
A Mouton(+1) blitz drives the LG back and, along with Martin(+0.5)'s quick burst playside of his man, convinces Caper to head outside, where Warren(+0.5) properly contains, forcing the play back to Kovacs, who tackles(+1). Quick hook for Williams.
M8 3 G Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under Pass Scramble -- 8
Michigan rushes four and drops seven guys into a zone with just three receivers; everyone learns their lesson and gets really deep, so when Cousins can't find anyone he can scramble down to the one. (Cover +1) I don't know who's responsibility this is supposed to be, or what anyone can do about it. (Pressure -1)
M1 4 G Goal line Goal line Run Off tackle Van Bergen 1
They get it. I think I blame RVB, sort of, as they run right at him and he gets blown back, leaving Mouton basically 1 on 2 with the FB and the RB. Momentum happens and it's to the endzone.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 3-7, 2 min 1st Q. I don't remember when I wasn't charting this drive.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O11 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Mouton -1
Mouton(+1) slashes past the first line of defense on an excellently timed blitz, absorbing a pulling guard and delaying the FB, forcing a cutback into Martin(+1), who's shucked a blocker and used his agility to come back inside. Solid tackle(+1). Fumble bounces right to the TE.
O10 2 11 I-Form 4-3 under Pass FB flat Kovacs 5
I guess there's a token fake to the RB but not really; it's just a dump to a guy in the flat as Graham(+0.5) juked an attempted block by the RB and got in immediately(pressure +1). Kovacs is a little late reacting but gets out to tackle after a modest gain. Can I give him a 0 on this play? Should I give people 0s for okay plays?
O15 3 6 Shotgun 4-wide Nickel Pass Scramble Martin 6
Not really a nickel but Brown is out on the slot, or at least close to him, so sort of. Martin(-0.5) is actually spying on this run but gets juked as Cousins scrambles up into the pocket because of RVB's okay rush(+0.5). Ezeh comes up to tackle after about six; this spot looks really generous to me. But eh. (Cover +1)
O21 1 10 Ace Twin TE 4-3 under Pass Sack Graham -7
Graham(+1.5) comes tearing around the corner, forcing Cousins up into Van Bergen(+1.5), who disengages from a blocker he's driven yards back into the pocket to sack. (Pressure +2)
O14 2 17 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Cross -- Inc
Rushers stay in their lanes as they push the pocket back and so Cousins thinks he should get rid of it without anyone really coming in (pressure +1); he chucks it behind a guy on a crossing route that probably would have only picked up a few.
O14 3 17 Shotgun 3-wide 3-3-5 stack Pass Corner -- 26
Ugh: three man rush gets zero pressure (-2). Despise you, three man rush so much. Can't blame the DLs; all are doubled. I mean, they've got guys in tight coverage on guys running six yards downfield. At least drop people back into a crazy umbrella zone. This makes no sense. Cousins given all day and hits a guy (cover -1) eventually.
O40 1 10 Ace Base 4-3 Pass Long handoff Floyd 3
Floyd gets up on White and manages to make a tackle. A little tenuous but results-based, ok, good play(+1).
O43 2 7 Ace 3-wide 4-3 under Run Bubble fake pitch Kovacs 8
This isn't really Michigan biting here, it's blitzing the wrong way. Kovacs(-1) doesn't read the play and gets buried; Heininger also doesn't really do anything. Ezeh does well just to track this down.
M49 1 10 Ace 3-wide Base 4-3 Run Zone right Kovacs -6
Mouton is blitzing away from the play and can't do much. Pretty sure this is supposed to get outside the tackles since MSU motions in a TE to get two to the short side of the field. It doesn't because Herron(+1) cuts it off, allowing Kovacs(+2) to read the play and shoot up through a gaping hole created by the MSU OL to tackle(+1) Caper. He puts his head on the ball and pops it free; MSU recovers.
O45 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Screen Mouton 6
Michigan caught in a blitz away from the play, but they're dropping off into a zone blitz on the side the screen goes to. Mouton in position but sort of gets blocked in the back a little; still, he gives MSU the outside(-1) and provides yards where MSU should have gotten nothing. On review, this is a block in the back, man.
M49 3 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass Dumpoff Van Bergen 2
Excellent interior stunt from Martin(+1) and RVB(+1) gets RVB in on Cousins(pressure +1), forcing a dumpoff. Ezeh(+1) has the TE blanketed and tackles (cover, tackle +1). OMG stop.
Drive Notes: Punt, 3-7, 9 min 2nd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O45 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run End around Kovacs 11
Martin on an end-around; MSU pulls a guard to help lead blocking. Kovacs(-1) gets sucked up and gives Martin the corner. More experience and he might read the blocking patters, which make no sense for the dive they're running, and break outside. Not yet.
M44 1 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Run Zone right Ezeh 3
Playside end dives inside because of the playcall but here Ezeh(+1) reads the play immediately and attacks downhill, getting outside of his primary blocker and occupying a second guy; Mouton(+0.5) also shoots into a blocker, forcing the play way outside; Brown forces it back where pursuit takes Winston down. (Tackling +1)
M41 2 7 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass Long handoff Floyd 10
Urgh. Floyd(-1) ten yards off the LOS and misses a tackle(-1), opening up a first down. So many easy yards for State.
M31 1 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run Iso Graham 0
End around fake does not hold Graham(+2) as he reads the handoff (blocking patterns?); he zips past one blocker and into Winston, who he tackles(+1) for no gain.
M31 2 10 Ace Twin TE Twins 4-3 under Pass Slant -- Inc
M31 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide Base 4-3 Pass Corner -- 15
Zone blitz is picked up by State (pressure -1) and then State exploits a cover two with a smash combination (Smart Football to the rescue) for a first down. Well executed; have to give a cover -1 here but that's just a good playcall for the D we have on. BTN announcers have called Woolfolk “Woolfork” twice.
M16 1 10 Ace Trips 4-3 under Run Bubble fake pitch Mouton 6
State rushes to the line to catch Michigan off guard; Mouton(-1) bites on the play action and finds himself blocked into oblivion. Kovacs(+1, tackle +1) actually does a great job of reading and attacking the play, keeping it down where otherwise it might have broken larger, even maybe for a touchdown.
M10 2 4 Shotgun Trips 4-3 under Run QB sweep 3
Nichol in, BTW. This creases and looks like it's going for the first down when Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) again arrives forcefully, stopping Nichol in his tracks and setting up a third and one. Graham(-0.5) got shoved back a couple yards to open up the lane.
M7 3 1 I-Form 4-3 under Run Off tackle
Not sure exactly what this is supposed to be but the fullback heads outside so I assume that's the play design. RVB(+1) slants to the playside, getting past his blocker and occupying the fullback. Brown reads the direction of the play and the coming Winston bounce, evading an attempted stiffarm and throwing Winston to the ground for a loss. Big, big play in the open field (+2, tackling +2).
Drive Notes: FG(25), 6-10, EOH.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
50 1 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Graham 1
Or at least I think so; hard to tell because Graham(+1) comes tearing through the line, forcing Winston outside into an unblocked Warren.
M49 2 9 Ace Trips Base 3-4 Run Bubble fake pitch Kovacs 1
RVB(+0.5) doesn't bite on the bubble fake and starts chasing the play from behind, which causes Winston to reconsider a cut upfield into what looks like open space. He then tries to take it outside where Kovacs(+1) slips past a blocker to tackle Winston after a minimal gain.
M48 3 8 Shotgun 2TE Twins Split 4-3 Pass Scramble -- 12
Four man rush from wide splits; RVB attempts to slash inside of his blocker and Roh attempts to go around the outside, leaving a cavernous gap Cousins can run up into. Other defenders were all pulled deep; nothing they could do once the pocket broke like that so spectacularly. (Pressure -2)
M36 1 10 Shotgun 3-wide Base 4-3 Pass Bubble screen -- 9
Again: zero chance to defend this with Brown a couple yards inside the receiver and the other corner in the area eight yards of the LOS. And they've got a safety over the top! Someone should be horsewhipped for this. (Cover -1) Warren -1 for not reacting well.
M27 2 1 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Mouton 6
Mouton(-1) eats a TE and ends up six yards downfield. Warren takes a block from the FB that Kovacs goes outside of, as that's his responsibility; Mouton getting crushed opens up a cutback for six; Ezeh does a good job fighting through trash to make a tenuous downfield tackle.
M21 1 10 Shotgun 2TE 4-3 under Pass Deep Hitch Floyd Inc
Lot of eight man fronts here with Woolfolk as a single deep safety, BTW. Graham(+1) pwns the tackle and is coming around to crush Cousins(+1), forcing a throw on a deep hitch that Floyd(+1, cover +1) reacts to, knocking it down. PBU? Dios mio, man.
M21 2 10 I-Form 4-3 under Run Zone right Van Bergen 0
RVB(+1) takes a double team and doesn't even give a little bit, nor does he get sealed. He flows down the line, preventing any creases from forming. Ezeh, unfettered because of the RVB double, flows to the POA and forces Caper back into RVB.
M21 3 10 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Batted Roh Int
Straight bust by the State OL on a four man rush that sees Mouton blitz and Graham drop off gets Roh(+1) in unblocked (pressure +2); Roh has the speed to close and hit Cousins as he throws, causing a pop-up that Warren(+1) picks off.
Drive Notes: Interception, 6-10, 9 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M13 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Herron 6
Very quick here, doubling Herron and down-blocking him inside. Warren and Mouton take on the FB and pulling guard, getting to the outside of both quickly, but Herron(-1) got blown up and gave a lot of ground, creating a major crease that Ezeh can't shut down by himself. Winston runs straight upfield for good yardage.
M7 2 4 I-Form Big Base 3-4 Run Power off tackle Ezeh 3
Three man front here so a little bit different in how they execute this play. I can't tell if this is the play design or not; RVB manages to get outside the two guys down-blocking and doubling him, which opens up a crease that a fast-reacting Ezeh could fill, if Ezeh was actually reacting fast. Instead he's headed outside like he does on the 4-3 version of defending this play; I think he just screwed up his assignment(-1). He does read that the hole is opening inside and recovers somewhat to get an already-falling Winston to the ground with help from Kovacs.
M4 3 1 I-Form Big Base 3-4 Run PA TE Cross Graham -2
Graham(+3) slants past his guy, explodes into the backfield, and crushes this play singlehandedly. Huge; a play that will go on his NFL highlight reel. Tackling +1, too.
Drive Notes: FG(23), 6-13, 6 min 3rd Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O30 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass PA TE Corner Kovacs 22
Kovacs(-1) in man and just beaten by a simple corner route. (Cover -1) Roh(+0.5) and Graham(+0.5) crush Nichol a moment after he throws (pressure +1)
M48 1 10 I-Form Big Base 3-4 Run Power off tackle Roh 2
I think this is just lucky but results-based charting: Roh(+1) slashes between the pulling guard and fullback, forcing Caper outside a bit. The fullback peels back to block him and the guard's been knocked off balance by the chaos, allowing Kovacs(+0.5) to come to the line and tackle(+1)
M46 2 8 Ace Twins 4-3 under Pass Waggle TE Cross Mouton 19
Mouton(-2) in man coverage, fails to read his keys here—TE releasing way downfield, pass blocking—and just plays the run fake, opening up an easy first down for MSU (cover -2).
M27 1 10 Ace Twin TE Twins 4-3 under Pass Waggle Scramble Heininger 4
Heininger(+1) shoots upfield fast enough that Nichol can't get a pass off and must start running around (pressure +1). If this is Graham, this is probably a sack, but this guy is a walk on so Nichol escapes. He decides to run for yards; Brown(-1) comes up after two but misses a tackle(-1), allowing State four more.
M21 2 4 I-Form 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Ezeh 3
These might be designed to go more up the middle, actually, but it's hard to tell. Brown(+0.5) shoots inside, causing Winston to bounce out, where Ezeh(-1) gets too far outside, allowing a crease that Kovacs fills ably.
M18 3 1 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Brown 2
Michigan expecting this, diving Roh down inside to come up under the dive block, which almost but does not quite work. Brown comes around the outside to tackle but Roh only got a glancing blow, which allows Caper's momentum to carry him forward and across the line.
M16 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass TE seam Roh Inc
Motion the FB out, Warren follows. Michigan in a zone blitz, dropping Roh off onto the tight end. Brown's coming around to hit Nichol as he releases the ball to the TE Roh is on; guy has a step or two. Roh(+1, cover +1) watches the ball come in and rakes it out when it gets there, though the TE was already dropping it on his own. Still, a PBU.
M16 2 10 Ace Trips 4-3 under Run Bubble fake pitch -- 16
This has got to be a screwed up defensive call because Ezeh is out in no-mans land and Michigan is in some crazy three-deep coverage with only six guys in the box against six blockers here. Get aggressive. Mouton then blitzes up the middle leaving absolutely no one once Van Bergen(-1) gets crushed. Too much space, not enough guys, touchdown. Absolutely a reprise of the Indiana 85-yarder.
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 6-20, 14 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O48 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Graham 2
Graham(+1) slants inside his guy and into the backfield, killing a pulling guard and convincing Winston to hit it up inside, where he trips the guy as he passes. (Tackling +1)
50 2 8 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Run Waggle deep hitch Graham Inc (Pen -10)
Graham(+1) reads the play, getting out on the rollout and threatening to sack Nichol for a big loss; he gets held (pressure +1), thus allowing Nichol outside the pocket where he finds a guy way downfield, but it's short and incomplete.
O40 2 18 Shotgun Trips 4-3 under Pass Cross Floyd 7
Zone blitz from M drops Roh into a short robber zone; Cousins hits White as he clears the short zone; the rest of the D is man, with Floyd trailing White at some distance. Floyd tracks quickly though, and makes a tackle on a stumbling White. Maybe lucky, results-based (+1, cover +1)
O47 3 11 Shotgun 3-wide 4-3 under Pass Sack Graham -7
Graham(+3) roars around the outside as RVB comes free on a stunt (pressure +2), flushing Cousins out of the pocket. Graham tracks him down and tackles from behind, forcing a fumble that gets bounced around and eventually covered by Ezeh.
Drive Notes: Fumble, 6-20, 11 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O27 1 10 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Ezeh 3
RVB and Martin are slanting away from the play. Winston  gets cut off on the outside by Graham standing up to a double and Brown flowing outside of him, but the State guys see the big gap up the middle and decided to head up there. Three guys go to block Ezeh(+0.5), who jams the hole and allows RVB to come from behind and Kovacs to scrape to the hole, tackling for minimal gain. (Tackling +1)
O30 2 7 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Zone left Van Bergen 0
RVB(+1) takes a momentary scoop but does not get sealed, driving down the line and getting a diving tackle attempt two yards behind the left hash. He can't make the tackle but he does delay Winston, bouncing the play out where Herron(+1) and others join to tackle.
O30 3 7 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Slant Woolfolk Inc
Michigan sends the house (seven!), leaving everyone man up and forcing a quick throw. It's open for the first but Nichol zings it hard and wide. Yeesh. Seven guys? (Pressure +1)
Drive Notes: Punt, 6-20, 9 min 4th Q. Run run pass punt oh Lloyd.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O24 1 10 Ace Twins 4-3 under Run Zone left Martin -4
Wholesale destruction. Graham(+1) blasts his opponent back; Martin(+2) shucks a blocker instantly and shoots into the backfield, and Kovacs comes off the edge on a blitz to help Martin crush this.
O20 2 14 I-Form Big 4-3 under Pass Scramble Mouton 41
Cousins drops back to survey  but can't find anyone (cover +1, pressure –2). Graham begins to pop free. Michigan has again totally vacated the center of the field, opening this up for considerable yardage; it's Mouton(-3) and his horrible angle that turns this from ten yards into 41.
M38 1 10 I-Form Big Base 3-4 Run Iso Mouton 2
Kovacs cuts off the outside with a blitz, leaving the run to the interior; Heininger(+0.5) has held up okay against a double and has this hole not too huge; Mouton(+1) defeats the TE's block to tackle at the LOS.
M36 2 8 I-Form 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Leach 0
Leach actually in here. Irritated about the scramble? Minor injury? Tired? Dunno. He blitzes(+1) into a couple blockers, ramming the hole shut and allowing Graham(+0.5) to come inside and tackle(+1) after a minimal gain.
M36 3 8 Shotgun Trips 4-3 under Pass Out Martin 4
Martin(+1) blasts past the center, getting quick pressure(+1) and forcing a checkdown. It's a short out slightly open in front of Brown; Brown is there to push him out immediately.
M32 4 4 Shotgun 4-wide 4-3 under Pass Slant Warren Inc
Again they send the house, seven guys, leaving everyone man up. Cousin's quick throw is a slant that Warren(+2) beats the receiver to(cover +2), cutting him off and giving him no chance at the ball.
Drive Notes: Turnover on downs, 6-20, 4 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
O32 1 10 I-Form Twins 4-3 under Pass Waggle hitch Warren 7
Mouton does a decent job of getting to the edge, but not a great one; this hitch is in front of Warren but only just. Well executed all around; no negative assessments here.
O39 2 3 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Power off tackle Kovacs 1
Michigan slanting hard away from the play; dangerous. They're also sending Kovacs(+1, tackling +1) on a weakside blitz that he's not blocked on; he comes around and tackles Caper from behind.
O40 3 2 Goal line 4-3 under Run Counter Kovacs -2
I don't know what State's running and neither does State; a guard pulls around as the H-back shoots directly forward and the two guys bump. I'm betting the G had Kovacs, who is again blitzing from the outside and again takes down the RB with an ankle tackle in the backfield (+1, tackle +1).
Drive Notes: Punt, 13-20, 3 min 4th Q.
Ln Dn Ds O Form D Form Type Play Player Yards
M25 1 10 Ace Trips 4-3 under Run Bubble fake pitch -- -9
Pitch is fumbled.
M34 2 19 I-Form 4-3 under Pass PA out Floyd 10
Play action frustratingly gets a bite from Kovacs but I think he's in man on the FB and this goes deeper, to a guy Floyd(-1, cover -1) is playing off of. In this situation you need to play it like every yard is death.
M24 3 9 I-Form Big 4-3 under Run Zone right Martin 24
Martin(-2) is flowing down the line but then insanely decides to try to run up into the backfield after Caper instead of continuing his flow and likely meeting him for little or no gain when Brown heads up into the hole caused by the RVB double and forces it back inside. But he's gone and so there's a crease; Woolfolk(-2) comes up to tackle high, missing it and turning it into a touchdown. (Tackling -1)
Drive Notes: Touchdown, 26-20, EOG.

Well, that ended with a thud.

Yeah, I don't know what that was all about. I've never seen a DL just take off upfield for no apparent reason on a stretch play.



Before we get to the chart: I did not minus the DTs on the QB scrambles above but after talking with Steve Sharik I decided to retroactively ding them. Each lost three points for various instances of getting out of their pass-rush lanes.

Defensive Line
Player + - T Notes
Graham 18.5 0.5 18 UFR record. Monster day: forced a fumble, crushed a ton of rushing plays in the backfield, almost singlehanded responsible for keeping MSU out of the endzone a couple times.
Heininger 1.5 - 1.5 Did not play much.
Patterson - - - DNP.
Roh 4.5 0.5 4 Not getting as much pressure as you'd like, though.
Herron 2 2 0 Meh.
Martin 7 5.5 1.5 Mental issues on the Cousins run and the final Caper run.
Van Bergen 9 4.5 4.5 Great day against an MSU OL that planned to turn him into dust and could not, but irresponsible pass rushing cost Michigan more than once.
Banks - - - Played less.
Sagesse - - - Also played little.
TOTAL 42.5 13 29.5 Great day outside of the QB scramble lanes. Forced three TOs and crushed State's ground game.
Player + - T Notes
Ezeh 3 6 -3 Thought he'd grade out better than this actually.
Mouton 7 8 -1 Exact same numbers from last week as he alternates great plays with killer mistakes.
Brown 3.5 1 2.5 Strung some stuff out; DL mostly ate stuff before it could get to him.
Fitzgerald - - - DNP.
Leach 1 - 1 Brief cameo only.
TOTAL 14.5 15 -0.5 If people can only stop screwing up in coverage a thousand different ways.
Player + - T Notes
Warren 3.5 1 2.5 Thrown at like twice. How's Infinite Jest coming, Donovan?
Cissoko - - - DNP.
Floyd 3 3 0 I'll take it.
Turner - - - DNP
Woolfolk 0 3 -3 MSU didn't test Michigan deep ever so his involvement was mostly in the cleanup phase.
Williams 1 - 1 Pulled. Not totally healthy?
Emilien - - - DNP
Kovacs 7.5 3 4.5 Some of these were just backside blitzes that he tackled on, but he did tackle. At other times he displayed a real knack for getting to  ballcarriers.
TOTAL 15 10 5 Eh.
Pressure 17 10 7 Most of the minuses were allowing QBs to break contain; they got to the QB a lot.
Coverage 8 19 -11 Bubble screen debacle, linebackers.
Tackling 14 4 10 Very good day until last play.

There's a considerable amount to be encouraged in here: Van Bergen is going from a non-entity to a guy who's making plays (when he's not vacating space for Kirk Cousins to run wild). Jordan Kovacs registered a +4.5 and is single-handedly responsible for about half of the + tackles Michigan saw yesterday. And Graham murdered all.

On a drive-by-drive basis, Michigan faced 11 drives in regulation and gave up 20 points, three of which were a gift from the fake punt. Along the way they forced three turnovers, one of which offset a long MSU drive that would have put up points; the other two set up a field goal drive and a short field that Michigan did not convert on because Darryl Stonum fumbled. That's a good performance. The Mathlete's numbers for the field position:

Even with the turnovers, Michigan failed to have an advantage in field position.  The regulation numbers for field position were 24 expected points for MSU and 22 for Michigan. The first down at the 25 for OT is worth just over 4 points, so for the game, MSU scored 1 less point than expected (PAT is assumed) after being -4 in regulation while Michigan was -2 in regulation but -6 on the game.

So Michigan actually held a team under their expected points given starting field position and added in two turnovers. (The Warren interception came after a long drive and basically neutralizes that drive in terms of field position; the other two were three-and-outs on which MSU lost the ability to punt.

The yardage numbers are less sunny, as MSU got to around 420. Subtract the standard 50 yards for a turnover gained, though, and MSU's sitting at 270 equivalent yards. You do take turnovers as predictors at your peril, but in this game Michigan created all three turnovers with QB pressure, the one thing that reliably causes opponents to cough it up. That was without question the defense's best performance of the year. It should have been enough to win.

But the downside?

Yes. The downside:

Aaaaargh argh argh argh. Michigan was playing in the parking lot on a lot of plays and just gave Michigan State huge chunks of yards. This was mostly a problem on the first drive, when three different bubble screens picked up 24 yards and a simple hitch went for 15. (The hitch was called back because of an illegal man downfield.) The next two drives each featured a play on which it was stupidly easy to pick up ten yards: Floyd was in the parking lot on a long handoff and they ran another successful bubble. And the bubble fear instilled by these plays set up what was basically the only type of MSU rushing play to go anywhere all day:

Michigan's inability to defend something they can't even throw anymore drove me crazy, as you can see above ("AAAARGH," or something to that effect).

Was there some structural reason for this?

I think Michigan is moving to something sort of like a 3-3-5 in one aspect: when Kovacs is in the game he lines up on the weakside a lot and blitzes a lot and almost never sits back in the position you'd expect a traditional safety to be in. This is what he does:


He's the bottom defender in the box. Michigan's actually in a three-man line here with the linebackers almost stacked over the DL: this is either a bonafide 3-3-5 or very close to it.

Now, Michigan usually didn't go this far. They usually had Kovacs in the box like so as an addendum to a four-man under front. The line and linebackers are obviously differently aligned, and the rush defense works differently. But the pass defense is going to be almost identical to the 3-3-5: one deep safety, corners that tend to play soft because of that, and tight ends/flats being defended by your two safety-type wing defenders—Stevie Brown is the other guy on the wing.

But when Kovacs is in and tight to the line and JT Floyd is one of your corners it's really hard to roll up tight when you've got twins to one side. I'm still pretty pissed off you guys about everything but it is understandable. Sort of.


Brandon Graham blasted his way into the Michigan State backfield time and again, enshrining himself in UFR lore until such time as Kovacs registers a +20 by making every tackle against Ohio State. I mean:

Damn. Also, yes, Kovacs provided hard-nosed run defense that makes me think he'll be a positive contributor going forward.


Mouton, Ezeh, and the two interior DL opened up the rushing lanes that turned Michigan State drives into too many points for Forcier to moxie away, thought they also had their positive moments.

What does it mean for Iowa and the future?

I'm a little leery of declaring the run defense fixed after the performance against State, as State's run game to date has been poor… but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Kovacs will get another shot at a pounding downhill running team against Iowa and Michigan has to be feeling a lot better about its chances at stopping it than they were last week. Michigan crushing anyone's ground game is reason for optimism at the moment. Iowa's offensive line will provide another level of test, however.

In the pass defense it was more of the same. Floyd isn't great and will have to play conservatively all year; he will be victimized. The inside linebackers are not good in zone coverage, and Michigan will suffer on crossing patterns and seams and whatnot all year. Michigan's turned in a couple games in a row where the pass rush was good, though, and if they can maintain that against better offensive lines that will help out. They'll have to prove that. Obviously.



October 7th, 2009 at 5:54 PM ^

He slanted hard to the the right and he went low which is why he shed block so easy plus I don't know what MSU was thinking of letting TE block Graham one on one.

Graham has been the best defensive player on the team and it shows in the UFR.

Sgt. Wolverine

October 7th, 2009 at 6:14 PM ^

I think the announcer decided the hit was so hard it actually merged the two players, thereby averaging their year of eligibility: Graham is a senior out of Detroit, Winston is a sophomore out of Detroit, so the merged player must be a junior.


October 7th, 2009 at 5:06 PM ^

In World of Warcraft terms...

Brandon Graham is like a druid in Bear form using feral charge on carriers in the backfield.

Even in a loss, Graham (and Forcier) is a lot of fun to watch at work.

Section 1

October 7th, 2009 at 6:10 PM ^

I was going to suggest that there were additional problems related to too much late-night baseball, and that "Andy" Van Slyke would have been one of them...

Anyway, late-night baseball beats late-night drinks at the Townsend!


October 7th, 2009 at 5:15 PM ^

re: Mouton - his alternating great/bad plays seems mental. that shows he has the physical potential for the position and guru ratings and all. i think he needs to stay on the field to start turning those brain farts around. i know people want him yanked, but i don't see where that gets us.


October 7th, 2009 at 7:35 PM ^

Somewhere recently, probably on this Board, I read the following, more or less:

"We don't want players who DON'T do what the coaches tell them to do, and we don't want players who can ONLY do what the coaches tell them to do."

The best players do what they're told, but know how to adjust when the face a situation that requires you to think on your feet. Mouton has to be able to deal with situations that are slightly different from those he has been coached to play.

Forcier is the exact opposite: what makes him so good is his ability to freelance and make good, no great, decisions when things break down.


October 7th, 2009 at 5:15 PM ^

the corners are playing so far off. If Robinson is willing to give up 5-10 yards, consider what he thinks he's protecting against. And I pretty much agree with him.

Kovacs is good in run support, but he has problems as a flat defender, let alone playing a deep half. Williams is apparently worse, somehow. So we can really only play credible pass defense with a single deep safety. That means either Cover 3 or Man Free. If it gets really bad, we'll start seeing Woolfolk roll to Floyd more obviously (that's probably pretty difficult to see, even with HD widescreen), leaving Warren on an island. But even that means 1 guy between the offense and a touchdown. That's sub-optimal. It makes sense to go with vanilla 3 Deep with exotic zone blitzes for the most part and that's largely what we've seen.

One alternative we haven't seen a lot of is rolling into a 3 Deep out of a Cover 2 look. Kovacs can probably take a deep third, right? If we're able to stop the run with 7, we'll see that more...but Kovacs is obviously contributing more than Ezeh, at least, and often Mouton when it comes to stopping the run. If we had any depth at all, Kovacs could move down to LB. Consarn it.


October 7th, 2009 at 5:18 PM ^

M8 3 G Shotgun 2TE Twins 4-3 under Pass Scramble -- 8
Michigan rushes four and drops seven guys into a zone with just three receivers; everyone learns their lesson and gets really deep, so when Cousins can't find anyone he can scramble down to the one. (Cover +1) I don't know who's responsibility this is supposed to be, or what anyone can do about it. (Pressure -1)

This is the penultimate play of THE DRIVE.

You wondered who was to blame? Watch the blocking of MSU #83 on Graham at top of the screen:


You guessed it: holding on #83 offense. 10 yards from the spot of the foul, repeat 3rd down.

If he hadn't held, I think Graham gets to Cousins there, and it's 4th down at the 11.

Barring a conversion of 3rd and Goal from the 18 yard line (not out of the question given the tenor of this drive) either way, MSU likely comes away from THE DRIVE with just a field goal.

Graham got held, it didn't get called. That's the story.


October 8th, 2009 at 11:02 AM ^

If that's not obvious, what is?

This isn't sour grapes, understand. I don't think officiating was a culprit in this game at all. My point is only on this play (and that Brian is right not to neg anyone).

I just want some recognition that this should be called holding 100 percent of the time. This isn't a judgment call. The TE had his hands on the shoulderpads the whole time. That alone is one of those "kind of holding" calls which is technically holding but is called like 50-50 and that's fine.

It's when the play turns around and Cousins is scrambling, and the hand on the jersey is pulling Graham toward the blocker and away from the direction he is both running and facing. That's a 100-percent call. The ref is right there, too.

The point of all of this: Michigan's defenders did everything they could do to get the stop on this play; the hold is what got MSU to the 4th-and-1 situation.


October 8th, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

and i'm not clear what referees use for their working definition either, so i'm only going to feel aggrieved in the case of, like i said, "super blatant". if those in the know think that's an egregious case of holding, i'd like to hear more about it.


October 7th, 2009 at 5:21 PM ^

effect is called Mesh, per Smart Football. See:


You have to scroll a bit to get there, but evidently it's Mike Leach's favorite play. And it iso's WRs on our crappy LBs, so I'm sure we'll see it a bunch going forward.

And I'm pretty sure that completion on that smash concept was actually against Cover 3, which is why Warren was pissed at Woolfolk. He shouldn't have let that drop right in front of him.


October 7th, 2009 at 6:59 PM ^

For those who are too lazy to go look:

And the relevant quote:

In this play, Leach gets a few things. He gets a zone-stretch on the frontside with the corner route, the crosser coming from the backside, and the runningback in the flat — a triangle read. The corner route can also flatten out if the cornerback plays soft coverage. And against man-to-man the crossers will rub (pick?) the defenders. Note too that these crossing receivers have a lot of freedom to settle against zone. (The coaching point is they watch the man covering the opposing crossing receiver: if a defender follows the other guy they know it is man to man, if the defender sinks back it is zone. Crafty.) It is a very good utility play, and Leach runs the hell out of it. Against Texas, Texas Tech scored one of their touchdowns by calling this same play every single play of the series. I’m dead serious.


October 7th, 2009 at 5:56 PM ^

Zone blitz gets Brown through unblocked (pressure +1), forcing an early throw short of the sticks. If Michigan can just tackle they can get off the field but Woolfolk(-1) is in man on Cunningham and fails to react to this out route. He's a corner, right? Ugh.
- I am pretty sure that it's Cover 3 which is hard to tell between man coverage and zone coverage. That's probably why Woolfolk is peeking to the backfield.

Seriously, what the hell: Donovan Warren is playing twelve yards off the line of scrimmage on this play.
- Pretty sure that GERG called him to back off the WR. I don't like the playcall that calls for off man coverage especially when it's 3rd and short.


October 7th, 2009 at 7:29 PM ^

We know from the long IU run that he is slow even for a safety, but he would be average speed for a college LB. He seems very decisive (unlike Ezeh all too often) and a sure tackler. Next Stevie Brown?


October 8th, 2009 at 7:02 AM ^

drive me insane. the mental errors and overall bad play is inexcusable. the line does it's job pressuring the QB and where are the LB's to clean up the mess?? chasing wr's and te's 15 yards downfield. you can't expect martin and rvb to run down a qb once he's flushed out of the pocket. it's either an error schematically or mentally with the ILB's.


October 8th, 2009 at 7:29 AM ^

I just can't say enough about this young man. I'm so proud how he has fought through all the negatives of the last 2 years to be a great player for us this year. While he didn't have the big tackle numbers this week, that tackle he makes on Winston was defining for the defense, fighting through the stiff arm and throwing him to the ground like a rag doll. PERFECTION!

All in all Defense played much better, and though we got burnt by the QB runs of old, I feel that is an adjustment GERG can make, and this team actually has a chance against the run now. Keep progressing and we may bring a real squad to face OSU.


October 8th, 2009 at 12:41 PM ^

Nicknamed: Donovan "The Entertainment/The Samizdat" Warren. Even one tiny, furtive glance his way leaves opposing QB's comatose and unable to provide for themselves in like the bodily functions dept. &c.


October 8th, 2009 at 2:07 PM ^

I know Obi Ezeh is overrated, but I think the UFR is too harsh on him. There were several plays were he could have gotten some positive points (at least a half) when he's not given anything:

-"Ezeh does a good job fighting through trash to make a tenuous downfield tackle."

-"Ezeh, unfettered because of the RVB double, flows to the POA and forces Caper back into RVB."

-the fumble recovery

And there's some negative plays that may be graded too harshly. It seems he's more graded against his hype and not against his actual performance. I think he's a net zero or slightly positive player, instead of the slightly negative grade he's gotten this year.

Anyways, thanks for the analysis.