Upon Further Review: Minnesota Offense

Submitted by Brian on October 13th, 2005 at 12:15 AM
1 10 M27 Run Hart 1 Draw. Stenavich's man sheds and tackles.
2 9 M28 Pass Avant Inc Tipped at the line. (BA)
3 9 M28 Pass Avant 13 Tipped again; ominously, Riley just barely gets enough on the DE to push him past Henne. (BA)
1 10 M41 Pass Avant 16 Nice slant to Avant. (DO)
1 10 O41 Run Hart 3 Lentz pulls onto a linebacker, who stands him up at the LOS. Not so good.
2 7 O38 Run Hart 20 Draw. Bass gets just enough of the LB/S to push him just past Hart and he moves through the hole.
1 10 O18 Run Hart 3 This play isn't on the tape. Thanks ABC.
2 7 O15 Run Hart 8 Draw once again. We're in a 3 WR set and they have six in the box. The blockers do well.
1 G O8 Run Hart 3 Hart has to cut back since the planned route of attack is totally stuffed.
2 G O5 Pass Avant Inc Henne overthrows Avant on a slant by six feet. (IN)
3 G O5 Pass Ecker Inc I'm going to be charitable and say that this was just thrown away since there was no one open. It's either that or another ridiculously overthrown ball. (TA)
Drive Notes: FG, 3-0, 10 min 1st Q. The runs that work are all draws. We are a finesse running team. Henne had Avant open but just rocketed it well above his head. Four points left on the board.
1 10 M39 Run Hart 8 An off tackle here were Lentz gets a very good seal block and lets Hart dart up for a big chunk of yardage.
2 2 M47 Run Hart 6 Draw. Hart jinks his way through a minefield of guys holding their blocks.
1 10 O47 Pass Manningham Pen / 15 Manningham is tackled by his man.
1 10 O32 Run Manningham -5 A reverse that doesn't work. Avant misses his block on the safety, otherwise I think Manningham gets the corner here.
2 15 O37 Pass Avant 6 I think this is a checkdown. (CA)
3 9 O31 Pass No one Sack / -8 Riley gets destroyed by this Steve Davis kid, a freshman. At this point the elderly gentleman in front of me, who I do not know, turns to me and says "Is that Riley? Pathetic." I've got no response.
Drive Notes: 3-0, 3 min 1st Q. Davis is going to kill like three additional drives by owning whatever RT we throw out there.
1 10 M27 Pass Ecker Inc Nice seam route to Ecker 23 yards downfield. Ecker drops it. (DO)
2 10 M27 Pass Avant 14 Simple out to Avant which is somewhat overthrown. (CA).
1 10 M41 Run Hart 1 Henige's block is to fall down in the general direction of the Minnesota defender, who disrupts the entire play.
2 9 M42 Pass Dunno Inc The offensive line decides not to block the blitzer, who crushes henne as he attempts to throw. (BA)
3 9 M42 Pass Tabb 7 Henne has all day here but can only dump it down to Carl Tabb, who is well short of the first down. (BR).
Drive Notes: 3-3, 11 min 2nd Q. Total busts on first and second down by the OL put Michigan in third and long.
1 10 M35 Run Hart 5 This is indeed a fumble and it is recovered by Minnesota. After video review, the player was ruled down? What? The Gophers got screwed here.
2 5 M40 Run Hart 1 Jesus. Davis just decides that Mike Kolodziej is an annoying fly and gets rid of him, then tackles hart.
3 4 M39 Pass No one Sack / -3 Henige is forced to hold Montomgery, who gets the sack anyway. Henne is tentative and not throwing the ball on time. I refuse to believe that the toasterrific Minnesota secondary is covering Avant and Manningham.
Drive Notes: 3-3 8 min 2nd Q. Another big play by Davis and then Henige can't block Montgomery. The OL is killing us.
1 10 M26 Pass Manningham 11 Out to Manningham. (CA)
1 10 M37 Pass Breaston 18 + 15 Roughing the passer after the completion to Breaston, who turns his man completely around on his post-out. (DO).
1 10 O30 Pass Avant Inc Tipped by the LB in the zone. He's staring down Avant and thus he's surrounded by like four guys. (BR)
2 10 O30 Pass Massaquoi Inc Sure, throw to the guy with one hand. (CA)
3 10 O30 Pass Avant Inc Avant's open in the end zone and Henne plain misses him. (IN).
Drive Notes: FG. 6-3 6 min 2nd Q. I really dislike these downfield throws on third down. It would be one thing if Henne was having a good year and nailing guys who came open 20 yards downfield, but that's not happening.
1 10 O23 Run Hart 0 This Steve Davis kid can play. He stands up Ecker and then nimbly avoids Thompson's block and makes the tackle for no gain.
2 10 O23 Pass Breaston 18 Breaston's wide open as Avant and Manningham clear it out for him. (CA)
1 G O5 Pass Avant Inc This fade is badly overthrown. (IN)
2 G O5 Run Hart 4 Good blocking by Lentz and Thompson makes a crease that Hart can exploit. Big play.
3 G O1 Run Hart 0 This is the exact same play that failed on 4th and 1 versus Wisconsin. Again the pulling guard Lentz doesn't block anyone.
4 G O1 Run Hart 1 He makes it but isn't easy. No pull here just an F-U iso play.
Drive Notes: TD, 13-3 3 min 2nd Q. Thompson has asserted himself as the starting FB and is doing a pretty good job. He's not Dudley but he's not a disaster.
1 10 M31 Pass Massaquoi Inc I think he's throwing it away here since Mass is triple covered, but he doesn't even bother with his other reads. (TA)
2 10 M31 Pass Massaquoi Inc A freaking bullet over the middle that's high and incomplete, though he has to throw it like so given the coverage. Why are we throwing to Mass here? (marginally CA)
3 10 M31 Pass Hart 5 Screen. (CA)
Drive Notes: TD, 13-10, 36 sec 2nd Q. Not exactly go go gadget two minute drill.
1 10 M47 Run Hart 4 Another draw; these all seem to open up big holes between the tackles and guards, probably because the DEs are screaming upfield.
2 6 O49 Pass Ecker Inc Dropped by Ecker. You TEs are killing me. (DO)
3 6 O49 Pass Breaston 9 Finally ahead of his guy on the crossing route by a yard or two. Henne leads him just right. (DO)
1 10 O40 Pass Avant 10 Wide open on the out, but this throw is not exactly on the money. (CA)
1 10 O30 Run Hart 8 Stenavich seals the DE when he slants inside on the snap, opening up the weak side.
2 2 O22 Pass Avant Inc Play action. Henne steps up and fires it towards the corner of the endzone for Avant and misses him. (IN)
3 2 O22 Run Hart -3 Riley screws up his block, fouling this up and disrupting Thompson's blocking route. As a result the LB shoots up into the gap unmolested and makes a TFL.
Drive Notes: Missed FG, 20-20, 4 min 3rd Q. Rivas isn't even close. The RT position has killed two drives so far and there's a third one coming up. I again dislike the call on second and two here, and I swear I said that in the stadium.
1 10 M17 Run Hart 6 Lentz pulls onto the linebacker well enough to crack open a hole that Hart squirts through.
2 4 M23 Run Hart -2 We're running into an eight man front and tip the direction of the run with the FB shuffle. Minnesota flows to the ball and overwhelms the blocking immediately.
3 6 M21 Pass No one Sack / -9 Davis blows past Kolodziej for the sack very quickly. Griese starts talking about Henne holding the ball too long but he'd hardly finished his drop. No replay to see about the coverage.
Drive Notes: 20-20, EO 3rd Q. Davis is killing us; refusing to adapt to the defense presented to us is not helping either.
1 10 M26 Pass Manningham 7 Pretty obvious screen with Ecker going in motion to the top of the formation, but it works. (CA)
2 3 M33 Run Hart 9 Pure draw here and Hart sheds a DT's arm tackle.
1 10 M42 Run Hart 7 Great block by Thompson crushes the defensive end and springs Hart for a nice gain.
2 3 M49 Run Hart 2 Initially stopped a the LOS by the eighth guy in the box but somehow Hart falls into a third and less than a yard.
3 1 O49 Run Hart 4 Hart cuts right inside of Henige's pull block for the first down.
1 10 O45 Pass Thompson 10 Play action; Manningham was probably open as has been mentioned but it's hard to complain about a first down. (CA)
1 10 O35 Run Hart 16 Draw right up the middle. Another good block from the fullback blows the hole open; think it's still Thompson.
1 10 O19 Run Hart -2 Attempted sweep right is pretty well fouled up and Hart trips. This was going nowhere anyway.
2 12 O21 Pass Manningham Inc Henne is really late with this throw and by the time he finds Manningham he's covered. Probably a checkdown. Henne had to throw it away from the DB. (IN)
3 12 O21 Pass Manningham 4 A slip screen that never really has a chance.
Drive Notes: Missed FG, 20-20, 9 min 4th Q. What can you say? Rivas has become hennebriated.
1 10 M28 Run Hart 0 Draw; Hart has an avenue but slips on his cut.
2 10 M28 Pass Avant 12 Ton of time and Henne has Avant on the comeback. (CA)
1 10 M40 Penalty   15 Michigan goes deep to Avant and picks up a PI. Dunno, think that's a weak call.
1 10 O45 Run Hart 0 Run up the gut does nothing. Massaquoi has no one to block on the outside so there's an unblocked guy up the middle and he sticks Hart.
2 10 O45 Pass No one Scramble / 2 Either no one open or Henne just can't read the defense.
3 8 O43 Pass No one Inc Throws this away after bailing way, way to early. It's a three man rush and he rolls out, freeing a rusher to pressure him. (BR).
Drive Notes: 20-20, 3 min 4th Q. We never get the ball back.

Who in the hell is Steve Davis?

Well, he's a defensive end from Missouri, a true freshman, and foremost among the reasons Minnesota won. People are just starting to write articles about him, but you heard it here first: this guy is good. Four separate times he snuffed out UM drives largely or entirely on his own, generally by exploding past whichever RT was starring in the role of Courtney Morgan at that particular moment. Twice he sacked Henne; once he blew up a third and two run play.

Would Jake Long have done better? No doubt. But Davis still deserves copious credit. No defensive end to date, including ND's Victor Abiamiri, had been able to take advantage of our questionable situation at RT to such an extent.

So our offensive problems were on the shoulders of Riley and Kolodziej?

That was certainly a large part of why we bogged down but not all of it. There were several instances of missed blocks by the two guards and Stenavich did not get much push on the non-draw running plays (plays that we largely abandoned). The offensive line held its ground and kept players engaged on many of Hart's successful runs, but that's about all you can say for them.

Henne didn't have a great game. It wasn't as bad as the Wisconsin performance but it wasn't very efficient, either:

Team Dead on Catchable Inaccurate Bad Read Throwaways Batted
NIU 19 4 5 2 2 1
ND 15 7 9 5 3 5
EMU 12 2 4 0 0 0
UW 11 6 11 2 1 2
MSU 4 25 1 3 3 1
MINN 5 11 5 3 2 3

I tried to have the stats reflect something I suspect was the case from attending the game but can't confirm because of the way football is broadcast: Henne seemed to throw late or sit in the pocket unable to find an open receiver too often against a weak Minnesota secondary. A couple of these were counted as bad reads.

Four of Henne's five inaccurate passes were thrown towards an open Avant in the endzo ne. Michigan scored on one of those drives, got a field goal on another, and crapped out on the other two. Two of the throws were relatively deep downfield (20-30 yards), the other two were a fade launched into the crowd and a badly overthrown slant.

No picks but there were instances where Henne was hesitant to throw and did not go through his progressions. Four passes were dropped; Henne was also sacked three times.

So what's the problem?

Uh... everything? If we had one unit playing really well we could overcome the plays the others waste but it seems that every unit is the source of consistent error. Henne overthrows his receivers; the offensive line can't block very well; the tight ends and receivers drop passes; the running backs fumble; the wide receivers don't get open enough. No one unit is completely inept, but neither is any particularly reliable (other than units named "Mike Hart"). You know it's bad when even Jason Avant has been the source of a couple third-down drops.

Is there any hope?

I doubt the offensive line gets any more reliable sans Jake Long and Henne's got the yips real bad. He has reacted poorly to pressure. That said, we have outgained most opponents so far and are just a few plays here and there away from repeating that robotically effective NIU performance. I don't think it's time to send for the coroner just yet.

What does it mean for Penn State?

Ugh. The idea of Tamba Hali going up against Riley/Kolodziej is extremely unappealing, especially with Connor and Posluszny backing him up and flowing right into the holes our draw-heavy run game uses. We absolutely cannot afford to spurn the few scoring chances we earn against the Lions, as they are going to shut down our offense for most of the day unless we suddenly right the ship--possible but only distantly so. It'll come down to Henne's poise and accuracy. If he finds a man open downfield he has to hit him: that's how we won the MSU game and that's how we lost, well, the rest of them.

Comments