Upon Further Review: MSU Offense

Submitted by Brian on October 7th, 2005 at 3:23 PM

Some clarification on the pass designations, which now accompany every throw:

  • DO: Dead On; reserved for downfield throws that are perfectly placed and are either fit into a tough place or require a lot of leading and provide a good opportunity to run after the catch. Generally should be reserved for fairly badass plays. (Note this is a major change. Expect far fewer DOs than I've been charting previously.)
  • CA: Catchable; Standard downfield completions that are a little off--behind or tall or in front--that still don't pose a huge difficulty to the receiver or bombs that are reasonably well thrown even if slighly off. All successful screen and very short throws max out at this level.
  • IN: Inaccurate; balls that are misthrown and give the receiver little or no chance of catching without a spectacular play or massive adjustment. Some completions are "inaccurate" if the catch made involves some eye-popping. Completed screens that are delayed by a poorly thrown ball and therefore stopped also go here.
  • TA: Throwaways; balls that are not intended to be caught.
  • BR: Bad Reads; Balls that are thrown into coverage or thrown away when there are open recievers.
  • BA: Batted; Balls batted at the line or inaccurate because the quarterback was hit while throwing.
1 10 M2 Run Hart 1 Eight in the box and we choose to run anyway. Thompson gets no block.
2 9 M3 Pass Tabb 8 Nicely designed play attacks one area of the zone and Henne diagnoses the right guy to throw to (primary read, it appears, since the other routes head straight into the local zone cover guys and force them to react). This happens all day. It's the same stop route Edwards used to run all the time. (CA) New designation == Tabbroute.
3 1 M11 Run Hart 45 They've brought a safety down for eight in the box again. Thompson gets juuust enough of the LB filling the hole between Kraus and Lentz and the safety coming up takes a Shazor angle, misses a weak arm tackle and it's races time. This is a hole, by the way, that Grady/Martin just don't fit through. Hart has to leap through the tiny crack in the line.
1 10 O44 Pass Manningham 18 Long handoff. MSU corner couldn't have played this worse. (CA)
1 10 O26 Run Hart 1 Hart is forced to cut back here as MSU's DE gets penetration. Eight in the box.
2 9 O25 Pass Ecker 9 Ecker sits in the hole in the zone and Henne finds him quickly. (CA)
1 10 O16 Pass Avant Inc Sailed well over Avant's head. He was open. Bad Henne! (IN)
2 10 O16 Pass Avant 5 Good diagnosis of the blitz and Henne finds his hot read, but the throw pulls Avant out of bounds else he can get another 3-4 (CA)
3 5 O11 Run Bass 9 QB Draw. How does this work? In any case, a great seal block by Hart gets the first down. GREAT.
1 G O2 Pass Avant 2 Perfect fade for the touchdown. (DO)
Drive Notes: 7-0, 9 min 1st. Upon viewing you get a glimpse of how good Hart is. The 45 yard run is probably 2 with someone who isn't him and the critical third down conversion was due to Hart darting up and sealing the hell out of the MSU linebacker who would have filled the hole otherwise. Henne's sharp on this drive too, save for the one overthrown ball that's shades of UW.
1 10 M48 Run Hart 9 Sweep gets the corner here as Michigan overloads one side of the line and they outnumber at the point of attack.
2 1 O43 Pass Manningham 43 Sweet Jesus, Manningham has to slow up because the throw is a little behind him and he's still open by like three yards. Danielson points out the free safety bite. Quit doin' my job! (CA)
Drive Notes: 14-0, 7 min 1st. Yes, if you're wondering, I am detecting a certain buoyancy not found in previous editions of UFR. The touchdown here is a thing of beauty, with the safeties biting hard on the play action (how do you bite on second and one play action?) and Manningham rolling his hips a little bit like he's running a flag then cutting to the post instantaneously and breaking Jaren Hayes. You got served, Hayes!
1 10 M30 Pass Manningham 3 Long handoff played better by Watson this time. Dangerous of him to be so aggressive, though... if Manningham breaks the tackle to the outside he runs a long way. (CA)
2 7 M33 Run Hart 2 Toss sweep. Either the pulling guard Lentz is late or there's an extra guy in the box.
3 5 M35 Pass Massaquoi Inc Maybe he gets the first down if he catches this, but he's got that cast on his hand. I seriously question playing a guy who can't catch. (CA)
Drive Notes: 14-0 M, early 1st Q. Two good plays by the MSU D and then a drop by the cast-wearing Mass.
1 10 M13 Pass Avant 25 Avant's as wide open as can be. Ball is a little overthrown and Avant makes a nice catch. (CA)
1 10 M36 Pass Hart Inc Screen that MSU reads well and Henne's forced to throw it over a defensive lineman. Better that was incomplete; would have been a loss if caught. (TA)
2 10 M36 Pass Ecker 29 A seam route between two defenders that is timed and thrown perfectly. Could not have been done better; an NFL throw. (DO)
1 10 O35 Run Hart 1 Massey the Younger is in at TE and gets killed by the DE. The play's blown up and Hart does well to not lose 3.
2 9 O34 Pass Avant 14 Nice throw but the coverage here is EMU level. The CB had bailed out almost before the play began. (DO)
1 10 O20 Run Hart 0 Like two guys are totally unblocked. Again Hart does well not to lose 3 or 4 yards.
2 10 O20 Run Hart 8 Draw. Ecker gets a nice seal block and Hart gets three while being tackled by like three guys.
3 2 O12 Run Hart 1 Again Hart is trying to deal with an unblocked guy right a the point of attack.
4 1 O11 Penalty RTK 5 This call is also a joke, especially called as roughing. A cheap call. Officials == tards.
1 G O5 Pass Avant Inc Avant runs the fade as Henne throws the slant. Who's right? Avant. The DB was clearly taking inside position. (BR)
2 G O5 Run Hart 0  
3 G O5 Pass Thompson 5 Uh, yeah... you might want to cover that guy. (CA)
Drive Notes: 21-7, 10 min 2nd Q. Danielson's been harping on Michigan running too much and I'm with him. Just look at this drive. Throwing is stealing candy and they're stacking 8 in the box and the runs go 1 0 8 1 0.< /td>
1 10 M20 Run Grady 0 Both guards fail to block their men and there's nothing for Grady.
2 10 M20 Pass Massaquoi 7 Stop route in the zone. The Carl Tabb route. (CA)
3 3 M27 Pass Avant Inc Dropped. (CA)
Drive Notes: 21-7 4 min 2nd Q. It's like a little piece of me dies whenever Avant drops a pass. I think I need therapy.
1 10 M28 Pass Tabb 8 Carl Tabb runs the Tabbroute. There's much better coverage this time but Henne slides it in there. (DO)
2 2 M36 Run Hart 4 I believe this is a zone-stretch type play that we'll see to great effect in the fourth quarter. Michigan makes a note of this.
1 10 M40 Pass Avant 18 So easy, says Danielson, and I agree. Out route again taking advantage of the MSU Cornerback Terrors. Avant makes some yards afterwards (CA)
1 10 O42 Pass Hart 6 Hart runs a little flat route that Watson reads well and comes off the single WR on that side to make a good tackle, else Hart had a ton of room. (CA)
2 4 O36 Pass Massaquoi 5 Almost dropped again. I know he's a fifth year senior, but come on--he can't catch with that cast. (CA)
1 10 O31 Pass Avant 7 Long handoff. (CA)
2 3 O24 Run Hart -4 Herron makes a really nice play, slicing up into the backfield, but the big issue here is Ecker getting shoved back at the LOS, opening up the slicing-avenue.
3 7 O28 Pass Avant 6 CA. Same Tabbroute but just a tiny bit short.
4 1 O22 Run Hart 10 Little man keeps running, making eight of these yards after he should have been tackled.
1 10 O12 Run Hart 4 I don't like this playcall very much, because if you're going to run it here you have to have a second play called in the huddle so you don't waste a down here. The clock spike was planned by the offensive staff and is throwing away a down; it's a horrible call.
2 6 O8 Spike  
3 6 O8 Pass Tabb 4 Why even throw this? It's short of the sticks and if Tabb doesn't manage to squeak out of bounds they probably don't even get a FG attempt. (CA)
Drive Notes: 24-21, Halftime. The clock management on this drive is very bad.
1 10 M20 Pass No one Sack, -4 I don't understand why Henne pulls this down, since he had his guy on a stop route. (BR)
2 14 M16 Run Hart 2 Again the interior of the offensive line simply fails to properly block the defensive tackles.
3 12 M18 Pass Dunno Int A terrible read against fairly vanilla zone coverage. (BR)
Drive Notes: 24-21, 13 min 3rd Q. No excuse for the interception.
1 10 M20 Run Hart 6 Finally an effective run between the tackles.Good block by Kraus.
2 4 M26 Run Hart 1 Nowhere to run again.
3 3 M27 Pass Manningham 2 A flanker screen that Manningham screws up. If he just runs it straight upfield, he gets the first down. (CA)
Drive Notes:24-24, 9 min 3rd Q. Again you've got the offense operating on the edge of annihilation here early in the second half; again these appear to be execution issues.
1 10 O46 Pass Avant 5 Long handoff. (CA)
2 5 O41 Pass Avant Inc A deep ball to Avant, wonder of wonders. Very nicely placed by Henne, who puts it where Avant, who's running step for step with the DB, has a chance but the DB does not. (CA)
3 5 O41 Pass Hart 0 Unfortunately, McKinney stunts right into the screen. (CA)
Drive Notes: 24-24, late 3rd Q. MSU called rock to our scissors on the screen.
1 10 M20 Run Hart 64 Strange aligment here for MSU. They have a huge gap between the DE and DT on the right side of the formation. This is a draw action and Thompson finds that gaping hole to seal the linebacker as the overloaded side of the line blocks off the Spartan defenders--there was no reaction to the TE going in motion here. This play was going for 20 before the ball was even snapped. I mean, seriously, there's no one within two yards of Riley.
1 10 O16 Run Grady 5 (Note to this point that Hart has 109 yards on the two long runs and 49(!!!) on all his others.) Grady makes 3-4 after contact here.
2 5 O11 Run Hart 7 More draw action right at the gaping hole between the DT and the DE. Hart gets three with like three guys on him.
1 G O4 Run Hart 2  
1 G O2 Pass Penalty 1 Pass interference on Ecker in the back of the endzone. Incomplete only because Ecker bobbles it (and shouldn't have this been reviewed) but he has an excuse. (CA)
1 G O1 Run Hart 1 How the damn hell does he get this in there? Does he levitate into the endzone? Neither Paul nor Riley gets anything approximating a block but Hart does it yet again. YOU ROOLZ.
Drive Notes: 31-24, 11 min 4 Q. Amazing that we run this into the endzone given the fact that our run blocking is basically nonexistent unless State lines up with ridiculous gaps between their DL.
1 10 M46 Run Hart 2 Could have gone for more but Hart trips up making his cut. There was actually a hole (draw action again).
2 8 M49 Pass Tabb 7 Tabbroute. (CA)
3 1 O44 Run Hart 3 They go on a quick count for this play and it catches the Spartans off guard.
1 10 O41 Pass Hart Inc Henne throws this in the dirt as the screen is diagnosed and well covered. (TA)
2 10 O41 Pass Tabb 5 Again a litte route against the zone. Tabb sits down. (CA)
3 5 O36 Pass Avant 11 Long handoff to Avant. How do you allow this on third and five? It is the mystery. (CA)
1 10 O25 Run Hart 0 Riley gets shoved three yards into the backfield and Hart runs up his back.
2 10 O25 Pass No one Inc Henne can't find anyone and Henne tosses it off into the sideline. (TA)
3 10 O25 Pass Hart Inc Unless you really think that the worst call since Hitler decided to attack Russia should have stood, in which case get off my blog, Sparty. (BA)
Drive Notes: 31-31, 7 min 4th Q. We just can't run the ball. Hart's yards are almost entirely due to one Shazoresque screw up and then a really strange presnap alignment. We can't line up and block anyone.
1 10 M40 Run Hart 4 Draw; Thompson falls and only gets a small piece of his man, preventing the play from going further.
2 6 M44 Run Hart 8 The previously mentioned zone stretch cutback. MSU aggresively overpursuees and the backside is wide open. Hart IDs and cuts.
1 10 O48 Run Hart 7 Draw; Hart picks his hole outside and cuts up smartly to get all he can.
2 3 O41 Run Hart 2 Ecker cannot block the DE, who holds the corner and makes the play on a sweep.
3 1 O39 Run Grady 1 Grady is like an inch short.
4 In O38 Run Henne 2 Sneak.
1 10 O36 Run Hart 5 Lentz gets a weak block and his man makes the tackle. At this point there are holes opening up but Michigan can't get that last block.
2 5 O31 Run Hart 4 McKinney grabs Hart's shirt and manages to drag him down. Well blocked.
3 1 O27 Run Hart 0 Again an unblocked guy at the point of attack, and he's joined by another player.
4 1 O27 Run Hart 9 They do actually get the POA knocked back this time. Looks like the unsuccessful 4th and goal versus Wisconsin except the pulling guard gets to the hole.
1 10 O18 Run Hart 2 All jammed up and Hart does not immediately identify the correct hole to pick. Again he runs into the back of Riley.
2 8 O16 Run Hart 1 No push.
3 7 O15 Run Hart 5 Burrows his way upfield.
Drive Notes: Missed FG, 31-31, 1 min 4th Q. The line finally starts getting it together on this drive, though there are points where execution is still lacking. Coming to the conclusion that Ecker is just not much of a blocker (hell of a receiver, though). Riley has gotten pushed back several times but he is playing out of position with injured thumbs.
1 10 O25 Pass Avant 6 Long handoff. (CA)
2 4 O19 Run Hart 1  
Drive Notes: 34-31, EOG. Taste the sting of defeat! Lord knows I'm used to it.

THE OFFENSE IS BACK BABY!

Unfortunately, I have to break this out: not so fast, my friend. Nearly 500 yards and 34 (should have been 40) points is something to get excited about, certainly, but there are a lot of parallels between this game and the Eastern game, save for the fact that the opposing offense was sweet instead of nonexistent. Henne's accuracy radically improved but we ran that long handoff play a lot. It was something that we relied on to keep our drives chugging down the field and it's something that the OSUs and PSUs of the world will take away.

More concerning is the run blocking, which was awful. Yes, awful. It was possibly the worst run blocking coupled with a 200 yard day from the accused team's running back in the history of NCAA football. Hart's first 45 yard scamper saw him literally hop through a nearly nonexistent hole and was aided by SirDarean Adams (I think) pulling a Shazor on his attack angle and badly missing. The 64 yard run was a really strange draw that MSU was completely incapable of defending from the start. There was no one within two yards of the RT when the play started and all Riley had to do to leave the massive hole open was casually step to his right and wall off the Spartan DE. While Michigan did well to take advantage of the situation, rest assured that said situation will not repeat itself against Ohio State. If we are being wholly honest with ourselves (and we are), Michigan State gave us those 109 yards almost in full.

But... but...

All right, yes, you're looking for good news: Hart really is that damn good, a complete back who gives like 300% effort on every play and has the incredible ability to make three yards he shouldn't on almost rush. I had forgotten what an amazing player he is in his absence. If we can get halfway competent blocking, look out.

The second piece of good news is the Hennechart:

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

I meant to bring the "DO" numbers down but not that much--I'll have to work on it. Obviously the big 25 and the leetle 1 jump out at you. That is at least partially due to the incompetence of the Spartan DBs, since a lot of those CAs are little stop routes against the zone or long handoffs, but when you try to pass 37 times and get four execution errors from your quarterback, you are in the business, as they say.

Michigan only went deep twice and neither throw was perfect, but one was a 45 yard touchdown and the other was placed so that Avant had a chance but no one else did. The 15 yard outs and little zone stops were all thrown accurately. There were a couple instances of miscommunication on option routes, but, man... 36 throws. One inaccurate. That's night and day.

So what does it mean in the larger scheme of things?

I don't think we're going to be able to run against teams that can deal with our OL effectively and have the linebackers to back it up. This appears to be PSU and OSU. Hart doesn't have the pure speed to beat guys like Connor or Hawk and the UM running game is sadly dependent on him making guys miss. Tom, you were right: the offensive line was way overrated in the offseason. Mea culpa. (Though I wonder if we'd be saying the same thing with Jake Long at RT. We'll never know.)


Pics please.

However, the pieces for an effective passing game complemented by a finesse running game are certainly in place. When Manningham figures out what the hell he's supposed to be doing on a regular basis he is going to be #1 in spirit if not in jersey; he's spec-QEDMFer-tacular, like a Steve Breaston born to be a wide receiver. The route he ran on his touchdown was thing of subtle beauty, all Scarlett Johansson curves from him and all my grandmother's busted hip from Jaren Hayes. Avant's shown that he is mortal when it comes to dropping the occasional ball but he's also shown that he's not merely a possession option with a number of nice episodes of YAC and an awful lot of being open (being hit has oftentimes been another matter). He is very, very good. The Chad Henne panic should also be subsiding somewhat.

In my opinion, they k ey to this offense is going to be establishing Manningham as a guy you have to bracket with a safety. The combination of Hart, Michigan's run blocking issues, and their draw-adeptness means that the running game will suffer extensively with eight in the box but will be somewhere between adequate and great if the opposing safeties have to play off. Note that Hart's huge game against Purdue last year was against a very good run defense coupled with an awful pass D that could not afford to put their corners in one-on-one coverage with Edwards, et al.

So you're telling me...

We can conclusively say at this point that the preseason expectations for the offense (propagated by me, yes, but not just me) were excessively optimistic. We have a good pass-blocking line but not a great one. Our run blocking is good only in a finesse sense, which is to say that it is not good. Breaston has been invisible but largely replaced by Manningham. Henne's accuracy has been erratic, though it's trending to the good.

So what does this mean for the Gophers?

Probably not much, despite the fact that I've been relentlessly negative considering we just racked up 500 yards. The Gopher D is about as bad as the MSU D, especially without Brandon Owens and his backup. They're going to have a tough time stopping Michigan's offense--I mean, they gave up 44 points to a team that completed about a third of its passes. They'll have a tough time stopping anyone.

Watch out for Penn State, though. They have the cornerbacks and (evidently given 48 for Maroney) the run defense to put a serious damper on our offensive forays and, even though I still hold to my belief that Michael Robinson is a better ninja space admiral than quarterback, the game is going to be a tight, ugly one.

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