Upon Further Review: ND Offense

Submitted by Brian on September 14th, 2005 at 6:21 PM

1 10 M19 Run Hart 1 Nothing.
2 9 M20 Pass Breaston 5 Diamond formation. Massey(-1) lets Crum get to the outside of him, preventing this from going for like 10.
3 5 M25 Pass Dutch 13 Nice play design to drag Hart across the zone and get Dutch open.
1 10 M38 Pass Dutch Inc Batted at the line, you can't blame Henne for this; the defender is just too close.
2 10 M38 Run Hart 1 Just a wad of players at the line. No hole whatsoever.
3 9 M39 Pass No one Inc Two guys come from the right, Hart picks up the inside one, Henne throws it away.
Drive notes: Terrible decision by Mason(-1) on the kickoff. One unblocked blitzer, two stuffed run plays, and a short pass blocked at the line by a defender really close to him.
1 10 M34 Pass Breaston 9 The old Braylon stop route.
2 1 M43 Penalty   -10 Holding on Henige, legit. Henne scrambled for the first down.
2 11 M33 Pass Hart Inc Abimiri bats it down. There isn't really anything Henne can do about this, either... it's a screen! Riley has to chop Abiamiri's legs out to open up the passing lane.
3 11 M33 Pass Avant 6 A stunting blitz by the WLB gets to Henne unblocked, and he finds whoever he can.
Drive Notes: Too much pressure. The story of these first two drives is the ND DL beating the UM OL. You've got a holding penalty, two instances of unblocked blitzers, and two batted passes.
1 10 M30 Pass Hart Inc This is a missed interference call, isn't it? Hart was interfered with with the ball in the air.
2 10 M30 Pass Ecker 16 Easy. Hole in the zone, henne looks off the D and finds him
1 10 M46 Run Hart 0 Toss sweep that knocks Hart out of the game. Thompson can't seal off the LB, who forces the play back inside, where two LBs clean it up.
2 10 M46 Pass Dutch 4 This is a great pass from Henne, who lofts the ball high enough to get it past the good zone coverage and into Dutch's hands.
3 6 50 Pass Sack   Henne pump fakes. Swann says it's because he was looking for Ecker but Ecker fell down.
Drive notes: this is the punt where Harrison lets it roll past him. Can't blame Henne yet.
1 10 M44 Run Breaston 30 reverse. Nice block from Henne, and a clever pull from the center gets out on the linebacker who's supposed to have contain.
1 10 O26 Pass Breaston Inc Perfect pass from Henne, and Breaston just drops it.
2 10 O26 Run Grady 5 Left side of the ND D gets caved in, but Ecker's block gets shed or this is 8-10
3 5 O21 Pass No one Inc Two blitzers and still no one open? Henne throws this away after getting flushed. Might have had a chance to find someone, but Grady's cut block doesn't stop the momentum of one blitzer, so he has to take off, and the second guy comes off his man.
Drive notes: Field goal. Again a blitzer forces an incompletion (3).
1 10 M41 Run Martin -4 Lentz gets his ass kicked.
2 14 M37 Pass Breaston Inc Breaston is open but Henne just misses him, Lentz goes down on this play.
3 14 M37 Pass Sack   The blitz is on Henne instantly as Grady busts the pickup.
Drive notes: This is the first actual bad pass from Henne. The OL is getting blown up on a regular basis, making it impossible to put anything together. Blitz bust #4.
1 10 M25 Pass Manningham Inc Wooden is in good position and just impedes Manningham enough to prevent him from getting to the ball.
2 10 M25 Run Grady 10 Now it's ND's turn to get vicimized by six in the box against 3 WR
1 10 M35 Pass Massey 1 Happy feet for henne, who had a pocket, but bailed out and hit the outlet too soon.
2 9 M36 Run Grady 5 Grady makes 3 or so after contact after vaulting a defender, a nice run.
3 3 M41 Pass Ecker 9 Kraus gets beat but Henne finds Ecker anyway.
1 10 50 Run Grady 2 Henige can't block off the LB or there's a big hole for Grady.
2 8 O48 Penalty   -5 False start on Massey
2 13 M47 Pass No one 0 Henne again flushes from the pocket prematurely.
3 13 M47 Pass Avant 5 Slip screen to Avant, what a ridiculous call. At least bomb it deep.
Drive notes: Halftime. Note two instances of happy feet for Henne: he's lost faith in his blockers. The Avant slip screen indicates that the coaches have too. At the half, the story on this side of the ball is the OL getting its ass kicked.
1 10 M18 Run Grady 0 + 5 No push from the line, incidental face mask on ND.
1 5 M23 Run Grady 6 Makes 4 after contact.
1 10 M29 Run Grady 23 Grady's long run, the cutback here is inexplicable. If he just keeps going he'll get caught, but another 20-30 yards downfield. Paul and Breaston get good blocks to open it up.
1 10 O48 Run Grady 3 More after contact push from Grady. 3 yards against a very unfavorable D.
2 7 O45 Pass Avant Inc Avant is wide open and Henne just doesn't get it there.
3 7 O45 Pass Ecker 7 Accurate. Zone leaves Ecker wide open.
1 10 O38 Run Grady 1 Too many guys in the box.
2 9 O37 Pass Ecker 2 Waggle, just dumps it off to a covered Ecker.
3 7 O35 Pass Ecker 11 This ball floats a little bit and wobbles, but it's there.
1 10 O24 Run Grady 8 Grady fumbles fighting for extra yards.
2 2 O16 Run Grady 2  
3 In O14 Run Henne 1 sneak.
1 10 O13 Run Grady 1 Grady has to cut it back because Paul's block doesn't clear the intended hole.< /td>
2 9 O12 Pass Ecker Int Avant was wide open cutting across the endzone. Just a horrible read.
Drive notes: The interception killed us. If you had to trace the loss back to one single play, that was it. Avant was heartbreakingly wide open. Henne falls apart after this, just watch.
1 10 M24 Pass Avant 7 Lentz returns now. A simple throw to the guy with a cushion play.
2 3 M31 Run Grady 1  
3 2 M32 Pass Breaston Inc Hoyte makes a nice play on an arrow route and knocks it down.
Drive notes: I don't know if that was a bad read or just a good play by Hoyte.
1 10 M7 Run Grady 2 Can't help but think if Hart would have done better with this. Grady just plows into the guy in front of him instead of juking.
2 8 M9 Pass Breaston Inc The second bomb to Breaston that's open and well thrown but not caught.
3 8 M9 Pass Ecker Inc Henne sails this ball to Ecker, asking him to leap and catch a bullet.
Drive notes: Breaston is not helping Henne at all, but the Ecker throw would have been for a first down if it was accurate. This is the only instance of a low release point forcing a sailed throw in the game despite the claims of some who are beguiled by Griese's color commentary.
1 10 M22 Pass Ecker 21 A perfectly placed seam route.
1 10 M43 Run Jackson 4 There's just no room to run inside.
2 6 M47 Pass Massey 2  
3 4 M49 Pass Breaston Inc Batted at the line. Again, this is not a problem with Henne's delivery. Throwing it above the defender means throwing it out of bounds.
Drive notes: The problem with batted passes in this game has come almost exclusively on three-step drops and screens. There's no QB in the world tall enough to avoid a well-placed hand and throw an accurate short pass; the problem here is with the OL not cutting the DEs.
1 10 O18 Run Grady 7 Nie blocks from Ecker and Thompson spring Grady up the middle.
2 3 O11 Run Grady 4 Grady manages to squeeze through what looks like nothing for the first.
1 G O7 Run Grady 2 Mays is unblocked.
2 G O5 Run Grady 0 Fumble. I think without the fumble Grady cuts back against the grain, skips past the defender, and scores. Despite what you may of heard, this is on Grady, not Henne.
3 G O5 Pass Avant Inc May have just been throwing this away. I hate this call, a rollout on an obvious passing down on the goalline that cuts off half the field. No one was open.
4 G O5 Pass Avant Inc Henne throws this five yard out of bounds.
Drive notes: Ugh. 3 fumbles in two games from Grady, and what on God's green earth was that throw? It's fourth down, time to risk some interception.
1 10 M39 Pass Thompson 5  
2 5 M44 Pass Avant Inc Batted again. This is a three step drop, Riley has to get that guy's hands down.
3 5 M44 Pass Grady Inc Screen is read and destroyed.
4 5 M44 Pass Avant 55 Incredible catch.
1 G O1 Run Henne 1 This is a touchdown. It's not even close. The decision to not award a touchdown and then to not review it is flat wrong. Henne is laying in the endzone.
1 G O1 Run Henne 0 Fumble.
Drive notes: Again, harping on the cut blocks, and then that devastating two play sequence.  
1 10 50 Pass Avant 17 Henne finally gets protection and hits an open Avant.
1 10 O33 Pass Ecker Inc I can't see the coverage downfield but Ecker had a linebacker right on top of him.
2 10 O33 Pass Ecker Inc Just missed Ecker nine yards downfield.
3 10 O33 Pass Ecker 7 Grady completely blows the blitz pickup but Henne finds Ecker anyway, a really nice play from him.
4 3 O26 Pass Manningham 26 TD. Looks like a coverage bust but an accurate throw and catch.
Drive notes: Well, it's a score, but it's heavily aided by a coverage bust. Swann picks out the fact that Campbell yelled at Manningham to decrease his split before the snap and that's why he was open. Great catch from Swann, who's also broken in with useful comments a couple other times. He's a sideline guy who's a net benefit, which is amazing.
1 10 M42 Pass Breaston Inc A crossing route against an LB coming off a zone that Breaston just drops. Probably had the corner and a first down if
2 10 M42 Pass Manningham Inc This is the Manningham bomb where he gets a little touch from the DB, but the ball was uncatchable anyway. I hate this playcall. This is a low percentage play when you absolutely need a first down.
3 10 M42 Pass Ecker? Inc Tipped at the line again, this time on a legit dropback pass. You could put this on Henne if you so desire.
4 10 M42 Penalty     False start on Riley.
4 15 M37 Pass Ecker Inc Three yard pass on fourth down.
Drive Notes: Breaston inserts the third nail in Henne's coffin on first down and then a questionable call, a batted pass, and then an inexplicable decision (one of several) end the game.

Analysis, FAQ style:

What the sam-hell happened?

A few things. Notre Dame's defensive line won the battle with Michigan's offensive line. Michigan's running was inconsistent and sporadic in the first half, and when Henne dropped back to pass he was often met with unblocked blitzers. When Henne did have time to get off a deep ball it was usually accurate but Breaston dropped two deep ones and a critical first-down ball on the final drive.

OMG HENNE SUX.

He actually didn't in the first half until late where you see two instances of unnecessary rollouts because he's lost faith in his blitz pickups. In the second half, though... well, to borrow a metaphor from poker, Henne went on tilt. Check the chart:

Team Dead on Catchable Inaccurate Bad Read Throwaways Batted
NIU 19 4 5 2 2 1
ND 15 7 9 5 3 5

You've gone from 23/33 in the "good" category to 22/44 plus a couple sacks and the goalline fumble. Some of that was due to pressure but the two huge, touchdown-stealing mistakes were totally unforced.

What about the injuries?

They clearly had an effect. Massaquoi was ably replaced by Ecker but Ecker was not as ably replaced by Massey, who had some blocking issues and a false start. There was a small dropoff there. Though Grady ran well, the second fumble was a killer as that play was probably six without it if Grady cuts back appropriately. He also busted three blitz pickups, ruining those plays and contributing to the Henne meltdown. Being down Long, Kolodziej, and Lentz (for a bit) had to hurt the running game, and likely the pass protection.

What's the deal with all the batted passes?

This seems like a problem with the offensive line rather than Henne. Four of the five were on screens or three-step drops where Henne is making a short pass and he can't afford to loft a ball out there lest he get his receiver killed or get pick-sixed. On short drops it is the responsibility of the offensive line to get their defenders on the ground or at least control their hands enough to prevent them from knocking a pass down. Could Riley's relative inexperience at tackle be culpable? It's the OTs that have to clear the path for short sideline routes.

Goats?

Henne, Breaston, and Grady. Henne's problems were discussed ad nauseum above and everywhere else on the internets, but it bears repeating: if Henne does not throw away two touchdowns we win. Breaston dropped three balls, any one of which would have changed the complexion of the game, and didn't do anything with his returns. Grady fumbled twice more and was a major reason that Henne started booking out for the sidelines whenever a linebacker looked at him funny.

Er, not heroes, but you know, non-goats?

Avant, Ecker, and that's it.

The coaching... sucks?

Not really. What are you supposed to do other than put your guys out there and put them in positions to succeed? This was done. The offense, when not failing to pick blitzes up, had Breaston and Avant open for touchdowns. They had efficient short routes that the OL did not clear a path for. They had Grady going in for six when he fumbled. They had Henne going in for six when he fumbled.

The players effed up. When Carr says they have to execute better this week, he's telling the God's honest truth. The Avant slip screen? Bad call. The Manningham bomb on the last drive? Bad call. But that's really all the complaining you can do. The final play was not designed for Ecker, but Henne threw it there anyway on fourth and fifteen; a microcosm of the situation.

I know its really hard to believe this, but anyone talking about Lloyd Carr screwing up another big game or getting wildly outcoached by Weis is talking out of their Bowden. The offensive and defensive designs were good enough to win this game, but this isn't NCAA 2006.

Grade: F.

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