Upon Further Review: Minnesota Defense Comment Count

Brian October 13th, 2005 at 7:36 PM
1 10 O20 Pass 13 Play action sucks everyone in and they waggle to Wheelwright. Jamar Adams is the nearest.
1 10 O33 Run 3 Maroney goes off tackle. Dave Harris(+1) stays on his feet in the face of a chop and sticks him.
2 7 O36 Pass 9 Triple stack screen that we essentially concede 10 yards on at the snap with only a couple players anywhere near the screen.
1 10 O45 Run 0 No one on Minnesota picks up a block. Harris(+1) avoids his man, forms up, and waits for help to arrive.
2 10 O45 Pass Inc Cupito tries to pump fake and the ball comes out.
3 10 O45 Pass 10 Wheelwright runs a simple out at the sticks in front of Mason(-1).
1 10 M45 Run 1 Again the Gophers can't get guys blocked on the pull. Burgess(+1) makes the dogde and slows him down long enough for Massey(+1) to make the tackle.
2 9 M44 Run 5 Triple stack again, they hand off to Russell up the middle. The Minnesota OL gets a good push, though Watson holds his ground and Russell has to cut back a little.
3 4 M39 Run 0 Watson(+2) crushes his man into bits and makes the tackle. Controversial fumble play. I dunno. Forward progress was stopped but I've seen stuff like that go either way.
4 4 M39 Pass Inc Mason(+2) does a really nice job on the slant here, breaking up the pass immediately upon the throw's arrival.
Drive Notes: 3-0, 7 min 1st Q. Caught off guard with a couple plays (waggle to Wheelwright, triple stack) and Mason has to react faster on an obvious out on the third down but we do a good job against the run here and Mason ends the drive with a nice play. All in all a good performance.
1 10 O19 Pass 9 Rollout pass, simple out run in front of Hall(-1).
2 1 O28 Run 4
1 10 O32 Run 8 Triple stack; handoff is to Russell again. Woodley(-1) can't hold the corner and Graham(-1) picks the wrong hole.
2 2 O40 Run 2 Well defended but can't prevent the first down. Harris with another tackle.
1 10 O42 Pass 19 Cupito with all day to throw and he finds Wallace. Adams is again running a few yards being the recipient, but it's hard to fault a DB when the QB has that much time.
1 10 O39 Pass 2 Triple stack screen #2. Hall(+1) attacks immediately and slows the play up so that help can arrive.
2 8 O37 Run 5 Jamison(+1) is lined up as an OLB on the LOS and just blows past the TE before he even knows what's going on. Unfortunately, he misses the tackle, and then Mason misses a tackle downfield. Jamison gets a +1 because he was supposed to be blocked but didn't and slowed the play up even though he didn't finish it.
3 3 O32 Run 8 Cupito runs the option. Harris(-1) does get chopped on this play and there's a big hole up the middle.
1 10 O24 Run 9 Goddamn. Woods is in as the DE opposite Woodley on the short side of the field. They pull the LT and LG around the TE, who crushes Woods, and there is instantly a big hole that Russell flies through. Never seen that before. No Harris on this play; Crable at MLB.
2 1 O15 Run 2 Maroney up the gut.
1 10 O13 Penalty -15 Chop block against Minnesota on a Maroney stretch.
1 25 O28 Penalty -5 False start
1 30 O33 Run 3 Graham(+1) shoots out to the sideline and forces Maroney to cut back into an agile, pursuing Watson(+1).
2 27 O30 Pass 10 Mason versus Wheelwright is a physical mismatch; here he gets inside of Mason and is thus open, but on second and 27 from the 30 this is okay to cede.
3 17 O20 Pass 8 A 'we give up' flare route to Wallace.
Drive Notes: FG, 3-3 13 min 2nd Q. I'm willing to chalk some of this up to Minnesota being a very good running offense, but our persistent inability to get a pass rush when we expect run is concerning.
1 10 O19 Run 0 Toss sweep to the outside. Branch(+1) and Burgess(+1) hold up well enough to let Graham(+1) flow and stick.
2 10 O19 Run 7 Cupito checks into an off tackle run. Massey(-1) vacates the space immediately. At this point Maroney 11 for 34.
3 3 O26 Pass Inc Cupito's wet noodle of an arm can't get it to an open receiver.
Drive Notes: 3-3 10 min 2nd Q. We're doing decently at this point.
1 10 O20 Run 14 Maroney gets the corner. Engelmon is freaking held here, and that's a big reason why. I see hands outside of shoulders constantly and it never gets called.
1 10 O34 Pass 0 Why are they throwing these shallow outs that serve only to highlight Cupito's weak arm? This play almost can't work with the personnel Minnesota has.
2 10 O34 Run 1 Russell up the middle. I think he makes a crappy cut here since there are unblocked guys on the side he cuts to. No one bothers blocking the DE on that side; probably a bust.
3 9 O35 Pass Inc Mason(+1) is in good coverage here but the reason this is incomplete is Woodley(+1), who stunts unblocked on a blitz and gets there immediately.
Drive Notes:3-3 7 min 2nd Q. I'm really not complaining too much about the refereeing in this game. Just that one play. I promise.
1 10 O20 Run 9 Barringer(+2) puts his hat right on the ball. Before the snap we were in a 3-4 and were misaligned; Minnesota outnumbered us on the near side of the field and ran a simple pitch out there. Burgess is sealed, Engelmon is blocked, and Maroney gets a nice run that we can't do anything about right on the snap.
Drive Notes: 6-3, 6 min 2nd Q. Foreshadowing.
1 10 O25 Pass Inc Play action and a ton of time for Cupito; Wheelwright is open but Cupito misses him.
2 10 O25 Run 4 Toss sweep. Massey holds up decently here and Graham avoids a block to converge.
3 6 O29 Pass 8 Wow. Really frustrating. Woodley(+1) and I think Branch(+1) execute a perfect stunt that has Woodley flying at Cupito unblocked but it doesn't matter because Harris(-1) and Brandon Logan(-1) (Brandon Logan?) have dropped too deep to prevent an easy completion to the TE underneath for the conversion.
1 10 O37 Pass 36 Play action. Hall(-1) gets completely turned around right before Ellerson cuts his route to a post and Jamar Adams(-1) is sucked way up by the pla y action.
1 10 M27 Run 5 Harrison(-1) misses a weak arm tackle on a play where most of the D holds up pretty well.
2 5 M22 Run 1 Engelmon blitzes from the corner right into the Minnesota run; Harris(+1) finishes the play.
3 4 M21 Pass 21 I think Trent's in about as good a position as he can be in here. Given the coverage there's no way you can stop the 6'5 Wheelwright when Cupito throws a perfect fade like he does here. Credit to Minnesota.
Drive Notes: 13-10, 1 min 2nd Q. Adams and Harrison both check in with negative plays. There's a drop from our starters. The killer was the third and six conversion that if Cupito was forced to hold the ball for a single second longer he was going to be sacked.
1 10 O38 Pass Inc Engelmon(+1) lights up Wheelwright, causing the drop. Illegal touching in any case.
2 10 O38 Run 0 Conceding the half.
Drive Notes: 13-10, Halftime. The defense is playing very well to this point.
1 10 M40 Penalty -5 False start.
1 15 M45 Run 4 Hall holds the corner and it's a nice cut by Maroney that gets the yardage. Massey(+1) is pursuing and makes the tackle.
2 11 M41 Penalty 15 Really unfortunate here, as Branch gets chopped and reaches out to Cupito to make a tackle. In the process he yanks him down by the facemask.
1 10 M26 Run 8 The same toss sweep into the overloaded bunch on the wide side of the field. Engelmon(-1) misses a tackle and Burgess(-1) is embarrassingly driven downfield by Jared Ellerson.
2 2 M18 Run 9 Maroney vaults Branch at the LOS. Watson(-1) is single blocked effectively by Eslinger here.
1 G M9 Run 4 Maroney to the outside again. Really questionable angle taken by Graham(-1), who has an opportunity to make a tackle for no gain. Barringer is the one who actually makes the tackle. He injures his knee on this play and is gone for the rest of the game.
2 G M5 Run -4 Branch(+2) penetrates and makes a shoestring TFL. Huge play.
3 G M9 Pass Inc Fade to Wheelwright, who again has Trent on him. This is about a millimeter away from intererence. Trent manages to bother Wheelwright enough to force a drop.
Drive Notes: 13-13, 13 min 3rd Q. Defense cracks somewhat to begin the half. Breaston returns the kickoff for a touchdown; Carr pooches the subsequent kick... bad decision.
1 10 O39 Penalty 15 PI on Hall. Really tough for him to avoid this as Cupito underthrows the ball and when Payne tries to stop Hall just runs right into him.
1 10 M46 Penalty -5 False start.
1 15 O49 Pass Inc Play action. Michigan has totally ceded any pass rush in on non obvious passing downs. Cupito can't get the deep out there.
2 15 O49 Run 3 Harris(+1) makes a very sure tackle as Russell shoots up into a good-sized hole on this draw.
3 12 M48 Penalty 15 PI on Mason(-1), as he gets caught jamming Wheelwright with the ball in the air. The thing is, they're 20 yards downfield at this point; the ball's likely in the air.
1 10 M33 Run 4 Russell up the gut from the triple stack.
2 6 M29 Run 1 Toss sweep. Adams(+1) does a good job of cutting off Maroney's outside path and the calvary converges.
3 5 M28 Run 6 Killer play. Russell is hit in the backfield by Burgess(-1) but he escapes and manages to squeak out the first down. Brutal.
1 10 M22 Run 2 Up the gut. Massey(+1) sheds his man and sticks for the tackle.
2 8 M20 Pass 6 PA waggle... on a zone blitz where Woodley pulls out and drops too deep(!).
3 2 M14 Run 3 Straight up the gut between Taylor(-1) and Will Johnson(-1). Why is Watson on the sideline on third and two?
1 10 M11 Run 8 Maroney straight up the gut. Will Johnson(-1) is destroyed and Watson just can't close off that big of a gap.
2 2 M3 Run 3 Michigan misses like four tackles. I'm gibbering.
1 G M1 Run 0 A wad right in the middle; I can't really determine anything.
1 G M1 Run 0 A TO before this play is really strange.
1 G M1 Run 1 Toss sweep touchdown for Minn. Crable gets blocked but it would be really hard to prevent this by yourself.
Drive Notes: TD, 20-20, 6 min 3rd Q. Complete defensive meltdown on this drive. Really, really strange to see the two freshman backup DTs in on two critical plays on 3rd and 2 and 1st and 10 in the red zone, but the defense has been on the field for about ten straight minutes. We really miss Biggs and Jamison; think Branch would have been of help at DT on this drive?
1 10 O26 Penalty -10 Holding; the play was a play action bomb played well by Hall(+1). Penalty drawn by Woodley(+1), who was hog-tied by the OT.
1 20 O16 Run -1 Woodley(+2) destroys the OT and makes the TFL all by himself.
2 21 O15 Penalty er, +5 Holding downfield on Ellerson after a huge run. Burgess(-2) sits there, gets chopped by the slot WR, and then goes inside of him. Unexplainable.
2 16 O20 Pass Inc Play action stretch and Cupito misses his guy on the sidelines.
3 16 O20 Run 13 They run Maroney off tackle. Burgess(-1) again takes a bad angle, but it's third and 16.
Drive Notes: 20-20, 2 min 3rd Q. Woodley makes a couple of nice plays to offset Burgess's bad angles.
1 10 O42 Run -4 Harris(+2) reads, reacts, and makes the TFL very nicely. Burgess attempts to slip inside of his block again.
2 14 O38 Penalty 7 PI on Mason(-1). He reads and reacts on Wheelwright and arrives too early.
1 10 O45 Pass Inc More play action; more oodles of time. Cupito eventually has to roll out and fire it short of his receiver.
2 10 O45 Run -1 Dave Harris(+1) again, flowing unimpeded to the ball carrier.
3 11 O44 Pass Inc Michigan comes up with aggressive press coverage and sends an extra guy. Cupito just fires the ball downfield, badly overthrowing his WR.
Drive Notes: 20-20, 13 min 4th Q. I don't understand why this press cover thing doesn't get used more often. I know you can't do it all the time or Wheelwright is going to torch you (if Cupito gets it there), but th ere are a couple instances earlier when the soft zones let a pressured Cupito make a relatively easy hot read.
1 10 O20 Run 8 Triple stack and they're expecting the screen because Woodley drops off into the short zone on that side of the field. Russell runs up into the vacated area.
2 2 O28 Run 1 Woodley(+1) dominates his man and shoots upfield, breaking up the sweep, allowing guys to converge.
3 1 O29 Run 3 They run a stretch play to the right side of the field; the DL fired into the OL, attempting to prevent a run up the gut. Engelmon goes down.
1 10 O32 Pass Inc Woodley(+2) kills Cupito, forcing an inaccurate pass to Maroney and ending Cupito's afternoon.
2 10 O32 Run -2 Quarterback draw which Watson(+1) reads and consumes, then has to limp off afterwards.
3 12 O32 Run 7 We play passively here. Harris(+1) plows through a blocker and sticks his man.
Drive Notes: 20-20, 5 min 4th Q. Goddamn Woodley is great. He does this every game. There's usually two drives where these notes are essentially "OMG WOODLEY"... please, please don't have NFL measurables this offseason.
1 10 O13 Run 5 Triple stack and Russell goes right up the middle. Seems like every time they do this they gain yards. Massey(-1) is pancaked pretty brutally.
2 5 O18 Run 7 Man... again they run right at Massey(-1) and he gets moved way out. I don't want to be too hard on the guy but they're killing him.
1 10 O25 Run 0 They toss it over to Woodley's(+1) side, which is just a mistake. Graham(+1) nimbly steps past a potential blocker to finish the play.
2 10 O25 Run 0 Again they run it over towards Woodley(+1) and he holds up at the line and comes off to tackle, assisted by Graham(+1), who makes an excellent play to pick through the trash.
3 10 O25 Run 60 This has been discussed. Burgess(-2).
1 10 M15 Run 2
2 8 M13 Run 1
Drive Notes: FG, 23-20, EOG.

Any final words on the game-killing run?

I've seen a couple people argue that Carr should have played for overtime, but I disagree. Minnesota was clearly not going to have their backup QB throw unless it absolutely had to. Their punter had been dropping 30 yarders in front of Breaston all day. Michigan had a not-insignificant wind and would have gotten the ball back with plenty of time to execute a two minute drill for a winning field goal. The strategy was correct and it was not close, especially given that Carr had to make a second decision on playing for OT after the initial first down. He waited until Maroney was stuffed on first down to take his TO, when it was second and ten.

As for the run itself, I've made my position clear--it was a colossal coaching blunder--and I won't rehash it here.

What about the rest of the game?

They actually did decently. Before the 61 yarder at the end, Michigan had conceded 212 rushing yards, yes, but that was on 54 carries--3.9 yards per. Not spectacular but also not bad against such a powerful rushing attack. They clearly wore out early in the third after the Breaston KR TD (unless you think the coaches were itching to put Johnson and Taylor in on a critical third and two at the 11), but that's understandable. They racked up a bunch of penalties early in the second half that helped the Gophers move the ball; those were also more unfortunate than instances of poor play.

Cupito was intermittently effective--the fade to Wheelwright was beauty and totally unstoppable--but at other times was his usual weak-armed self, bailing Michigan out in several situations in which he had open guys.

All told, a good performance.



Player + - T Notes
Woodley 10 1 9 Best DE in 15 years.
Woods - - - Saw him on maybe one play.
Taylor - 1 -1  
Massey 3 3 0 Was generally effective flowing to the ball and only had a couple instances where he was blown out of the middle.
Watson 4 1 3 Good but not dominant.
Johnson - 2 -2 Tough to get your feet wet against Eslinger and Setterstrom.
Jamison 1 - - Wanted to see more from him on the weakside.
Branch 4 - 4 Consistently a bright spot.
Burgess 2 7 -5 Get this man a protractor stat.
Logan - 1 -1  
Harris 8 2 6 Well, we've got one linebacker.
Graham 4 2 2  
Mason 3 3 0 Needs to be more aware of the ball in the air.
Hall 2 2 0  
Engelmon 1 1 0  
Trent - - - Can't blame him for giving up the TD.
Adams - 1 -1  
Barringer 2 - 2 God hates Michigan safeties.
Harrison 1 1 0  

The chart accurately reflects what I think happened: the DEs were indeed very good against Maroney. The DTs not so much, possibly because of that stretch in the third. Harris was a beast; Burgess was a disaster, a WLB playing SLB. The secondary was all right but not great.

How badly are we going to miss Engelmon and Barringer?

More badly than Shazor. We'll be starting a 5'9" true freshman cornerback and Jamar Adams, who gives me the willies. The response may well be to sit back and cross our fingers, hoping PSU can't do anything about the seven guys in the box. Against the inaccurate Michael Robinson and a running game that I still think is pretty suspicious that may well work... but there's a reason Adams was on the bench despite being fast and huge. They're young and inexperienced. They'll probably screw up at least a few times.

Also, who's next on the depth chart? Anton Campbell? BJ Opong-Owosu? The safeties are atom-thin now.

What is the deal with Branch at DE?

I do understand the motivation against the Gophers. Woods runs out on the field for a snap; Minnesota consumes his soul and gains 9 yards. Jamison runs out there; they try the same thing but Jamison teleports into the backfield (and misses a tackle). Branch is big enough and fast enough to hold the corn er and collapse on the runner.

Against Penn State, however, I'd rather see him shift inside with Woodley taking on the strong side of the formation and one of our smaller edge rushers on the weak side. The Penn State offensive line doesn't compare to Minnesota's and but they do have a mobile quarterback. Someone like Jamsion's more likely to track him down if necessary.

Don't get ahead of yourself... what does it mean for PSU?

Well, there's that on the DL. I expect a game plan very similar to the one we saw against Michigan State with a lot of zones, spying, and laying back waiting for errors. It'll probably work better than it did against Michigan State--Robinson will be forced to take off more often than The Jesus and probably will make several more mistakes than he did. Penn State is not going to roll over our run defense like they did to Minnesota, but I expect several mistakes from the outside linebackers and safeties plus a few instances of Massey getting catapulted across the field. Those errors combined with sporadic good play from Robinson will get PSU a few drives where they threaten to score--with their offense, even(!)--but this one is going to be a low-scoring slugfest of a game.

So it'll come down to a Rivas kick?